Livni and Abbas 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
While Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni labeled as scandalous the UN's willingness to provide a platform at the UN General Assembly to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a diplomatic official in Jerusalem said his appearance in New York was actually an Israeli public relations boon.
The official said that as a result of the protests against his appearance Tuesday night, the Iranian president and his extremism were being spotlighted.
"It is difficult to demonize a nation like Iran, but it is easier to demonize a man," the official said. "When people see him, when they see the demonstrations surrounding his visit, when they hear about his pronouncements and hear him called the 'new Hitler,' they will see that this is not someone they want with his finger on the nuclear button."
Nevertheless, Livni said in interviews in New York Tuesday that the UN, which was established following the atrocities of WWII, should not have given a platform to a leader who has denied the Holocaust and called openly for Israel's destruction.
Despite these sentiments, however, the Foreign Ministry did not actively campaign to either get the US to deny Ahmadinejad a visa to address the UN, or to convince the UN that he should not be allowed to speak.
Government officials said that a "strategic decision" was made not to "complicate matters for the US" by publicly calling on Washington to refuse Ahmadinejad a visa. The US is obligated under international treaties to grant visas to those addressing the UN.
It was also considered fruitless to raise the issue with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, since he does not decide who has the right to address the body. Only by expelling or perhaps suspending Iran from the body - a move that would necessitate agreement by a majority of the General Assembly - could Ahmadinejad's appearance have been prevented, something that was obviously not in the cards.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch, questioned the logic that allowing Ahmadinejad to speak might be in Israel's interests.
"It is doubtful whether giving the world's foremost Holocaust denier the most prestigious platform in the world can ever be considered a good idea," he said from Geneva. Neuer said that by appearing at the General Assembly, Ahmadinejad would acquire a degree of legitimacy.
Neuer said that while he understood the hope that "putting a scoundrel in the public eye might reveal his true character, I'm concerned that every forum he gets is encouragement to anti-Semites worldwide, and that he will be firing up many in the Muslim world."
Iran, according to Foreign Ministry officials, will be the central focus of Livni's address to the General Assembly Wednesday afternoon. She is expected to say that there is no place in the family of civilized nations for a country like Ahmadinejad's Iran.
She is also expected to stress the importance of engaging the Palestinians in order to reach an agreement, and will reiterate Israel's commitment to a two state solution.
The issue of the international benchmarks that the PA must meet before gaining legitimacy is expected to dominate a Quartet meeting scheduled at the UN Thursday. Israeli officials have said the EU, despite some signs they would like to show some flexibility, are not expected to break ranks with the US position, which is that the benchmarks - recognizing Israel's right to exist, forswearing terrorism, and accepting previous agreements - must be met in full.