Netanyahu’s and Abbas’s UN speeches
October 04, 2014/By Uri Avnery/Redress Information & Analysis
If I could choose between the two rhetorical gladiators, I would rather have Mahmoud Abbas representing Israel and Binyamin Netanyahu representing the other side.
Abbas stood almost motionless and read his speech (in Arabic) with quiet dignity. No gimmicks.
Netanyahu’s salesman’s speech
Netanyahu used all the tricks taught in a beginners course in public speaking. He rotated his head regularly from left to right and back, stretched out his arms, raised and lowered his voice convincingly. At one point he produced the required visual surprise. Last time it was a childish drawing of an imagined Iranian atom bomb, this time it was a photo of Palestinian children in Gaza playing next to a rocket launcher. (Netanyahu was carrying with him a stock of photos to exhibit – ISIS beheadings and such – rather like a salesman carrying samples.)
Everything a bit too slick, too smooth, too “sincere”. Like the furniture marketeer he once was.
The applause was provided by the bloated Israeli delegation in the hall and the Zionist dignitaries and indignitaries packed into the galleries, led by casino-mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Both speeches were delivered to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Abbas spoke two weeks ago, Netanyahu this week. Because of the Jewish holidays, he came late – rather like the person who arrives at the party after all the main guests have already left.
The hall was half empty, the sparse audience consisted of junior diplomats sent to demonstrate the presence of their government. They were obviously bored stiff.
The applause was provided by the bloated Israeli delegation in the hall and the Zionist dignitaries and indignitaries packed into the galleries, led by casino-mogul Sheldon Adelson. (After the speech, Adelson took Netanyahu to an expensive non-kosher restaurant. The police cleared the streets on the way. But Adelson publicly criticised the speech as too moderate.)
Not that it matters. One does not speechify in the General Assembly in order to convince its members. One speaks there for the home audience. Netanyahu did, and so did Abbas.
Abbas’s “very moderate speech clad in very extreme language”
The speech of Abbas was a contradiction between form and content: a very moderate speech clad in very extreme language.
It was clearly addressed to the Palestinian people, who are still boiling with anger over the killing and destruction of the Gaza war. This led Abbas to use very strong language – so strong as to defeat its main purpose of promoting peace. He used the word “genocide” – not once, but three times. That was a bonanza for the Israeli propaganda machine, and it immediately became known as the “Genocide Speech”.
During the Gaza war, more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians, many of them children, almost all by bombardment from land, air and sea. That was brutal, even atrocious, but it was not genocide. Genocide is a matter of hundreds of thousands, millions – Auschwitz, the Armenians, Rwanda, Cambodia.
Also, Abbas’s speech was totally one-sided. No mention of Hamas, rockets, offensive tunnels. The war was solely an Israeli affair: they started, they killed, they genocided. All good for a leader who needs to defend himself against the accusation of being too soft. But spoiling a good case.
The speech itself, shorn of the strong language, was quite moderate, as moderate as it could be. Its crux was a peace programme identical with the terms Palestinians have proposed from the start of Yasser Arafat’s peace policy, as well as with the Arab Peace Initiative.
It stuck to the two-state solution: a state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital “alongside the state of Israel”, the 1967 borders, an “agreed-upon solution to the plight of the Palestinian refugees” (meaning: agreed upon with Israel, meaning: essentially no return). It also mentioned the Arab Peace Initiative. No Palestinian leader could possibly demand less.
It also demanded a “specific time frame” to prevent the charade of endless “negotiations”.
[Abbass’s] speech… was quite moderate, as moderate as it could be. Its crux was a peace programme identical with the terms Palestinians have proposed from the start of Yasser Arafat’s peace policy, as well as with the Arab Peace Initiative.
For this he was attacked by Netanyahu as the incarnation of all evil, the partner of Hamas, which is the equivalent of ISIS [“Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”, now calling itself “Islamic State], which is the heir of Adolf Hitler, whose latter-day reincarnation is Iran.
I have known Mahmoud Abbas for 32 years. He was not present at my first meeting with Yasser Arafat in besieged Beirut, but when I met Arafat in Tunis, in January 1983, he was there. As chief of the Israel desk at the Palestine Liberation Organisation headquarters, he was present at all my meetings with Arafat in Tunis. Since the return of the PLO to Palestine, I have seen Abbas several times.
He was born in 1935 in Safed, where my late wife Rachel also grew up. They used to ruminate about their childhood there, trying to work out if Abbas was ever treated by Rachel’s father, a paediatrician.
There was a striking difference between the personalities of Arafat and Abbas. Arafat was flamboyant, extrovert and outgoing, Abbas is withdrawn and introvert. Arafat made decisions with lightning speed, Abbas is deliberate and cautious. Arafat was warm in human relations, fond of gestures, always preferring the human touch (literally). Abbas is cool and impersonal. Arafat inspired love, Abbas inspires respect.
But politically there is almost no difference. Arafat was not as extreme as he seemed, Abbas is not as moderate as he looks. Their terms for peace are identical. They are the minimum terms any Palestinian leader – indeed any Arab leader – could possibly agree to.
