Bibi Comes to Town

by Peter Jenkins

The Prime Minister of Israel addressed the UN General Assembly on Sept. 29, once more filling the chamber with fire and brimstone.

Like many a leader before him, he built his speech on the well-tried formula that attack is the best form of defense.

Not for him to make any attempt to justify Israel’s settlement of 500,000 Israelis in occupied territory on the West Bank. Not for him to accept any share of responsibility for the collapse of the peace talks into which Secretary of State John Kerry invested so much energy and good intention. Not for him to explain why Israel has failed to follow Syria’s example in adhering to the Chemical Weapons Convention and continues to resist pressure to move towards a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.

Instead, Mr. Netanyahu set out to distract attention from Israeli shortcomings, and to win sympathy, by persuading his listeners that the greatest embodiments of evil in the Middle East are Hamas and the Islamic government in Iran.

Hamas and Iran, he asks listeners to believe, are no different from the group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS). All three are vessels of militant Islam. All three crave global domination. All three have embraced a fanatic ideology; their mad belief in a master faith invites comparison with the Nazi belief in a master race.

The comparison with Nazi Germany begs a question: will militant Islam ever have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions? Mr. Netanyahu believes that it will, unless stopped short, because he continues to believe that Iran is determined to acquire nuclear weapons. For him, the current Iranian show of moderation and commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is merely a manipulative charm offensive, designed to persuade the US and its allies to lift sanctions and remove obstacles on Iran’s path to acquiring nuclear weapons.

There is a steadfast quality to Mr. Netanyahu that compels admiration. The US intelligence community has estimated since 2007 that Iran no longer has a nuclear weapon program. Several senior Israeli intelligence and military officials have allowed the public to learn that they share the US assessment. Western leaders have decided that they can afford to risk domestic criticism by negotiating an agreement that will leave Iran in possession of uranium enrichment technology, since that is not outlawed by the NPT. Yet, still, Mr. Netanyahu clings to the view he first voiced 22 years ago: Iran wants enrichment facilities because it wants nuclear weapons.

That said, some evolution in his thinking is discernible. He is no longer prophesying that Iran is on the brink of achieving its nuclear weapon ambition; instead, it is at “a time of its choosing” that Iran “the world’s most dangerous regime, in the world’s most dangerous region”, will obtain “the world’s most dangerous weapon” unless its “military nuclear capabilities” are fully dismantled. He is no longer calling on his US allies to put themselves on the wrong side of international law by conducting a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And he is no longer suggesting that a nuclear-armed Iran would transfer nuclear weapons or material to non-state actors such as IS and Hamas.

It is only in the second part of his speech that Mr. Netanyahu starts to play defense—but, still, he misses no opportunity to go onto the counter-attack.

His initial purpose is to justify the latest Israeli attack on Gaza. His method is simple: heap all the responsibility for the terrible loss of Palestinian non-combatant life on to Hamas; cast a veil over the causes of this outbreak of violence; imply that ordinary Israelis suffered as much as ordinary Palestinians; and suggest that the end, Israeli security, justifies the means even when threats to Israeli security result from Israeli policies and practices.

He reserves one of his most savage counter-attacks for the UN Human Rights Council. He accuses the Council of granting legitimacy to the use of human shields and of becoming a “terrorist rights council.” He even seems to imply that by criticising Israeli policies the Council is guilty of anti-Semitism, as are all those, wherever they may be, who criticise Israel.

He ends with a call on Sunni Arab states to form a common front with Israel against a “nuclear-armed Iran” and militant Islamist movements. This, he claims, can help facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The peace he envisages, however, appears to be built on continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank: “I’m ready to make a historic compromise, not because Israel occupies a foreign land. The people of Israel are not occupiers in the land of Israel. History, archaeology and common sense all make clear that we have had a singular attachment to this land for over 3,000 years….The old template for peace must be updated. It must take into account new realities.”

Does he really believe that Saudi Arabia and Egypt can afford to be seen siding with Israel to deprive Palestinians of lands to which their title under international law is of the strongest? Israelis may have been in occupation of those lands 3,000 years ago. But subsequently, for nearly 2,000 years, others occupied them. That fact cannot be orated away.

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Peter Jenkins

Peter Jenkins was a British career diplomat for 33 years, following studies at the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard. He served in Vienna (twice), Washington, Paris, Brasilia and Geneva. He specialized in global economic and security issues. His last assignment (2001-06) was that of UK Ambassador to the IAEA and UN (Vienna). Since 2006 he has represented the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, advised the Director of IIASA and set up a partnership, The Ambassador Partnership llp, with former diplomatic colleagues, to offer the corporate sector dispute resolution and solutions to cross-border problems. He was an associate fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy from 2010 to 2012. He writes and speaks on nuclear and trade policy issues.



  1. Netanyahu’s lies are becoming more and more embarrassing with every passing year, and his speeches at the UN General Assembly have been vying with the previous ones in their degree of absurdity and total divorce from reality. A war criminal who has just carried out a massive genocide of hapless and defenseless people of Gaza, killing hundreds of women and children and causing such destruction to the already impoverished land that it requires 20 years to rebuild, has the gall to address the General Assembly and to speak about the threat posed by HAMAS and by Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons.

    The irony is that he is the prime minister of the most militarized regime on the face of the planet, which even holds an arsenal of hundred of nuclear weapons. If there were any semblance of law and justice in the world, this man should be locked up in the Hague and severe international sanctions should have been imposed on his country until it got rid of its nuclear weapons and changed its apartheid policies. A lack of international justice allows such war criminals to strut the world stage and threaten other countries. It is hypocritical to go after ISIS and yet allow such a dangerous regime that has attacked every one of its neighbors to continue with its crimes.

  2. Unfortunately, Israel is in a difficult position, because they have no moral right to be there. They are not alone in that. I think of the USA, Australia and most of South America, to name but a few. Mostly, occupiers simply brazen it out and pretend they have come to make things better for everyone and anyway the native population were backward and didn’t know how to make proper use of their natural resources. Israel has been unlucky in coming up against an indigenous population that is intelligent, proud and courageous. Nobody seriously expects Israel to pack up and go somewhere else, but they would be well advised to put a bit more effort into making friends with their neighbors.

  3. What’s to add that hasn’t been said already? I wonder just how long it’s going to take before one of the so-called good Sunni group[s], blow up the gas/oil drilling rigs that Israel is taking off its coast? Now that will be noteworthy, maybe even jar some action to end the madness that’s today’s forte in the M.E. I wonder, if the U.S. is training another rebel group in Saudi Arabia, will Israel take it as a threat and bomb the base, before al Qaeda does? People who play with matches, get burned.

  4. The state of Israel has strayed so far from principles of Judaism that the charges of anti Semitism by Bibi are ludicrous. Moreover the Arabs are also Semitic so Bibi is by his own admission an anti Semite!
    The baseless charges against Iran are old and overused. And Bibi’s call for the Sunni Arab states a number of who support ISIS and the Palestinian cause to form a front against Iran (which is the only country to be fighting against ISIS, AQ and the Taliban, beggars’ belief. Unfortunately some of these states are foolish enough to fall for this. Hopefully the western leaders will see through Bibi’s dog and pony show.

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