Netanyahu’s speech – one day after Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas spoke at the same venue – had two distinct parts: one centering on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the other on the peace process. I also felt, his tone, his dictum was different during those two parts: somber, lecturing and bordering on the monotonous during the first, eloquent and passionate during the second.
Recalling how he had stood at the same podium almost 31 years ago, as Israel’s ambassador to the UN, he felt compelled to repeat, what he had already had grounds to say then: that the UN must stop its obsessive hostility, its fanaticism towards the only Jewish state. He was not content to – once again – warn against the bad Iran Deal. He also re-emphasised his warning of Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missiles programme, reminding his audience that Iran was building them, not to be used against Israel, but against Euope, North America and beyond. Maintaining that in the case of the Mullah regime, words speak as loudly as the actions, Netanyahu quoted Iran’s president Rouhani from February 2015, who said at the time that “the Islamic Revolution is not limited by borders …” and “Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Yemen” are among the countries being “conquered by the Islamic Republic of Iran”. He also quoted Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei – the one with the English language Twitter account – as saying that his country’s “policies towards the arrogant government of the United States will not change”. Asking a number of pointed questions and calling the JCPOA the mariage certificate of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, he came as close to repeating Moshe Yaalon’s rebuke of a messianic John Kerry, saying:
“I know that some well-intentioned people sincerely believe that this deal is the best way to block Iran’s path to the bomb. But one of history’s most important yet least learned lessons is this: the best intentions don’t prevent the worst outcomes.”
Building up towards the culmination of this part of his speech, the prime minister recalled Khamenei adressing his followers, pledging there will be no Israel in 25 years, effectively promising to destroy the country, a mere 70 years after the murder of six million Jews, and closing by singling out the UN’s response to this threat as utter silence, as deafening silence. And proceeding to stare down the delegates – in 45 seconds of silence! “It’s not easy to oppose something that the world’s greatest powers have embraced. Believe me”, he said after that,
“it would be much easier to remain silent. And as the Prime Minister of the Jewish State, I refuse to be silent. The days when the Jewish People have remained silent in th eface of genocidal enemies – those days are over.”
And recalling that in every generation, there had been those who had risen to destroy the Jews, the Jewish people persevered, that while both the Roman Empire and the Thousand Year Reich are long gone,
“Israel lives. The people of Israel live. Am Yisrael Chai.”
Everybody has expected this part of the speech, in fact it is possible that this was supposed to be the entire speech. However, after Abbas’ performance, which some commentators have interpreted as his search for relevance, by way of cancelling the Oslo Accords, there was no way that the Prime Minister of Israel would forego a response. And he gave one that will resonate. Pointing to cooperation with “Arab partners”, reiterating the bonds between his people and the American people, and expressing his hopes to build “lasting partnerships for security, for prosperity and for peace”. And proceeded to contrast his speech with Abbas’s vague – and thus, empty – claim that the Palestinians had made contributions to humankind, by listing Jewish and Israeli contributions: by being “the world leader in science and technology, cyber, software, water, agriculture, medicine, biotechnology”, by being the “innovation nation”, by Israeli know-how being everywhere,
“It’s in your computers’ microprocessors and flash drives, in your smartphones, when you send instant messages and navigate your cars. It’s on your farms, when you drip irrigate your crops and keep your grains and produce fresh. It’s in your universities, when you study Nobel Prize winning discoverries in chemistry and economics. It’s in your medicine cabinets, when you use drugs to treat Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. It’s even on your plate, when you eat the delicious cherry tomatoe”.
And I half expected him to pull out a t-shirt, when he reminded his audience that “Israelis know the price of war. I know the price of war. I was nearly killed in battle. I lost many friends. I lost my beloved brother Yoni.” Been there, done that, got the f*cking t-shirt. And there was desperation in his voice when he asked them: “How can Israel make peace with a Palestinian partner who refuses to even sit at the negotiating table “.
And yet, he implored Abbas – likely for wont of an alternative – to reconsider, saying they both owed it to their peoples, and also so as to not allowing to use “a Palestinian state as a stepping stone for another Islamist dictatorship in the Middle East”. And he drove home his message, yet again, to the UN delegates, that they “won’t help peace, certainly won’t help advance peace by trying to impose solutions or by encouraging Palestinian rejectionism”.
And demonstrated again, what I had known all along: that Netanyahu is at his best, when he reminds the world of the uniqueness and greatness of Israel. Closing his remarks, as only he could:
“So here is a novel idea for the United Nations: instead of continuing the shameful routine of bashing Israel, stand with Israel. Stand with Israel as we check the fanaticism at our door. Stand with Israel as we prevent that fanaticism from reaching your door. Ladies and Gentlemen, stand with Israel because Israel is not just defending itself. More than ever, Israel is defending you.”