There can be months of negotiations about the details – the exact location of the borders, the exchanges of territories, the symbolic number of refugees allowed to return, security arrangements, the release of the prisoners, water and such.
But the basic Palestinian demands are unshakable. Take them or leave them.
Netanyahu says: leave them.
If you leave them, what remains?
The status quo, of course. The classic Zionist attitude: there is no Palestinian people. There will be no Palestinian state. God, whether He exists or not, promised us the whole country (including Jordan).
But in today’s world, one cannot say such things openly. One must find a verbal gimmick to evade the issue.
At the end of the recent Gaza war, Netanyahu promised a “new political horizon”. Critics were quick to point out that the horizon is something that recedes as you approach it. Never mind.
Netanyahu’s mirages and lies
So what is the new horizon? Netanyahu and his advisors racked their brains and came up with the “regional solution”.
The “regional solution” is a new fashion, which started to spread a few months ago. One of its proponents is Dedi Zuker, one of the founders of Peace Now and a former Meretz member of the Knesset. As he explained it in Haaretz newspaper: The Israeli-Palestinian peace effort is dead. We must turn to a different strategy: the “regional solution”. Instead of dealing with the Palestinians, we must negotiate with the entire Arab world and make peace with its leaders.
Good morning, Dedi. When my friends and I put forward the two-state solution in early 1949, we advocated the immediate setting up of a Palestinian state coupled with the creation of a Semitic Union, to include Israel, Palestine and all Arab states, and perhaps Turkey and Iran, too. We have repeated this endlessly. When the (then) Saudi crown prince produced the Arab Peace Initiative, we called for its immediate acceptance.
In the real world, there is no similarity at all between Hamas and ISIS, except their professed adherence to Islam. ISIS disclaims all national borders, it wants an Islamic world-state. Hamas is fiercely nationalist. It wants a state of Palestine.
There is no contradiction at all between an Israeli-Palestinian solution and an Israeli-pan-Arab solution. They are one and the same. The Arab League will not make peace without the consent of the Palestinian leadership, and no Palestinian leadership will make peace without the backing of the Arab League. (I pointed this out in an article in Haaretz on the day of Netanyahu’s speech.)
Yet some time ago, this “new” idea sprang up in Israel, an association was formed, money was spent to propagate it. Well meaning leftists joined. Not being born yesterday, I wondered.
Now comes Netanyahu in the General Assembly and proposes exactly the same. Hallelujah! There is a solution! The “regional” one. No need to talk with the wicked Palestinians anymore. We can talk with the “moderate” Arab leaders.
Netanyahu could not be expected to touch on the details. What terms has he in mind? What solution for Palestine? Great men cannot be bothered with such details.
The whole thing is, of course, ridiculous. Even now, when several Arab states are joining the American coalition against ISIS, not one of them wants to be seen in the company of Israel. The US has asked Israel discreetly and politely to please keep out of it.
Netanyahu is always quick to exploit changing circumstances to promote his unchanging attitude.
The latest hot issue is ISIS (or the Islamic State, as it prefers to be called now). The world is appalled by its atrocities. Everyone condemns it.
So Netanyahu connects all his enemies with ISIS. Abbas, Hamas, Iran – they are all ISIS.
In logic classes one learns about the Inuit (Eskimo) who comes to town and for the first time sees glass. He takes it in his mouth and starts to chew. His logic: ice is transparent. Glass is transparent. Ice can be chewed. So glass can also be chewed.
He [Netanyahu] was not speaking to the diplomats. He was speaking to the most primitive voters in Israel, who are proud to have such a fluent English-speaking representative to address the world.
By the same logic: ISIS is Islamist. ISIS strives for a world-wide caliphate. Hamas is Islamist. So Hamas wants a world-wide caliphate.
They all want to dominate the world. Like the “Elders of Zion”.
Netanyahu counts on the fact that most people do not know what he is talking about. By the same logic, France belongs to ISIS. Fact: the French revolution chopped off heads. ISIS chops off heads. Some time ago, the British chopped off the head of their king. All ISIS.
In the real world, there is no similarity at all between Hamas and ISIS, except their professed adherence to Islam. ISIS disclaims all national borders, it wants an Islamic world-state. Hamas is fiercely nationalist. It wants a state of Palestine. Nowadays it even talks about the borders of 1967.
There cannot be any similarity between ISIS and Iran. They stand on opposite sides of the historic divide: ISIS is Sunni, Iran is Shi’i. ISIS wants to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, and possibly chop off his head, too, while Iran is Assad’s main supporter.
All these facts are well-known to anyone interested in world politics. They are certainly known to the diplomats in the corridors of the UN. So why does Netanyahu repeat these misrepresentations (to use a mild word) from the UN rostrum?
Because he was not speaking to the diplomats. He was speaking to the most primitive voters in Israel, who are proud to have such a fluent English-speaking representative to address the world.
And anyway, who cares what the goyim [gentiles] think?
All about Gaza: Abbas and Netanyahu at the U.N.
