The fans cheered from the stands, but Netanyahu failed to deliver

The prime minister’s UN address resembled a game of the Israeli national soccer team. After weeks of aggressive marketing, spins, headlines and high expectations, the result was disappointing

NEW YORK — Several minutes before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the United Nations’ General Assembly, the reoccurring ritual in recent years took place. One by one, Netanyahu’s donors, associates and supporters flocked in to watch. Casino magnate and owner of the Hebrew daily Yisrael Hayom, Sheldon Adelson, was followed by American-Jewish attorney Alan Dershowitz, former advisor Dore Gold, family friend Zeev Rubinstein and others. Last to enter was Sara Netanyahu, who took her place near the podium. When Netanyahu made his entrance, in front of a half-empty, drowsy hall, his friends, advisors, supporters and entourage all rose to their feet and applauded for several minutes.

Still, the fans the in stands hardly helped. The prime minister’s address resembled a game of the Israeli national soccer team. After weeks of aggressive marketing, spins, headlines and high expectations, the result was disappointing. We hoped to make it to the World Cup, but will have to do with the League Cup.

Netanyahu’s speech was tired, bothersome and boring. In contrast to the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s sophisticated PR campaign, which led to his taking the UN by storm, Netanyahu sounded like an old, scratchy vinyl record. Not only did he fail to come up with a new effect that would call world attention to the Iranian nuclear threat, such as last year’s cartoon, the prime minister failed to offer any new pertinent information.

Netanyahu’s associates nicknamed his address the “fact speech” or the “truth speech.” Well, yes: Netanyahu heaped piles of data and facts. He quoted articles from the New York Times as well as from Rouhani’s memoirs, and mentioned every crime Tehran committed throughout the years.

Most of the facts were, in fact, founded, but that underlined the failure of his address. The Western powers have no shortage of intelligence as to moves inside Iran. The leaders of the United States, Britain, France, Germany and other Israeli allies are not naïve children in need of an introduction to the history of the Iranian nuclear program. Instead of bringing them closer to a common strategy, the address might have antagonized them.

When Netanyahu opened with the special relations between the Persian and Jewish peoples throughout the ages, mentioning Persian king Cyrus and the return to Zion, it seemed for a moment that the address would lead to a surprising, new, message. But soon enough, Netanyahu was back to his talking points: Rouhani is a liar, the talks are a trap, new sanctions should be imposed.

Netanyahu sounded like a defeated man who recognizes his inability to influence international dynamics. For that reason he probably chose to underline, more than ever before, the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iranian nuclear sites. Netanyahu insisted that Israel would not tolerate nuclear weapons in Iran: “I want there to be no confusion on this point,” he told the few diplomats in the assembly hall. “Israel will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.”

One can hope that at least this quote grabbed public attention.

Several minutes after the address was over, Netanyahu’s spokesperson sent a text message to reporters: “You can say that the PM’s entourage is pleased by the speech and that he succeeded in deflating Rouhani’s balloon.”

Well, in politics — as in sport — miracles simply do not happen without a decent dose of self-belief.

By Haaretz


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