Netanyahu’s UN speech: no new points, disagreement from the US

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered his speech to the UN General Assembly yesterday evening, and the verdicts are varied.  You can read the full transcript here.

He covered all the main points that we Israelis would wish him to make: he compared Hamas to ISIS, he stressed that the IDF is the most moral army in the world, and even brought out a photo of Hamas rocket launchers surrounded by children to illustrate his point; he condemned the UN Human Rights Council for their obsessive focus on Israel and its non-existent crimes when so many real war crimes were being committed by Islamic extremists and others around the world.

Watch the video and enjoy Netanyahu’s eloquent oratory which received loud applause in several places:

The speech was “vintage Netanyahu” according to the Jerusalem Post:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stood on the world’s grandest stage on Monday and delivered three key messages: Israel’s fight is your fight, the time has come to retire the 20-year-old template of direct negotiations with the Palestinians as the path to peace, and that his main historic role is to defend the Jewish state.

The speech was vintage Netanyahu. It had passion, it had soaring rhetorical flourishes, it had sarcasm. It even had a contemporary reference to retiring New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter.

And, finally, it had an appraisal of how Netanyahu views his role as a leader.

Toward the end of the speech, Netanyahu said that some in the world do not take Israel’s security concerns seriously.

“But I do, and I always will,” he said. “Because as prime minister of Israel I am entrusted with the awesome responsibility of ensuring the future of the Jewish people and the future of the Jewish state. And no matter what pressure is brought to bear, I will never waiver in fulfilling that responsibility.”

That theme has been woven more than anything else through all of Netanyahu’s major addresses. Some leaders, like Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Olmert, saw their ultimate role as being a peacemaker, and emphasized that in their keynote addresses.

Not Netanyahu. He always places the focus first and foremost on security. He sees his historic role as leader of Israel not necessarily as being the one who will bring peace, but rather the one who will ensure the country’s security, even if it means taking positions unpopular around the world to do so. One such position may be his signal Monday that he now prefers partnership with the Arab world as a way to reach some kind of accommodation with the Palestinians, rather than negotiations and peace with the Palestinians as the ticket to rapprochement with the Arab world.

He did that in his addresses to the UN in 2012 and 2013, focusing on Iran, and he did it again Monday.

This time the storm had two names: Iran and militant Islamic radicalism.

Knowing full well the world in which he lives, Netanyahu tried to draw parallels between Islamic State, which has the world up in arms, with the Islamic state of Iran, which he fears the world is willing to give a pass. Though there might be differences in their theological approach, he stressed, the aim is the same: world domination.

Netanyahu sees it as his role to shout from the mountain tops about the incoming storms. And he artfully shouted about them Monday at the UN. And if the world does not heed his warnings, he had another message as well – one that also always props up in his keynote addresses: Israel will always defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

The speech was damned with faint praise however by Arlene Kushner who called his talk about “historic opportunities”  a cop-out:

I would not say that Netanyahu’s speech was without good points. They were there, and they make Israel’s case. But they are points we’ve heard from him before:

But then… then he began to talk about “historic opportunity.”  We’ve heard this before as well: the new recognition of leading Arab states that they have concerns in common with Israel.  This has the potential for partnership.  These Arab states may help facilitate an Israel-Palestinian peace.

An Israeli-Palestinian peace?  The old template for peace must be updated to allow for Arab participation.

He is willing to make an historic compromise for peace.  Some territorial concession would be necessary. But what is important are “rock solid security arrangements.”  Withdrawal from Lebanon and from Gaza led to terrorist entities in these places.  We cannot allow ISIS into Judea and Samaria.

In any peace agreement, Israel has to be able to defend itself by itself.

This, I would presume, is Netanyahu’s way of countering Abbas’s proposal regarding “Palestine” to the 1967 line.  Such a formulation would not provide the strategic depth that is necessary for Israeli self-defense.  But he does not actually say this.

For me, this is insufficient, a cop-out.

What I had hoped to hear was a crystal clear statement that a Fatah that is joined with Hamas cannot be considered a partner for peace. That there can be no talk of negotiations, as fervently as Israel hopes for peace, until Fatah’s leaders renounce violence. As it is, just days ago, Abbas, right on the UN dais, defended Fatah’s right to violent resistance.  Before there can be peace, Fatah must demonstrate a genuine desire for it.  And this is something we’ve yet to see.

Did Netanyahu – always eager to please – feel the need to mention a willingness to compromise for peace because Abbas had accused Israel of undermining peace?  Truly do I hope that is not the case.

Me too, Ms. Kushner, and so many other Israelis as well.

The speech was not particularly well received by the US either. I guess it would have been too much to expect the US, officially our best and closest ally, to agree with Netanyahu’s comparison of Hamas and ISIS, or to concede the danger of a nuclear Iran:

The US State Department said Monday in a press conference that it disagrees with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s assertion during his UN speech on Monday that “ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.”

