Within minutes of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech at the UN Thursday, a debate had erupted over his use of a visual prop, straight out of Looney Tunes, to visualize the threat posed by Iran.
Amidst a large outline of a bomb poised to explode, Bibi drew an actual red line with a magic marker in an anything but subtle message to the world that the only way to stop a nuclear-armed Iran is to draw a line in the sand which would trigger military action should Tehran cross it.
It’s hardly the first time Netanyahu – or other world leaders – have used a prop upon the UN podium. But the drawing was one of the most simplistic to be flashed to the world for the General Assembly hall.
That triggered outrage and putdowns from those who felt Bibi was condescending and trivializing an important issue. And it brought a strong defense from people who thought it was an effective and clear message on a deadly threat faced by Israel and the world.
The effectiveness, as is so often the case, was in the eye of the beholder: For the most part, those who dislike Netanyahu and his policies had one more reason for criticism; those who back him were quick to praise his attention-grabbing approach.
And the approach did grab attention. The bomb diagram was the front page photo in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and was featured prominently on top American news blogs throughout the day. The image was flashed repeatedly on cable news screens throughout the day.
As more than one commentator pointed out, Netanyahu’s presentation eclipsed everyone else’s that came before him – including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who just ahead of Netanyahu delivered a blistering attack on Israel and the occupation.
Regardless of the criticism, to the extent that Netanyahu’s intention was simply to get a picture of that bomb indelibly etched into the media landscape, there’s no doubt that he was effective.
But it remains to be seen whether that affects anyone’s willingness – and ability – to defuse it.