Bibi Goes to the UN: His Speech and That Picture
Try as he might, Benjamin Netanyahu address to the United Nations General Assembly will not be remembered his its content, positively or negatively, but rather for this image, which served only to undermine what I assume he intended to be a serious speech:
I’m slightly surprised that given Israel is one the most technologically-advanced nations on Earth, Netanyahu couldn’t find anything better to illustrate his point than a doodle from ClipArt, jazzed up by lines etched on with the Word drawing tool and a couple of text boxes. Couldn’t he have called the guys at Intel or something? They practically have a whole town to themselves in Kiryat Gat they’re so massive. Microsoft have campuses in Haifa and Herzliya. I’m sure they would have made time for the Prime Minister of Israel.
Twitter as usual agrees:
Smart reader emails re Bibi: “Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, and he pulls this nonsense…”— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) September 27, 2012
“We come from the greatest race of comic illustrators in the history of the planet, and he comes up with a fifth grade science fair drawing”— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) September 27, 2012
Smart reader ctnd: “uch, maybe he was still woozy from the fast.”— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) September 27, 2012
I am reliably informed that this sort of thing is an old trick of Netanyahu’s, to pull out a diagram to make his case in meetings with politicians, diplomats, and so forth in his office in Jerusalem. The difference on this occasion, of course, is that he was at the United Nations, addressing a global audience. And the crude nature of his illustration, I might assert, will only serve to undermine his credibility.
But what of the substance of his speech? Well, before he drifted off into a world of red lines and red markers, he actually opened fairly strongly:
Three thousand years ago, King David reigned over the Jewish state in our eternal capital, Jerusalem. I say that to all those who proclaim that the Jewish state has no roots in our region and that it will soon disappear.
…The Jewish people have lived in the land of Israel for thousands of years. Even after most of our people were exiled from it, Jews continued to live in the land of Israel throughout the ages. The masses of our people never gave up the dreamed of returning to our ancient homeland.
Defying the laws of history, we did just that. We ingathered the exiles, restored our independence and rebuilt our national life. The Jewish people have come home.
We will never be uprooted again.
A satisfying rebuke to those, including Ahmadinejad, who claim the Jewish people have no roots in the Land of Israel, in Palestine. And before getting to the Iranian question, Netanyahu once more set out his stall on the as-yet unanswered question of Palestinian statehood and the conclusion of the occupation:
President Abbas just spoke here. I say to him and I say to you: We won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN. That’s not the way to solve it. We won’t solve our conflict with unilateral declarations of statehood.
We have to sit together, negotiate together, and reach a mutual compromise, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish State.
When Netanyahu spoke at the UN last year, the Palestinian question was the focus of his address. The above is in essence a compressed version of that speech, one which sets out the basic position of the Israeli negotiating strategy. As I said at the time, the call to be recognised as a Jewish state “represents a shifting of the goalposts and a roadblock to a resolution”. Moreover, while the call for a demilitarised Palestinian state is a fair and necessary compromise, the corollary of that in Netanyahu’s thinking is “‘a long-term Israeli military presence in critical strategic areas in the West Bank’, one he slightly mendaciously compares to the existence of American forces in Europe and Asia, and British air force bases in Cyprus”.
We also now know a little more about what exactly it is Netanyahu would do in an Iranian strike. Since Israel, nor any other nation, could find or destroy the site which would produce a nuclear detonator, Israel would target the sites at which uranium is enriched. “Those Iranian plants are visible and they’re still vulnerable”, he said. Plus, we now know that the red line as it were is the prevention of Iran from enriching enough medium-strength uranium to have a sufficient quantity to move onto highly-enriched uranium. “By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” Netanyahu noted.
These goalposts have shifted before, and may very well do so again. After all, it is probably not coincidental that an election in Israel may occur more likely than not in the spring of 2013, two or three months before the current deadline on an Iranian strike, and a few months into what will probably be President Obama’s second term. That doesn’t mean we should take him any less seriously, whatever his laughable diagram may suggest about his credability. He is, after all, the most powerful political leader Israel has had in a generation.
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