“Obviously, we’ve designated both as terrorist organizations, but ISIL poses a different threat to Western interests and to the United States,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “And that’s just a fact.”

Later on in the speech, Netanyahu said that Iran is still a great threat to Israel’s existence. He also warned that Iran is not actually willing to give up nuclear weapons but rather just wants to get rid of the sanctions against them.

In response, Psaki said that the US would like Iran to reintegrate into the international community by showing that their nuclear program is peaceful.

“I can assure anyone that an agreement reached would not be based on a charm offensive or how that impacts us, but on the facts and the details,” she said. “And we’re not going to agree to a comprehensive agreement that doesn’t meet our standards and meet our threshold.”

My blood runs cold considering the utter stupidity of Psaki and the Obama Administration if they think that Iran can demonstrate that their nuclear program is peaceful when it is so blindingly obvious that their aims are anything but.

In fact Obama himself, in his own speech at the UNGA last Wednesday, snidely rebuked the Israelis for being too ready to abandon peace:

“The violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace,” he said. “That’s something worthy of reflection within Israel. Because let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable.”

What a chutzpah! And how patronisingly offensive to chide the Israelis that they need to “reflect” on abandoning peace! Especially after all that we have given up, all the precious lives lost, the traumatised civilians, the ruined economy of the south, and all the wars we have fought – including just one month ago – because we gave up precious land for that very peace which has proven so elusive.

If the man can be so wrong on the Israel-Palestinian issue, and can misread Israeli society so badly, how can he be trusted on anything as major as confronting ISIS or a nuclear Iran?

Arlene Kushner in her article above links to a withering critique of Obama’s speech by Ben Shapiro whose slightly immoderate language is rather amusing and spot-on.

You can also read here how Obama has changed his stance in the space of one year, with the implication that he got it all so wrong in 2013. It will be very interesting, if not terrifying, to read how much he changes again in 2015.

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15 Responses to Netanyahu’s UN speech: no new points, disagreement from the US

  1. Reality says:

    As you say that if Obama &Psaki are so stupid or just determined to turn a blind eye re Iran then Netanyahu should have the guts and the gall to tell him a few home truths.But that is obviously wishful thinking,because Netanyahu is plain scared of their reaction..Obama will never equate Hamas with ISIS as Hamas is not at the moment wantonly cutting off American heads. If Hamas wants to kill Jews that is pc as far as Obama &Psaki are concerned. I wish the American people would wake up and shout from the roiftops that they are angry;sick and tired if their administrstion.But sadly ,that too is just a hopeful dream.

    • anneinpt says:

      You hit the nail on the head about how the US views Hamas. As long as it’s only Jews being targeted, no one cares. See my latest post for more.

  2. JudyPT says:

    What hypocracy from Jen Psaki US spokesperson to say that Hamas and Isis are not the same threat to the world ,despite both being designated as terror organisations.The difference is that Hamas only threatens Israel so that is ok (sarcasm).From her remarks one can deduce its fine for everyone to tackle Isis, but Israel should just live with these terrorists what a chutzpa!By the way I thought Bibis speech was great I dont know what magic those who are carping expected him to produce when one is dealing with a long time holocaust denier and terrorist in a suit like Abass.

    • anneinpt says:

      I also thought Bibi’s speech was good, but people say it was the right message to the wrong audience. He should have been more angry, more outspoken, less defensive and less statesmanlike. Throw it in their face. See Rob’s comment below for an example.

  3. peteca1 says:

    I thought that PM Netanyahu had two memorable lines yesterday. One, of course, was the comment about “different branches of the same poisonous tree”. That was one of his BEST quotes in his career 🙂 The other was a comment he made before his speech, where he said that the primary concern is “the marriage between militant Islam and nuclear weapons”. Indeed. It is the primary concern. It is no longer clear who will address it, or how. In spite of the best efforts by a lot of good people, the possibility of serious weapons (radiological, nuclear or chemical) falling into the wrong hands – seems to be growing exponentially.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      The problem with Iran is that people think it’s Israel’s problem simply because Netanyahu is the only one constantly going on about it. But in truth it’s the world’s problem. If anyone thinks Iran will target Israel first, they’re seriously mistaken. But no one seems to care. It’s quite mystifying really.

      And even if it’s “only” Israel who is the target, where are all our Western allies? All those who don’t want us to defend ourselves? Oops, sorry, they’d be quite happy if we were wiped off the face of the earth. They just say it in a nicer way.

  4. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Anne quotes the following, above, “The US State Department said Monday in a press conference that it disagrees with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu”. Of course it does. This is the self-same State Department which continues to support UNRWA (see here: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4742/unrwa-refugee-designations) despite its practices actually breaking US law on refugees: how to define them, how not to define them, and so forth) and the efforts of US Congresspersons to cut funding to UNRWA.

