NEW YORK – Prime Minister Naftali Bennett plans to tell the world that the time has come to act against Iran’s nuclear program, in his first-ever address to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.
The core message Bennett plans to relay concerning Iran is that “we deal with security through actions. Speeches are important, but this is the time to act,” a source in the prime minister’s entourage in New York said on Sunday.
Bennett is also considering using Hillel the Elder’s phrase, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” in that context, to reflect that Israel cannot rely on others for its own defense.
The prime minister took the lead in writing the speech, though he worked on it with his staff and took advice from others, such as author and philosopher Micah Goodman.
“It was important to him that the speech be in his voice and reflect what he thinks as accurately as possible,” the source in his entourage, who was also involved in the process, explained.
Bennett rejected gimmicks of all kinds suggested to him, in contrast to his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, and said he wants to give a direct speech “like a grown-up,” the source quipped.
Bennett also seeks to tell the story of Israel’s successes without viewing them through the prism of conflict with the Palestinians.
When it comes to the Palestinians, Bennett is “trying to present his authentic feeling as policy, that for 73 years, Israel’s place in the world was all about the conflict, and that is not healthy,” the source said. “Making us Siamese twins with the Palestinians is wrong and unhelpful. They will not be a major part [of the speech]. Relations with other countries will not be defined by them.”
Israel, Bennett seeks to relay, is “an important and active country in the world with a big footprint of its own, and we want to put that forward in bilateral relations.”
And the Palestinians, as well as the Iranians, should “deal with their own people and improving their lives, and stop their obsession with Israel,” Bennett said on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport on Saturday night.
He does not plan to respond to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the UN, in which he gave Israel a one-year ultimatum to withdraw from all of Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem.
Bennett also said on the tarmac that he plans to “bring the voice of Israelis” to the UN.
“This is an opportunity to tell our story... of Israel’s special spirit and our contribution to the world,” he stated.
That “special spirit” is one of action and actively seeking new solutions to problems, said the source with Bennett in New York.
Bennett also plans to present himself as part of a “dynamic, optimistic new generation of Israeli leadership” that is working to heal divisions in Israeli society, the source said.
The prime minister plans to speak out against hypocrisy and the double standards to which Israel is held in international forums such as the UN, which passes more resolutions against Israel than against any other country.
The Abraham Accords will also be a part of the speech, and he may mention the grassroots effort by 300 Iraqi leaders calling to normalize relations with Israel.
Bennett will also discuss Israel’s actions against the COVID-19 pandemic, including its leadership in providing booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine.
The prime minister was set to hold his first meeting with senior ministers from Abraham Accords signatory countries, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and United Arab Emirates Minister of State in the Foreign Ministry Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, after press time on Sunday.
Bennett is then expected to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
He is scheduled to speak at a Jewish Federations of North America event, at which leaders of other Jewish Diaspora organizations are expected to be present.