Netanyahu’s UN Speech: Familiar Tactics Get the Job Done

Without divulging any breaking news, Netanyahu uses the same combination of theatrics, PR and visual aids that he’s famous for to convey his position on Iran.

On Thursday night in New York, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did one of his favorite things: He made a speech. To his credit, it’s been said he did a good job. He’s had many opportunities to speak since assuming the role of prime minister – at Bar Ilan University here in Israel, in front of the U.S. Congress, and last year also at the UN, among others.

Every speech is imbued with an air of decisiveness and fate; each one the speech of a lifetime. Some would say that Netanyahu lives to speak to a crowd. Others would point out that actually, Netanyahu speaks to live (politically, that is).

In the days before his trip to New York, Netanyahu’s advisers said he was writing his speech on his own. Media outlets reported he was investing upwards of 20 hours a day in it. A few minutes after landing in New York, the Prime Minister’s Office released a photo of Netanyahu hard at work on his speech in-flight. Others close to the prime minister said he would revise and restructure the speech until the moment he took the podium.

Minutes before takeoff, Netanyahu emerged for a few moments to goad the press on the fact that none of the speech’s content had been leaked. He only offered that “it will be a newsworthy speech,” before retreating to his private area.

Netanyahu’s speech was good. Indeed it was written in his image, with his spirit – a combination of marketing, public relations, some slightly exaggerated theatrics, and the use of visual aides to convey his message. The cartoon bomb he pulled out for the crowd is akin to his famous triangle of national challenges, scribbled on the whiteboard of his office and later sensationalized on Facebook.

The dramatic performance – unsheathing the marker, drawing the red line – was perhaps slightly childish, but it got the job done. Netanyahu’s stunt is sure to become a headline picture for many an international news outlet. And if that leads to more worldwide coverage of Iran’s uranium enrichment, that’s a good thing.

Netanyahu’s speech did not include any breaking news. He did not reveal new information about Iran’s nuclear program or make any original claims. He largely shied away from comments against the Iranian regime and didn’t address his relations with U.S. President Barack Obama.

The prime minister did everything he could to portray a united front with the American government. He commended Obama’s actions against Iran and told world diplomats that Israel and America are proceeding with close cooperation on the Iran issue.

U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who has been at the forefront of the media storm surrounding U.S.-Israeli tensions, did not hesitate to relay his government’s satisfaction with Netanyahu’s speech. Shapiro noted that the prime minister’s speech emphasized that Israel and the United States share a common goal and are working together to achieve it.

If there is any news to be found in Netanyahu’s speech, it is the timeline Netanyahu presented for military action. In recent weeks, Netanyahu has been hinting at a timeline determined by American elections. Now, Netanyahu has provided the worried international community, and the worried Israeli public, with a notable postponement. Any Israeli military action against Iranian nuclear facilities won’t take place until at least April or even July of 2013. If that’s all we learned from Netanyahu’s trip to the United States, that’s enough.