J Street, Israeli Left blast Netanyahu speech

Meretz leader says Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech has made the Iran threat Israel's problem alone.

Meretz Party head Zahava Gal-On 370 (photo credit: ben hartman)
Meretz Party head Zahava Gal-On 370
(photo credit: ben hartman)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu faced criticism for his UN General Assembly address Tuesday from Labor and Meretz MKs in Israel and from the pro- Israel, pro-peace lobby J Street in Washington.
J Street released a statement expressing disappointment that Netanyahu did not spend more time addressing “the promise of a better future with the Palestinians,” especially in light of the ongoing peace process.
“The prime minister’s speech to the UN General Assembly was a missed opportunity,” the organization said. “Of its 33 minutes, he spent less than two minutes addressing the subject of peace with the Palestinians, as if to make it clear that peace is not a high priority for him.”
Former consul-general in New York Alon Pinkas, who is a frequent Netanyahu critic, tweeted in response that the prime minister was right to devote the bulk of his speech to Iran because it was the main topic of the General Assembly.
Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked slammed her Knesset colleagues for attending J Street’s conference in Washington this week, noting the organization’s past opposition to Congress passing sanctions on Iran.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), who was one of the speakers at the conference, expressed disappointment that Netanyahu did not use the speech to make firm commitments on the Palestinian issue. She also said his approach to Iran was incorrect.
“The way to deal with Iran is to let the US lead an international effort, not by emphasizing Israel’s isolation,” Yacimovich said.
Her challenger for the Labor leadership, MK Isaac Herzog, said Netanyahu failed to address the different behavior by Iran over the past 10 days.
He said the prime minister did not provide a response to what could be a strategic change by the Islamic Republic.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) added that Netanyahu “is fighting wars of the past while the world has moved on.”
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said Netanyahu should have praised the efforts of the US and the international community to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program via a diplomatic approach and sanctions.
“Instead, Netanyahu returned to his old rhetoric of threats and attacks,” she said.
But opposition MKs Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) and Eli Yishai (Shas) praised the speech and said Netanyahu speaks for all Israelis on Iran.
“The prime minister removed Iran’s mask and cooled [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani’s niceness offensive,” said Deputy Minister Ophir Akunis (Likud), a former Netanyahu aide. “This might have been the most important speech by Netanyahu in decades.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said he thought Netanyahu’s speech sent a clear message to Iran and to the international community.
“I think it said very clearly, we are not naive, not stupid, and we want to see action. But most importantly, that we will keep all options on the table, including military options,” said Danon in New York after the speech.
Amishai Gottlieb and Maya Shwayder contributed to this report.