When It Comes to Hypocrisy, Rohani Is No Challenge for Netanyahu

Maybe the sanctions really worked and Iran is reconsidering? But no, it’s automatic: Rohani is lying. Let’s bomb.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

This is how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Iranian President Hassan Rohani's speech at the UN General Assembly: The speech was full of hypocrisy. Tehran is playing for time.

Netanyahu is a statesman who knows a thing or two about hypocritical speeches that play for time. His Bar-Ilan address on the peace process was a model for such speeches. Maybe Rohani got the knack from Netanyahu.

So what will Netanyahu do this week in his appearance at the United Nations? Will he wave the map of Auschwitz, as he did in 2009? Will he draw the red line for Iran’s nuclear program, as he did last year? Maybe he’ll bring a Holocaust survivor to the podium with him. He’ll surely talk about the Munich spirit, that stale merchandise nobody wants to buy anymore.

How does Netanyahu know Rohani is lying? Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. Netanyahu doesn't know; he can’t know. Instead of walking out, Israel’s delegates should have listened to Rohani and given him a chance. Let the Iranian president and his people see that this new approach is good for them.

Instead of wallowing in bomb threats, which are becoming absurd and irrelevant, Israel should have joined the community of nations, at least once. That community has tired of wars and bombings and is trying to push forward a diplomatic solution.

It wouldn't be so terrible if Israel for once were part of the family of nations. But the impression is that for Netanyahu's Israel, anything less than a sortie to Iran isn’t a solution. This bombing lust raises dire thoughts about Israel's path. It seems it’s the only language Israel believes in when it comes to Tehran, Gaza, a Turkish flotilla or a Palestinian shepherd's village. A secret bombing lust was seen here toward Damascus as well. Even the successes in the Syrian arena have changed nothing. Bombing is our way.

Israel is now forced to admit that the economic sanctions on Iran have worked. Without them, even Israeli officials concede, the new wind, real or deceptive, would not be blowing from Tehran. Israel should have joined the community that gives it a chance.

Maybe the sanctions really worked and Iran is reconsidering? How will we know if we don't give it a chance? What could be more encouraging than this? What serves Israel's interests more? But no, it’s automatic: Rohani is lying. Let's bomb.

As fate (and luck) would have it, the Washington of Barack Obama and John Kerry is showing signs of independence, of not being alarmed by Israel's every whim. As fate would have it, Moscow too is showing signs of cooperation to prevent unnecessary wars. This should be good news, to Israel as well.

Perhaps the explanation for Israel's strange behavior lies elsewhere. The world has seen that diplomatic and economic pressure on a state that flouts the international community's decisions can yield results. Perhaps we’ll be hearing an analogy to another state that has also been blatantly flouting UN resolutions for decades.

The world won’t bomb Israel, but why shouldn't it impose economic sanctions if they solve problems? Obama has already mentioned the Iranian nuclear program and Palestinian problem as similar issues. If the sanctions worked in one case, why shouldn't they work in the other?

The arguments against Iran by the international community, including Israel, are justified, more or less. No less justified are the arguments against Israel. Can Israel seriously claim that it listens to the world's opinion? That it implements its decisions? Of course not.

Now the world is learning that sanctions work. The next step could be taking the same steps against the other leading recalcitrant state. This is frightening Israel. After all, speeches suspected of being hypocritical and designed only to play for time don’t only come out of Tehran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the weekly gov't conference in Jerusalem. May 24th, 2013.Credit: Emil Salman

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