UNITED NATIONS – In a wide-ranging speech that touched on the scourge of radical Islam, the dangers of a nuclear Iran and a new paradigm for peace with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set out at the UN on Monday to convince the world that what Israel faces today, it will face in the near future.
“The fight against militant Islam is indivisible,” Netanyahu said on the last day of speeches at the UN General Assembly’s general debate to a hall about three-fourths full.
“When militant Islam succeeds anywhere, it is emboldened everywhere. When it suffers a blow in one place, it is set back in every place. That is why Israel’s fight against Hamas is not just our fight, it is your fight.
Israel is fighting a fanaticism today that your countries might be facing tomorrow.”
Netanyahu also cautioned against focusing world efforts on battling Islamic State at the expense of ignoring Iran’s nuclear aspirations, saying that “to defeat ISIS [Islamic State] and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.”
Netanyahu broke up his address into five main parts: The first dealt with the challenge of Islamic radicalism, as embodied by Islamic State.
The second part dealt with the danger of an already existing Islamic state – Iran – getting nuclear capabilities. The third dealt with the summer’s Gaza operation; the fourth with rising anti-Semitism; and the fifth with a comprehensive regional peace.
It was in the last section that Netanyahu signaled a new approach to the Palestinian issue, saying that while in the past the assumption was that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would lead to a rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world, now – perhaps – a partnership with the Arab world could led to an eventual peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“To achieve that peace, we must not look only at Jerusalem and Ramallah, but also to Cairo, Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere,” he said. “I believe peace can be realized with the active involvement of Arab countries, those who are willing to provide political, material and other indispensable support.”
Though he never mentioned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by name, Netanyahu leveled a blistering attack on charges the PA leader made last week at the UN, charging that Israel was a racist state committing genocide.
Netanyahu said that while in the past the Jews were demonized with blood libel charges and accused of deicide, “today the Jewish state is demonized with the apartheid libel, and charges of genocide.”
Then, referring to Israel’s actions in carrying out the Gaza operation in the summer, he asked, “In what moral universe does genocide include warnings to the enemy civilian population to get out of harm’s way, or ensuring that they receive tons of humanitarian aid each day, even as thousands of rockets are being fired at us, or setting up a field hospital to aid their wounded?” Referring to Abbas and the Holocaust denial paper he wrote for his doctorate at a Russian university, Netanyahu said, “I suppose it is the same moral universe where a man who wrote a dissertation of lies about the Holocaust, and who insists on a Palestine free of Jews, judenrein, can stand on this podium and shamelessly accuse Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing.”
Netanyahu began his address by saying that while the people of Israel pray for peace, “our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace are in danger because everywhere we look militant Islam is on the march.”
He defined the goal of militant Islam as world domination, and likened it to a cancer that if not checked immediately, will grow and attack “wider and wider areas.”
He hit out at countries who applauded US President Barack Obama for leading action against Islamic State, but condemned Israel for confronting Hamas. He quoted from both Hamas and Islamic State leaders to prove his point: That they share a fanatical creed that seeks world Islamic domination.
“Militant Islam’s vision to dominate the world seems mad, but so too did the goals of another fanatical ideology that swept into power eight decades ago,” the prime minister said. “The Nazis believed in a master race, the militant Islamists believe in a master faith.”
The only difference among the different Islamic radical groups – Sunni and Shi’ite – was over who would be “the master of the master faith,” he said.
“Therefore the question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions,” Netanyahu said.
Then, in a subtle parallel between Islamic State – which the world fears – and Iran, he said, “there is one place where that could soon happen – the Islamic state of Iran.”
Netanyahu said that for the past 35 years Iran has been propelled by a philosophy of Islamic world domination, and pointed out the irony of President Hassan Rouhani standing at the UN podium last week and bewailing global terrorism.
Invoking the name of a baseball legend who played his last game on Sunday, Netanyahu said that saying that Iran does not practice terrorism is like saying “Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees.”
He urged the world not to be taken in by Tehran’s charm offensive and lift sanctions, which was an effective obstacle to Iran’s path toward a bomb.
“The Islamic Republic is now trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement that will remove the sanction it still faces, and leave it with capacity for thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium. This would effectively cement Iran’s place as a threshold military nuclear power, and in a future time of its choosing, Iran – the world’s most dangerous regime in the world’s most dangerous region – will obtain the world’s most dangerous weapons,” Netanyahu said.
It was one thing to confront Islamic radicals armed – like Islamic State – with Kalashnikov rifles on pick-up trucks, and another thing altogether to face Islamic radicals armed with nuclear weapons, he said.
Netanyahu slammed the UN Human Rights Council for setting up a team to investigate Israeli “war crimes,” not those of Hamas, and said this sent a message to all terrorists everywhere that they could use civilians as human shields.
The prime minister passionately rebuffed accusations that Israel intentionally targeted civilians, saying that while Israel was doing everything it could to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties, Hamas was doing its utmost to maximize both Israeli and Palestinian civilian casualties.
As he does often in major speeches, Netanyahu used a prop this time as well, holding up a photo of three children in Gaza playing next to two rocket launchers. This, he said, was the war crime that Abbas should have bewailed last week in his UN address.
“The profound moral difference between Israel and Hamas couldn’t have been clearer,” he said. “Israel was using its missiles to protect its children, Hamas was using its children to protect its missiles.”