The highlight of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech as he addressed the 67th United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York yesterday was by far and away his cartoon bomb chart.
Complete with first, second and final stages (drawn within the outline), each marked a different point in Iran’s progress towards making a nuclear bomb. At some point Netanyahu produced a red marker, drawing a horizontal line near the tip of the bomb, or the final stage just above the 90% line; this is where the international community should act he told us, estimated to be next spring or summer.
Amongst the flood of Twitter mockery that followed, one read: “Netanyahu secret plot to make Iran leaders keel with laughter? Is he mocking himself?” Nobody will forget Netanayhu’s speech, but not for the reasons he hopes.
As the black humour fades, observers realise in another part of his speech Netanyahu has actually pitted ‘the modern forces’ (Israel) against ‘the medieval’ (the Middle East).
His words are a worrying reminder of George W. Bush’s ‘us and them’ speeches, which characterised the President’s desperate attempts to justify the war in Iraq. In Bush’s 2003 address to the United Nations General Assembly he claimed “events during the past two years have set before us the clearest of divides… between those who work for peaceful change and those who adopt the methods of gangsters.”
There was barely any mention of Palestine in Netanyahu’s speech. Sadly, where the Israel Palestine debate has been the centre of discussion at the UN for years, his bomb chart successfully marginalised it.
The Israeli Prime Minister did, however, take the time to refer to President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’s speech as “libellous.”
This very speech brought to attention the increasing violence Palestinians are suffering that is exacerbated by the occupying forces; Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails without a fair trial; attacks by extreme settlers against mosques, churches and monasteries and the blockade of Gaza to name a few. He remains committed to peace and the progress towards full UN membership.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, suggested they should “sit together, negotiate together, and reach a mutual compromise, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish State.”
Mohammed Morsi made Palestine first, and highly important, on his agenda. Wednesday was his first address to the United Nations, in fact the first ever of a President of Egypt to be democratically elected.
He spoke in favour of dignity and justice, proclaiming, “Our brothers and sisters in Palestine must also taste the fruits of freedom and dignity.” He condemned illegal settlements, reiterated Arab support for the rights of Palestinians, and called on those present at the assembly to support the rights, freedom and independence of the Palestinian people.
In 2011, Palestine failed to accomplish full UN membership and has this year applied for non-member status. If Palestine were recognized as a state, rather than an entity, they could, for example, join the International Criminal Court – a worrying prospect for Israel.
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