Photo: AFP
Netanyahu at UN, Monday
Photo: AFP

Netanyahu's UN speech draws mixed political response

While US takes issue with Netanyahu's ISIS-Hamas comparisons, right-wing MKs praise 'exposure of Abbas's true face', while left-wing politicians slams address as 'official seal of Netanyahu's failure'.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday garnered mixed responses from US officials, Palestinian legislators and from Knesset members across the political spectrum, with right-wing MKs lauding Netanyahu for exposing what they called "Abbas's true face," while those on the left side of the map termed the speech "an official seal of Netanyahu's failure".



In his speech, the prime minister drew a link between the threat Israel faces from Hamas in Gaza, to the threat the international community at large faces from the Islamic State. "Hamas, like the Islamic State, wants a caliphate," he said.


'Islamic State different from Hamas'

The United States was reluctant to accept Netanyahu's comparison between Hamas and Islamic State.


"We don’t believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu or anyone else from Israel is suggesting that the United States launch a military campaign against Hamas," US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a press briefing.


"They are both designated terrorist organizations under the United States designations, but certainly we see differences in terms of the threat and otherwise," Psaki added.


Psaki also rejected Netanyahu's assertion that Hamas, ISIS, Iran, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and other militant Islamist groups all want the same thing – a Muslim caliphate dominating the world.


In his speech, Netanyahu called on the six world powers negotiating with Iran over its disputed nuclear program – the US among them – to demand full dismantling of Tehran's centrifuges.


Psaki reiterated that Washington shares Israel's concerns about Iran becoming a nuclear threshold country, but said she did not share Netanyahu's view that Iran was a bigger threat than ISIS.


"Obviously we’re spending a great deal of time and energy because we are concerned, as is Israel, about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon … we’re equally concerned about the threat of ISIL, given all of the energy that we’re putting into that," she said.


Netanyahu also warned the international community of Iran's "charm offensive," saying that "once Iran produces atomic bombs the charm and smiles will disappear."


Psaki, however, insisted Iran's PR campaign would not have any impact on the nature of the nuclear deal reached with it.


"I can assure anyone that an agreement reached would not be based on a charm offensive or how that impacts us, but on the facts and the details. And we’re not going to agree to a comprehensive agreement that doesn’t meet our standards and meet our threshold," she said. "Our negotiation and our discussion … (are) about the facts and the details and what a final technical package would look like."


'Blatant manipulation of facts'

As expected, the Palestinian delegation was quick to condemn Netanyahu's speech. "Blaming the victim has always been the failed policy of the politically and morally bankrupt, and Netanyahu is no exception," said PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi.


"Netanyahu’s speech at the UN was a blatant manipulation of facts and attempted at misleading the audience through a combination of hate language, slander and argument of obfuscation," Ashrawi went on to say.


"On the one hand he attempted to create an image of an unreal polarized world in which the 'forces of evil' are lumped together under the title 'militant Islam' blurring any distinctions among different players, including Hamas and Iran, while placing Israel in the opposite pole as a force for 'light, morality and justice,'" she said.


"Obviously Netanyahu has lost touch with reality," Ashrawi accused, "particularly in refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself or the actions of the Israeli army of occupation in committing massacres and war crimes, which has been a longstanding manifestation of Israeli 'double talk.'


"Rather than attacking President Abbas and the UN Human Rights Council for calling things by their name and deploring the horrific actions of the Israeli occupation, he should have acknowledged the enormity of the crime and taken responsibility for the actions themselves."


According to Ashrawi, "The UN podium would have been the most appropriate place for Netanyahu to announce his acceptance of all relevant UN resolutions … Instead, he persisted in compounding the error by justifying Israeli violations and launching a vitriolic attack against the victims of the ongoing occupation."


Ashrawi called Netanyahu's statement, that Israel was willing to work with the Arab world in order to help facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace, an attempt to "circumvent … the need to withdraw to the 1967 borders to establish the two-state solution."


She charged that this was an attempt of "buying more time to create facts that will destroy the chances of peace for the foreseeable future."


Domestic criticism

In Israel, Netanyahu's speech sparked both harsh criticism and strong praise. Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) lauded the prime minister: "In his speech, Netanyahu ripped the mask off the face of the leader of the Palestinian Authority and proved that Abbas is a partner of Hamas and not a partner for peace."


Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) also praised the speech, saying it was "a proper response" to the "slander and lies" in Abbas' UN speech earlier this week.


"I urge the prime minister and the cabinet to move from words to actions. Abbas must know that an ongoing war of vilification against Israel in the international arena will exact a painful price that he and his leadership will have to pay."


Likud MK Ofir Akunis said that "while Abbas delivered a speech of lies, the prime minister gave a speech of truth. As always, the truth is stronger and more effective than any false propaganda."


Left-wing MKs were mostly critical of Netanyahu's UN address. Opposition Chairman Isaac Herzog said that "Netanyahu knows how to deliver a speech and I agreed with quite a few of his statements, but the problem is that the world is not listening to him."


"It is unclear which Netanyahu we should believe: the one who speaks about political compromise, or the one who, during five years of his term, did not do a thing towards promoting a political initiative."


Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev also denounced the prime minister's speech, saying it was "suitable for a Likud party conference and not for the General Assembly."


MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) expressed similar views: "We already knew that Netanyahu is a talented copywriter, but Israel doesn't need a copywriter, but a leader. Netanyahu chose to be right instead of smart."


MK Ahmad Tibi had harsher words for the prime minister, saying that the speech "lacked political content" and that it "came from a leader who is frustrated with the fact that the world is not accepting his two main claims about the Islamic State and Iran."


Tibi further said that "the claim that Abbas wants a Palestinian state that is free of Jews is false and cynical."


Responding to Netanyahu's statement that the IDF "upholds the highest moral values of any army in the world", Tibi said that "the army of occupation cannot be moral since that would be an oxymoron."


Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-on also slammed the speech, saying "it was the same old speech of threats, intimidations and comparisons between the Islamic State, Hamas and Iran. A comparison no one in the world considers as valid."


"This speech," the Merez chairwoman said, "is the official seal of Netanyahu's utter failure to rescue Israel from the endless cycle of bloodshed and violence."


She added that "Netanyahu should have taken advantage of the opportunity and declare before the UN that he is accepting the Arab League's initiative. He didn't have to travel all the way to the UN for a self-victimizing whining campaign."


פרסום ראשון: 09.30.14, 01:06
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