    I wrote a long article Anne published here some months ago on UNRWA: https://anneinpt.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/guest-post-unrwa-not-part-of-the-solution-but-part-of-the-problem/, which notes certain of these issues.

    Why should what appears to be an Arabist Foreign Ministry (which is what the State Dept is – a foreign ministry, that is, and Arabist, just like the UK Foreign Office) do otherwise? The major difference from the UK is that the UK Prime Minister, unlike the US President, appears prepared to defend and uphold Israel’s right to defend itself.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks for the Gatestone link about UNRWA. It was quite eye-opening, though as you say, not really a surprise. Yes, State and the FO are cut from the same cloth.

      And though Cameron is more openly supportive of Israel, Britain’s support has always been lukewarm. America itself as a country, as well as Congress and the Senate, is very supportive of Israel. It’s the Administration and the State Dept. which are coldly neutral to hostile. With Britain, I’m never quite sure how the population stands, not to mention Parliament.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Actually, the current Israeli Ambassador to the UK (British-born and the brother of a friend: the first point explains his excellent command of colloquial English) and a representative of the Embassy who came to our synagogue make the same point: at least 40% of the UK population are indifferent to the I/P situation, and the rest are split 50:50. And, cynically, the Conservatives rely more on potential Jewish votes in marginal seats they deperately need to hold on to next May. This might explain some of Cameron’s pro-Israel stance – needing Jewish votes more than Moslem votes.

        Boy, am I cynical these days!

        BTW, the prospective labour candidate for next May in this constituency is supposed to be calling round next Sunday afternoon.

        I’ll let you all know what happens – it might even lead to a submitted article for Anne!

  5. Rob says:

    I agree with Kushner. Netanyahu actually gave a very good speech, if you look at it objectively; one that would have worked in the US Congress, the Australian Parliament or even the UK House of Commons, where (despite some bad voices and opinions) he was basically addressing Israel’s friends. He was right on the issues, right on the strategies, but for the UNGA he was wrong on the tone. In the UNGA he was addressing Israel’s enemies. Sermons about ISIS and the IRGC are not going to cut it with the despots and genocidalists of MENA. They’re cut from the same cloth.

    Despite his oratory (undoubted), Netanyahu landed no real punches. He was preaching to the wrong choir. I realise that he has a dozen different and difficult roads to run, but he can’t do them all at once. I know emotion can be satisfying but may not be effective. Nonetheless, I reckon he should have started with a blaze of anger about the lies that attended Protective Edge,and then kind of segued into sarcasm, scorn and derision – notably about Abbas, too scared to hold another election for fear that Hamas would win and then kill him(as it would); whose writ doesn’t run more than a half-mile outside his compound at Ramallah; who’s too afraid to even walk into Gaza for fear of being lynched. This is my partner for peace, Bibi could have asked. Are you kidding? Etc., etc.

    I never like to be coarse. But I think the message should have been that Israel will do and will always continue to do what it has to do to protect itself and the Jewish people. The rest of you UNGA blowhards can’t stop us doing it, so you can basically go and f*** yourselves.

    • peteca1 says:

      ” The rest of you UNGA blowhards can’t stop us doing it, so you can basically go and f*** yourselves.”

      Essentially, I think this is what it will boil down to. Israel will reach the point where it acts unilaterally, regardless of the concerns of the rest of the world. I suppose much depends on EXACTLY what Israel does do. I hope to heaven that Israel does NOT use nuclear weapons, in order to remove a potential nuclear threat. That would be disastrous!! Anything else … the world can deal with (no matter how much people may complain).

      Dont be surprised though, if Israel finds itself the subject of UN sanctions – should it make a unilateral move That is a very possible outcome. Be ready for it.

      Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      To be honest, Bibi did more or less say that we will always defend ourselves. But he didn’t sound angry enough. He came over as defensive, the anger was missing. But I don’t think it would have made any difference. No one really cares what anyone says in those speeches. As proof, show me which papers reported on his speech, outside of Israel and maybe the US.

      • peteca1 says:

        I agree with you there Anne … Bibi actually did sound like he was on the defensive. When really I was expecting the opposite – that he would be angry, and not just an “irritatiing anger” … but a justified anger because he has received no support from anyone. You are 100% RIGHT that the Iranian nuclear issue should never have been Israels problem. To start with, there was a whole world body that was supposed to prevent the spread of nuclear technology for weapons purposes (IAEA). That has been an abysmal failure. After that, the logical partners to enforce the same standards would have been the USA and Europe – acting with combined agreement and judgment. But that has also been an abysmal failure. So in the end, the process of “defense” against a neighboring state that is threatened by nuclear developments … is for that state to take its own military action. That seems to be where we are. Anyway – I was surprised that Bibi’s anger was not more palpable. But maybe he has just grown tired of the same sordid mess.

        Pete, USA

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