Netanyahu’s words matter
By RUTHIE BLUM/J.Post
As he set off for New York to address the 69th session of the UN General Assembly on Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu indicated he would be delivering a “razor-sharp” speech. Given his oratorical track record, there was little doubt he would make good on his promise, and indeed he did not disappoint.
Netanyahu’s 35-minute monologue from the podium of the hornet’s nest in midtown Manhattan was a masterpiece. And it took a great performer to be able to pull it off, particularly since the plenum was nearly empty and the only people present cheering him on were members of his entourage and some of his Jewish-American supporters in the balcony. But Netanyahu is a pro, and he knows how to talk into a camera, with his sights on a far wider audience.
What he did on Monday, with a mixture of toughness and elegance, was to use the consensus about combating the Islamic State (IS) terrorists to warn against militant Islam in all its permutations, emphasizing the danger of a nuclear Iran – the original and ultimate “Islamic State.”He began by likening militant Islam to a cancer that “starts out small… [b]ut left unchecked… grows, metastasizing over wider and wider areas.”
He proceeded to point out that Israel’s war with Hamas this summer was not only defensive, and as necessary as that which is being fought right now against IS, but was carried out in the most moral way possible, with the IDF taking special care to prevent civilian casualties.
And then he went for the proverbial jugular of the very body he was addressing (in stark contrast to the literal neck-slicing that has become the trademark of the Islamic caliphate).
“By investigating Israel rather than Hamas for war crimes,” Netanyahu said, “the UN Human Rights Council… is sending a clear message to terrorists everywhere: Use civilians as a human shield… [T]he UN Human Rights Council has thus become a terrorist rights council.”He continued: “We live in a world steeped in tyranny and terror, where gays are hanged from cranes in Teheran; political prisoners are executed in Gaza; young girls are abducted en masse in Nigeria; and hundreds of thousands are butchered in Syria, Libya and Iraq. Yet nearly half… of the UN Human Rights Council’s resolutions focusing on a single country have been directed against Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East; Israel, where issues are openly debated in a boisterous parliament, where human rights are protected by independent courts, and where women, gays and minorities live in a genuinely free society.”
This treatment of Israel, he said, is “only one manifestation of the return of one of the world’s largest prejudices. We hear mobs today in Europe call for the gassing of Jews. We hear some national leaders compare Israel to the Nazis. This is not a function of Israel’s policies. It’s a function of diseased minds. And that disease has a name. It’s called anti-Semitism. It is now spreading in polite society where it masquerades as legitimate criticism of Israel.”
Netanyahu also made reference to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who on Friday called Operation Protective Edge a “war of genocide” against the Palestinians; defended his decision to form a unity government with Hamas and said he was turning to the UNSC to pass a resolution to end the Israeli “occupation” by a certain date, without a peace agreement.
Depicting Hamas’s war crimes not only against Israelis but its own people – and Israel’s genuine attempt to preserve lives on both sides – Netanyahu asked the rhetorical question: “In what moral universe does genocide include warning the enemy civilian population to get out of harm’s way, or ensuring that they receive tons of humanitarian aid each day, even as thousands of rockets are being fired at us, or setting up a field hospital to aid their wounded?” He then provided the answer, “Well, I suppose it’s the same moral universe where a man [Abbas] who wrote a dissertation of lies about the Holocaust and who insists on a Palestine free of Jews – Judenrein – can stand at this podium and shamelessly accuse Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing.”
As former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton subsequently commented on FOX News, it was the speech that President Barack Obama should have made.
Reactions in Israel have been a bit less positive, however. Snide remarks about Netanyahu on either end of the political spectrum immediately emerged.
The Left ridiculed him for using the “same old clichés” about the threat of Islamic terrorism to avoid Palestinian statehood. The Right, much of which is still reeling over what it considers to be Netanyahu’s weakness during the war in Gaza – not finishing off Hamas – has expressed being sick and tired of the prime minister’s great speeches.
In other words, both groups of cynics view his gift of the gab as meaningless.
I beg to differ.
Words are extremely important. And Netanyahu’s reiteration of certain truths that are under global assault is more crucial than ever, especially with a hostile administration in the White House and difficult opposition at home.
But it is because words matter that I have to take issue with the last part of his tour de force on Monday. Concluding that the only way to achieve peace with the Palestinians is to create regional cooperation with the Arab world and international community, Netanyahu asserted that he is “ready to make a historic compromise” in the form of territorial withdrawals.
Though he said that this is not because Israel is an occupier in its own land, and added that any peace deal would have to be “anchored in mutual recognition and enduring security arrangements,” he actually repeated that any peace agreement “will obviously necessitate a territorial compromise.”
Announcements like that, particularly in the context of an increasingly radicalizing Middle East and Europe, only serve to embolden the worst elements of Palestinian society. Offering “land for peace” is the best way to convey to Israel’s enemies that they should continue clinging to what Netanyahu himself called the “branches of the same poisonous tree” from which Hamas and IS cultivate their “fanatical creed.”
He, like all Israelis, ought to know this by now.
**The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’
Netanyahu to Obama: Israel committed to two states, but it will require ‘outside-the-box thinking’
By HERB KEINON / 10/01/2014/J.Post
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to a two-state solution in a brief statement he made alongside US President Barack Obama before their meeting in the White House on Wednesday.
