In a day when dialogue about Israel is largely relegated to social media tweets and memes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayu spoke yesterday for 40 minutes at the United Nations' global podium. Staking a vision for the future, he not only argued Israel's case with clarity, he did so with a tone that was, simultaneously, authoritative and optimistic. It was Netanyahu at his best, speaking truth to power.
"Israel has a bright future at the UN," he began. Then, rebuking the forum as a "moral farce," not force, he portrayed the institution's terpitude as little more than a facade. The Human Rights Council, he said, is "a joke." and UNESCO an absurdity. But behind these joker's masks, he argued, the world's momentum is moving toward Israel, not against it.
Israel's diplomatic relations with 160 of the world's 196 nations is reality that transcends the unexpected 81.6 percent of formal ties. Not only is the number large, he argued, it is reinforced by an increasing recognition Israel's tangible benefits to these countries. As a democratic state, Israel's tactics against terror combined with its agricutural and technical prowess are drawing nations in, not pushing them away. Accordingly, Netanyahu predicted, "the days when UN ambassadors reflexively condemn Israel ...are coming to an end."
What then should the UN do today? "Lay down your arms," he said. "The war against Israel in the UN is over."
"Yes," he added, "I know, there might be a storm before the calm. I know there is talk about ganging up on Israel at the UN later this year."
Acknowledging the coming storm, he immediately dismissed it. "Given its history of hostility towards Israel," he asked, "does anyone really believe that Israel will let the UN determine our security and our vital national interests?"
While the UN is destined to change vis-a-vis Israel, the Prime Minister was not so optimistic about the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. "If UN habits die hard," he said, "Palestinian habits die even harder."
Citing the culture's saturation of incitement against the Jewish State, Netanyahu nonetheless spoke directly to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. "I invite you to speak to the Israeli people at the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem." Acknowledging the political peril of such a thing, he offered to take the same risk, appearing before the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.
If behind the scenes most of the world is moving toward Israel, Netanyahu clarified that, along with Israel, the greatest threat to peace is the Islamic Republic of Iran.
A regime aspiring to nuclear weapons, "Iran openly seeks Israel's annihilation," he reminded. It also "threatens countries across the Middle East," and "it sponsors terror worldwide."
Addressing the nuclear agreement reached with Iran last year, Netanyahu made a pledge. "With the nuclear constraints on Iran one year closer to being removed, let me be clear: Israel will not allow the terrorist regime in Iran to develop nuclear weapons – not now, not in a decade, not ever."
The core of Netanyahu's argument was a twofold appeal. One part of that appeal is to face and challenge difficult realities. Many of Israel's defenders today do this. But the other part of his argument that made the whole persuasive was an appeal to the inevitable future of Israel.
"Dream of the future that we can build together," Netanyahu said in the end. It is, he argued, "a future of breathtaking progress, a future of security, prosperity and peace, a future of hope for all humanity, a future where even at the UN, even in this hall, Israel will finally, inevitably, take its rightful place among the nations."
The official video recording of Benjamin Netanyahu's presentation, along with a complete transcript of his remarks, is available here.