Nobel No, Oscar Yes

Netanyahu will be returning to Israel with stronger standing on the right; Abbas will return to a hero's welcome in Ramallah, but other than that, nothing good is threatening us.

In 1978, when it was learned that Prime Minister Menachem Begin had won the Nobel Peace Prize, former prime minister Golda Meir remarked: "He deserves a Nobel?" adding that what he really deserved was an Oscar.

If Golda were still with us, she could have resurrected her comment, this time with justification, with regard to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

UN General Assembly – 23.9.11 - AP

The wording in the speech was the work of a craftsman, as were its structure and delivery. The prime minister has no match when it comes to describing the fears of the average Israeli. He has no match when it comes to a verbal illustration of the threats and military dangers Israel faces. It is no coincidence that he decided not to allow President Shimon Peres to go to the UN in his place.

Netanyahu began and ended his speech with calls for negotiations, but the bulk of the address was devoted to a gloomy and frightening description of Israel's circumstances and the challenges it faces.

His message to the secular public in Israel, which was watching on Friday night, was one of despondency. He related perfectly, in what was almost a mirror image of his adversary, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who spoke at the same podium 40 minutes earlier.

Abbas' remarks were certainly music to the ears of the average Palestinian, who stood tall for several minutes as a result.

For his part, Netanyahu filled more than a few Israelis with pride and a sense that here was our Bibi looking the UN straight in the face as he sets forth our truths.

But where was the hope? Where was the hoped-for change? Where was the light at the end of the tunnel?

Even if negotiations resume, under international pressure, peace won't be the result. As one government minister is accustomed to saying: "Nothing good is threatening us."

The bottom line from the UN appearance is the resumption of the cold war between Israel and the Palestinians. From a political standpoint, that's not bad news for Netanyahu, particularly with the United States at his side.

In the next 13 months before the American presidential election, Netanyahu is immune to American pressure. Maybe the prime minister should consider moving up Israel's elections, so that they take place before Obama's reelection, if he in fact wins a second term.

The television cameras that were periodically directed on the Israeli delegation during Netanyahu's speech picked up the restrained body language of Avidgor Lieberman, the foreign minister and head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party.

While the other members of the delegation, particularly Netanyahu's advisers and aides in the balcony, applauded enthusiastically, Lieberman sat stone still in his seat. It was as if at any moment, he would get up and leave the chamber, just as he did when Abbas began speaking. For his part, Lieberman managed a clap or two here or there for the record.

Political sources who think Lieberman is interested in breaking up the coalition government during the Knesset's coming winter session agree that Lieberman's demonstrable chagrin was the result of the right-wing messages Netanyahu was conveying. Such messages would, at least in the immediate term, deprive the foreign minister of a pretext for leaving the government.

The prime minister will be returning to Israel with stronger standing on the right wing of his Likud party. Monday evening he will host a holiday meal at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem for the members of his coalition government.

Abbas will return to a hero's welcome in Ramallah, but other than that, there is nothing. Nothing good is threatening us.