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The content of his words was unobjectionable. It had not been the easiest week for the Israeli Jewish people. The UN had picked Wednesday—Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar—to schedule yet another address by Iran’s Holocaust-denying, genocide-inciting president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with only Israel itself, and the United States and Canada, seeing fit to have their delegates absent themselves from the harangue.
And just before Netanyahu’s speech, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas had taken the podium for yet another anti-Israeli screed, saying Palestinians were “facing relentless waves of attacks against our people, our mosques, churches and monasteries, and our homes and schools; they are unleashing their venom against our trees, fields, crops and properties, and our people have become fixed targets for acts of killing and abuse with the complete collusion of the occupying forces and the Israeli government”—and much more of the same.
In Abbas’s case, the irony is that the target of his vituperation, Israel, is now the main force keeping his Palestinian Authority from financial collapse. Israel continues to see the PA as the lesser evil compared to a breakdown resulting in chaos, riots, attacks on Israeli security forces and civilians, and a further strengthening of Hamas. Abbas, despite the indispensable helping hand from Jerusalem, keeps pushing the standard, decades-old Fatah line of across-the-board demonization of the Jewish state—while seeking a nonmember status in the UN that flouts all the Israeli-Palestinian agreements so diligently produced with the help of earnest American peace processors.
Israelis and Palestinians “won’t solve our conflicts with libelous speeches at the UN,” Netanyahu said in that first, less heartfelt part of his speech, while again repeating his formula of a “two-state solution” between Israel and a “demilitarized” Palestinian state that would recognize Israel’s validity as a Jewish state—a formula that has always been disconnected from reality and is aimed at positioning Israel as the party genuinely seeking peace, while riskily adding legitimacy to the concept of further dividing an already tiny and besieged Israel.
So much for Abbas; Netanyahu responded as well to Ahmadinejad’s allegations earlier in the week about Israel as a country lacking “roots” in the region that stands to be “eliminated.” The Israeli prime minister emphasized the Jewish people’s deep rootedness in the Land of Israel, their combining loyalty to their traditions with cutting-edge creativity in high tech, medicine, and agriculture, while contrasting that with “the medieval forces of radical Islam whom you saw storming embassies in the Middle East,” forces that “want to destroy freedom and end the modern world.”
It was solid but unoriginal stuff, clear to realistic Israelis and Americans and perhaps a smattering of Europeans. But it was when he got to the real focus of his speech—Iran’s nuclear program—that Netanyahu’s manner became much more artful and nuanced; one felt this was his real reason for coming to New York and, justifiably enough, his overriding preoccupation.
“For nearly a decade,” he said, “the international community has tried to stop the Iranian nuclear program with diplomacy. That hasn’t worked. Iran uses diplomatic negotiations as a means to buy time to advance its nuclear program.”
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