By Larry Gordon
Despite a prodigious buildup to his speech to the United Nations’ General Assembly on Monday, it seemed that Prime Minister Netanyahu was exercising restraint. If only he could have spoken immediately following Abu Mazen of the Palestinian Authority, when he was still seething at the Arab leader’s lies and deceptions, we might have heard a speech that packed an additional punch.
But Rosh Hashanah and Shabbos came in between, and then there was a long flight to New York, and Mr. Netanyahu seemed to have calmed down and perhaps even had second thoughts. A lot of the Bibi we saw and heard at the U.N. was somewhat recycled material. That did not lessen the effectiveness of the Netanyahu message, but I was hoping to hear something new, different, and perhaps more powerful.
Still, what we did hear was the unmitigated truth, which seems strangely out of place at the United Nations. Is it possible that such a vast enterprise with its unique global reach can be so dedicated to deceptiveness, falsehood, and deviousness? Is that what diplomacy has evolved into in the 21st century? Is it simply the ability to tell bald-faced lies while being stylishly dressed with the finest fashion and sartorial appointments?
Bibi was, as usual, cool and articulate. Yes, Israel uses its missiles to protect its children while the Hamas and ISIS terrorists use their children to protect their rockets and missiles. It is an astute observation that penetratingly sums up the totality of this past summer’s Gaza war, but was there anyone out there who had not heard those words already? We were told in advance that the speech would be “razor sharp.” Instead, it had a few nicks here and there.
I thought that one of the best parts was what he did not say. That is, he gave short shrift to Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, who the world is slowly coming to understand is no different than his predecessor Yasser Arafat—other than their style of dress. Bibi did not mention the so-called two-state solution because it is also gradually becoming clear that the concept behind those tired old words is increasingly irrelevant. And after the Netanyahu presentation concluded, it was obvious that part of the plan was to render Abbas extraneous to the process.
The key to the entire event was once again Israel’s position on Iran. Yes, the monsters of ISIS are Iran on steroids, as one commentator put it. And yes, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. But it did not take more than an hour for the U.S. State Department to issue a statement differentiating the two entities, both masters of violence and destruction.
The State Department spokesperson, Jan Psaki, said that the U.S. regards both ISIS and Hamas as terrorist groups but that the U.S. is not currently militarily engaged with Hamas with the same level of intensity as it is with ISIS—so you see, there is a difference, she was saying, that Bibi did not acknowledge.
Why make such an inane observation? Could it be that even though Hamas launched 4,000 missiles and rockets at Israel this summer, there has to be some room left for them in the diplomatic theater in case one day they might change their minds and want to go legitimate? Perhaps the difference is that Hamas has not—as far as we know—publicly beheaded anyone yet, so they therefore deserve to be regarded on a somewhat higher level than the savages of ISIS. Remember that Hamas executed a number of Gazan residents just a few weeks ago, believing they had spied for or collaborated with Israel.
We might never know what the State Department spokesperson was making an effort to express. All we know is that she was attempting to say something that the White House told her to say, so it did not have to make any sense.
But Bibi was clear on this point—terror is terror and it has to be defeated and destroyed. One of his more incisive observations is how the old formula that said peace with the Palestinians would lead to the normalization of relations with the Arab world instead seems to be working itself out in reverse.
At present, Israel finds itself on the same page with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt when it comes to fighting ISIS, Hamas, and Hezbollah, as well as regarding their position on Syria. At the same time, peace talks with the Palestinians are stalled—or if they are going anywhere at all, it is backward. Someday soon, it just may very well be that Mr. Abbas and the PA are going to have to play catch-up with the rest of the Arab world. Things in the Middle East are getting worse; for Israel, however, they may be improving.
So Bibi hammered the mullah in Iran quite effectively. He managed to work the now-retired Derek Jeter into the mix as well. In case you missed it, Netanyahu said, “To say that Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees.” This parallel kind of jolted many to pay a bit of extra attention to whatever Netanyahu was trying to say. And as you know, Jeter has been playing shortstop for the Yankees for 20 years. Just don’t ask the mullahs about that.
Still, as strong and eloquent as Netanyahu was, I feel that he could have been better, stronger, and, yes, sharper. For example, I don’t think that at this stage the prime minister has to repeatedly explain that the state of Israel and the Jewish people are peaceful and seek peace. The world knows that, and reiterating this idea plays to the critics and the doubters—and there has been enough of that going on for too long.
Was he being mindful of his meeting on Wednesday morning at the White House when he talked about peace with the Palestinians? Probably. But there is no need for that, either. President Obama is slowly being introduced to sobering truths and the errors and miscalculations he has made that have cost so many lives and so much money. However, Mr. Obama is not at that juncture where he cries uncle and says that all his critics were right and he was wrong. The jury is still out on whether he is just stubborn or simply does not care.
I would have liked Bibi to be more forceful on the matter of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. It’s about time that he explain in detail what he means by Jerusalem being the unified and eternal capital of Israel. This is not a concept, a theory, or a dream. At this point, Netanyahu should be saying that if the Palestinians care about their people, it is time to rework the plan for the future. There will be no withdrawal from any part of Jerusalem—not today, not tomorrow, not ever. It’s time to stop dancing around the issue and just say it, loudly and clearly.
And the same is true of Judea and Samaria. Bibi, stop acting like you’re not sure. Peace means that everyone can stay in their homes and keep adding and building in these communities wherever they may be. That is what peace is about—different types of people living together side by side, working together and getting along. An agreement that says “no Jews allowed here” is not a peace agreement, so if that is one of the fundamental clauses being demanded, the parties are going to have to call it something other than peace.
But apparently the U.N. is not the place for such truths. v
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.