This time there were no props – like a cartoon of a bomb – and no gimmicks, such as a 45-second pause to ram home a point, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
Instead, there was a long, 40-minute speech that broke little new ground, but radiated – in stark contrast to the speech given by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas just a few minutes before him – a sense of optimism.
Israel has a great future at the UN, he said very counterintuitively at the start of his speech. After repeating the litany of Israel’s complaints about the UN – saying that the body that began as a “moral force” had turned into a “moral farce” – he turned the tables and said that this is changing, as more and more countries are realizing that Israel is not their foe, but their friend.
“Lay down your arms,” he told the delegates. Citing inroads Israel has made in relations with African, Asian, Latin American and even Arab countries, he said that in the near future the delegates will get calls from their leaders with a short message: “The war against Israel at the UN has ended.”
It was a somewhat different Netanyahu than what the world has come to expect. Yes, there was the defiant Netanyahu, telling the world body that even with all the talk about UN resolutions on the Middle East, it will never, ever be able to impose a solution on Israel that it doesn’t want.
And it was a Netanyahu repeating what he has said numerous times in the past: that the core of the conflict is not the settlements, but the Jews’ right to exist anywhere in their historical homeland.
But it was also a Netanyahu who admitted that it was Jewish terrorists who carried out the attack in Duma that led to the deaths of three members of the Dawabsha family last year.
This stood in stark contrast to Abbas, who in his angry litany of charges against Israel – including in one instance of shameless historical revisionism implying that the Jews were the ones who refused the Partition Plan in 1947 – never gave even a smattering of a hint that perhaps Palestinian terrorism might have something to do with the current diplomatic impasse.
It was also a Netanyahu who showed a sense of humor, saying that if Abbas wanted to sue the British for the Balfour Declaration – and the Palestinian leader did on Thursday again excoriate the British for that century-old document – then he should also sue Cyrus the Great for letting the Jews come back to Israel to rebuild the Temple, and even organize a class action suit against Abraham for buying a parcel of land in Hebron.
And, finally, it wasn’t the doom and gloom Netanyahu the world has come to expect, warning of impending disaster.
Instead, it was a Netanyahu who peppered his speech with the words, “I am filled with hope,” and even cloaked himself in the optimistic mantle of Shimon Peres, whom he referenced.
Toward the of his speech Netanyahu asserted his belief that, “in the years ahead Israel will forge a lasting peace with all our neighbors.”
The only thing missing was any inkling of exactly how – as prime minister – he plans to help bring that about.