“I remain committed to the vision of peace of two states for two peoples, based on mutual recognition and rock solid security arrangements,” Netanyahu said. At the same time he indicated that the path to two states might be different than the one tried for the last 20 years, saying he believes “we should make use of the new opportunities [in the Middle East], think outside of the box, and see how we can include the Arab countries to advance this very hopeful agenda.”
Netanyahu, who was criticized by opponents in Israel for not delivering a hopeful message in the UN during his address there on Monday, said that the “enormous challenges facing the United States and Israel in the Middle East” pose new threats, but also new opportunities.
“There is something that is changing in the Middle East,” he said. “Out of the new situation there is a commonality of interests between Israel and the leading Arab states, and I think that that we should work very hard together to seize upon the common interests and build positive progress to advance a more secure, prosperous and peaceful Middle East.”
As to the dangers, Netanyahu said Israel fully supported Obama’s “effort and leadership” to defeat Islamic State. “We think that everyone should support this,” he said.
Netanyahu briefly mentioned Iran, saying that it was his “fervent hope” that under the president’s leadership Iran did not become a nuclear threshold state.
Obama said that this meeting came at a “challenging time,” and presented another opportunity to “reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel, and our ironclad commitment to making sure that Israel is secure.”
Obama said that the American people were “very proud” about the US contributions to Iron Dome “that protected the lives of Israelis at a time when rockets were pouring into Israel on a regular basis.”
Referring at the top of his brief statement to Gaza, Obama said that ways have to be found to “change the status quo” so that Israelis are safe in their homes and schools and “also so you don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well.” He said the meeting with Netanyahu would deal extensively with Gaza, as well as with finding a more sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama said he would also “debrief” the prime minister on the work to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS.”
Likewise, he said, “we will also be able to discuss progress this week made in attempts to deal with Iran’s nuclear program, which is obviously a high priority not only for Israel, but for the United States and the world.”
Netanyahu’s double standard
Published: 10.01.14/Israel Opinion
The prime minister is good at making demands of others that he himself would be unwilling and unable to meet. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the UN General Assembly was not lacking in truths. The claim that radical Islam is a threat to the entire world is correct. The claim that Iran supports terror is correct. And the claim that Israel did not perpetrate genocide in Gaza is correct too.
Other claims can be disputed: Is every Islamic organization ISIS, and are Iran and ISIS part of the same Islamic effort to take over the world? The hostility between Iran and ISIS is evidence that not all Muslims cooperate with one another. The Islamic Republic views the Islamic Caliphate as a dangerous enemy and is willing to cooperate even with the despised West in order to stop it.And if Abbas is indeed Hamas, as the prime minister claims, and Hamas is ISIS, and ISIS is Iran, it’s unclear why Israel doesn’t take the same action it is demanding from the West. Unlike Iran, Gaza and Ramallah are within our reach. Why does the prime minister of Israel refrain from eradicating the local threat at least? It’s unclear. That is to say, it’s clear: Political-military actions are complex matters involving profit-and-loss calculations. As prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu is aware of this complexity. He simply refuses to recognize it when it comes to others.
They, he argues, are sitting back with their arms folded. That’s not exactly accurate. It’s not true, for example, that the West is doing nothing about Iran’s nuclear program. Iran has been hit by the West with a regimen of sanctions that probably brought about the regime change and capitulation agreement, which included a suspension of the nuclear program in return for an easing of the sanctions. It may not be enough, but it is certainly not “nothing at all.”
The West has learned its lesson from Iraq and Libya and has refrained from toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad, despite all its loathing for him. It managed to disarm him of his chemical weaponry without an all-out war. It hasn’t solved the Syrian problem, but it’s also not the nothing that Netanyahu attributes to the Western states. When it comes to ISIS, too, the West isn’t sitting idly by. It is organizing local coalitions and is also using force.
All in all, the achievements of the West do not fall short of those of Netanyahu in Gaza. What have all the Israeli operations and wars and sanctions achieved? Not very much thus far. The Hamas regime remains unshaken (partly because Hamas is good for the State of Israel, as declared by settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein) and its ability to renew its attacks on Israel hasn’t disappeared.
Israel’s prime minister is in the habit of offering advice on how the world should be run. The problem is that Netanyahu is not the ruler of the world; he’s not even the leader of a world superpower. Netanyahu, the leader of a small country in the Middle East, talks a good game. When it comes to putting things into practice, he’s no great shakes.
Netanyahu’s policy is one of preserving the status quo and expanding construction in the territories. He’s not doing so well with the first element of his mission: The status, alas, is changing continuously, and Netanyahu has old answers to new dangers (force) and new opportunities (no). The last time the United States lent an ear to Netanyahu and his neo-conservative allies, it invaded Iraq, leaving death and destruction in its wake.
As far as the second element of his mission goes, Netanyahu has chalked up some success, but no one outside of Israel appears very impressed. The Churchill-like stance from Jerusalem could perhaps have been be amusing if our Churchill was indeed bent on solving the problems of the world in the 1930s (the Nazis are never left out of Netanyahu’s speeches); meanwhile, however, he is missing a one-off opportunity of going from a player who no one wants on his team to becoming a member of a highly powerful team that will play a central role in the battle against Islamic radicalism.
But Israel’s inclusion in this team requires a solution to the Palestinian problem. This solution involves the evacuation of settlements, and the evacuation of settlements clashes with Netanyahu’s one-and-only political achievement – appeasing the Yesha Council of settlers. It’s not going to happen during the course of Netanyahu’s term in office. Netanyahu must go.