Placard after placard, aerial photo after aerial photo, sensational revelation ahead of dramatic expose – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech Thursday at the United Nations was one of his most professional, persuasive and effective appearances. Well equipped with Israeli intelligence achievements, he formulated a precise and credible indictment against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East.
Netanyahu has apparently fallen in love with the effect he had with his document and CD show in the Prime Minister’s Office in May. He makes public use of the Mossad’s achievements more than any other prime minister in recent history. This has political significance, of course: in the collective imagination, the prime minister is seen as the person without which this would not have happened. And indeed, Israeli intelligence has chalked up considerable achievements in the past. Previous prime ministers did not run to the UN General Assembly waving these secret materials like a cheerleader waving pompoms.
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Israelis watching Netanyahu certainly did so with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they appreciated his phenomenal skills as a presenter on an international level of the Israeli case. On the other, fear crept into the hearts of some: Where is all this good, in the bad sense, leading us, if not to all-out war in the north?
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Netanyahu could not have been clearer in his threats against Hezbollah, which is hiding facilities to upgrade precision missiles within spitting distance of Beirut International Airport. “We won’t let them get away with it.” He will have to make good on the check he waved publicly. An attack on these facilities will certainly lead to a response that could develop into an all-out conflict.
Netanyahu’s speech was 40 minutes long. Most of it was devoted to Iran. The evidence that indicates the presence of a nuclear storage facility in downtown Tehran, not far from the storage facility from which hundreds of CDs and notebooks were taken by the Mossad in February, will have to be checked. It may be assumed that the Mossad operatives will get fed up with the many emails that will be circulated in the coming days and weeks among European capitals in an attempt to persuade their leaders who are still holding fast to the nuclear agreement to wake up and listen to the music Netanyahu is playing for them. This will be the push that comes after the revelation.
Netanyahu has appeared many times before the UN General Assembly over the past decade. His speeches are usually about Iran. As long as a Democratic president was in the White House, leading a different policy, Netanyahu looked and sounded like a stubborn child, a rejected nudnik, repeating his frightening apocalyptic messages like a broken record.
Over the past two years, and more so over the past year, the world has changed. President Donald Trump has taken his country out of the nuclear agreement, imposed paralyzing sanctions on the Iranian government and transferred the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu could appear this time self-assured and arrogant, like a rooster atop the mud of his poultry run. Trump is behind him, one hundred percent.
He gave the American president the reward of his sustained applause during Trump’s speech. In the visitors’ gallery, the prime minister’s entourage gave a standing ovation to their “Donald.” This embarrassing show of Israeli provincial sycophancy, with the notable absence of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the casino owners, for whom Netanyahu’s charm has faded in the shadow of Case 2000.
Anyone expecting a statement heralding even the slightest hope of renewed negotiations with the Palestinians was disappointed. The right wing declared business as usual. The all-clear was sounded in the settlements. It could be seen that peace-shmeace with the Palestinians was of interest to him like his speech interested the American TV channels on Thursday, riveted as they were to the hearing on Capitol Hill.
For a moment, the day before yesterday, it looked as though something good was threatening to move on the Israeli-Palestinian front. The American president expressed his love for the idea of two states (and afterwards did a reversal in a typical act of shallow trickery). The Israeli prime minister uttered the word “state” for the first time in a while spiced with a thousand reservations and conditions. Suspicious minds immediately accused him of moving to the left in order to buy the hearts of the legal elites soon deciding about his three bribery cases.
The schedules definitely match: the investigations will near completion around the beginning of 2019. Trump’s peace plan is supposed to be presented at around the same time. Elections will be held either before or after or in tandem. But this train, the investigations train, cannot be stopped, even if Netanyahu disguises himself as Shimon Peres.