Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to the UN this week was long on talk of regional threats and dangers, and short on words of hope. His short statement alongside US President Barack Obama on Wednesday was reversed: Long on hope and short on talks of threats and fears.
The prime minister knows his audience.
“I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, based on mutual recognition and rock-solid security arrangements on the ground,” Netanyahu said. “And I believe we should make use of the new opportunities, think outside the box, see how we can recruit the Arab countries to advance this very hopeful agenda.”
There it was, the word Obama loves, and what Netanyahu’s critics said was conspicuously absent from the prime minister’s UN address: Hope.
Obama and Netanyahu met in the Oval Office on Wednesday under dramatically different conditions than their last meeting, in March.
At that meeting the talks with the Palestinians were still on, though expiring: The Gaza military operation was some four months away; and the term Islamic State referred to Iran, not to an organization that instills fear throughout the world through mass murder and beheadings.
But despite the changes, despite the dramatic developments of the last half-year, Obama made clear in his short statement that when he meets with Netanyahu, peace with the Palestinians remains foremost in his mind.
“We’ll discuss extensively both the situation of rebuilding Gaza but also how can we find a more sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Obama said.
And Netanyahu fitted his words to what the president wanted to hear. He spoke only briefly about Iran, made no mention of Hamas or how it and Islamic State are “different branches of the same poisonous tree.”
Rather, he did something that many found missing from his UN speech: He reaffirmed his commitment to a two-state solution.
“I think that there are opportunities, and the opportunities, as you just expressed, is something that is changing in the Middle East, because out of the new situation there emerges a commonality of interest between Israel and leading Arab states, and I think that we should work very hard together to seize on those common interests and build a positive program to advance a more secure, a more prosperous and a more peaceful Middle East,” Netanyahu said.
Obama, as was evident in his address to the UN General Assembly last week, likes to stress the positive, even if so much around looks negative.
Netanyahu, at least during his public statement alongside the president, gave the president what he wanted to hear.
The situation behind the closed doors, however, was probably a bit different.