Saturday, 4 October 2014
Abdallah Schleifer /Al Arabiya
One of the more disconcerting TV transmitted images that followed immediately upon the Gaza ceasefire was the sound and picture of some of Hamas’ political leadership, surrounded by vast destruction and aware of the totally disproportionate death toll, yet claiming victory.
But politically, Hamas had a point. Despite the hopelessness – obvious to anyone with even a detached sense for the facts, however pro-Palestinian – Israel has the capacity to level all of Gaza just using conventional artillery, tank and air power in 24 hours. Yet esteem for Hamas – which was doing poorly in public opinion polls in Gaza before the war – rose dramatically in the immediate aftermath of the ceasefire. (As hard facts press up against emotions, that esteem is now beginning to decline.)
The high esteem was not only an expression of steadfast defiance despite terrible losses, but because the popular Palestinian assumption is that Hamas had somehow forced Israel to accept a ceasefire even though Israel had not managed to knock out all or possibly not even most of Hamas’ very portable rocket launchers.
But if one grasped contemporary Israeli military strategy, known as the Dahiya Doctrine, one would realize that for all its wartime rhetoric about taking out all of Hamas’ military capacity, the tactical goal of Israeli air and artillery strikes was to do to parts of Gaza what Israel did to the Dahiya quarter, a Shiite neighborhood of large apartment buildings leveled by the IDF air force during the 2006 Lebanon War.
“Despite the hopelessness – obvious to anyone with even a detached sense for the facts, however pro-Palestinian – Israel has the capacity to level all of Gaza just using conventional artillery, tank and air power in 24 hours”
The Dahiya Doctrine – reportedly according to General Gadi Eizenkot, then commander of the IDF’s northern front means to “wield disproportionate power and cause immense damage and destruction.” The context was Hezbollah but the doctrine was also applicable to Gaza as he would later reportedly remark. At the time however, General Eizenhot is believed to have went on to say: “Harming the population is the only means of restraining Nasrallah.”
Certainly Abbas had to be aware of this doctrine, since the 2009 U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict in the wake of the earlier 2008 Israeli attack on Gaza made several references to the Dahiya Doctrine, calling it a concept which requires the application of “widespread destruction as a means of deterrence” and which involves “the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure and suffering to civilian populations.”
Alluding to conflict with Hamas, the Israeli Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) pre-war analysis of the Dahiya Doctrine, which is simply described by the IISS as Israel’s “updated security concept” as it applied to Gaza means: “There, the IDF will be required to strike hard at Hamas and to refrain from the cat and mouse games of searching for Qassam rocket launchers. The IDF should not be expected to stop the rocket and missile fire against the Israeli home front through attacks on the launchers themselves, but by mean of imposing a ceasefire on the enemy,” reflected Col. (Ret.) Gabriel Sibon in 2006.
Sibon went on to conclude “…the IDF’s primary goal must be to attain a ceasefire under conditions that will increase Israel’s long term deterrence, prevent a war of attrition, and leave the enemy floundering in expensive, long term processes of reconstruction.”
But instead of talking at the U.N. about the Dahiya Doctrine and talking about specific neighborhoods that were leveled, specific infrastructure the damaged or destroyed, along with the number of Palestinian civilians dead and wounded – all of which he could constitute as war crimes Abbas – accused instead Israel of genocide and kept to generalities rather than documented specifics.
How much more effective Abbas would have been if instead of using the word genocide he had simply reminded those who already knew, and shocked those who did not know, what the Dahiya Doctrine was, where it could be sourced for those who could not believe his words and how it had been applied to the letter in Gaza this past summer. And how, as far as achieving its actual goals, Israel had done so at the calculated intentional high loss of Palestinian civilian lives, property and infrastructure.
Netanyahu then rushed to New York to rebut Abbas, but along with the usual rhetoric Netanyahu came up with a new twist curiously hailed by some as a more moderate stance than usual for the Prime Minister. All that Netanyahu actually did was to turn the Arab Peace Plan on its head, upside down, so –to-speak.
In summary Netanyahu said that instead of trying to achieve a settlement now with the Palestinians based on the assumption that this was a prerequisite to establishing durable peace with all the Arab states, Israel should reverse the order of diplomatic accomplishment and seek closer relations now with all the other Arab states – cooperation in any number of regional projects and issues, and that good relations and cooperation with the other Arab states would eventually propel an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.
But of course formal recognition, full economic as well as diplomatic relations, and the acceptance of Israel as a legitimate part of the region is precisely the concession that the Arab states would make when and if Israel actually accepted the creation of a viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian state in what is now the occupied as well as semi-occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza. That concession, according to the Arab Peace Plan would also require a just solution for the Palestinian refugees (whatever that exactly means; what it does not mean is an absolute implementation of the Palestinian Right of Return).
During the fighting in Gaza, Netanyahu declared that the ability of Hamas to shower rockets upon Israel meant that in any final settlement with the Palestinians, Israel would continue to maintain a military presence in all of the West Bank, which effectively means no sovereign Palestinian state, without coming right out and saying so.
Netanyahu’s new position also means he no longer feels compelled to even nominally and evasively go along with U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s abstract expectation of an un-coerced Israel seriously negotiating a two-state solution with the Palestinians.