By RYAN JONES, ISRAEL TODAY—
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the UN General Assembly on Monday was at the forefront of the news cycle in Israel on Tuesday. From the left to the right of the political spectrum, everyone agreed Israel’s leader is a gifted orator. But the question is, was anyone else listening?
During his 34 minutes at the podium, Netanyahu waxed eloquent regarding Israel’s desire for peace, battle for security and concerns over mounting regional threats.
Addressing the recent Gaza war, Netanyahu made a strong case, supported by an incriminating photograph, that it was Hamas, and not Israel, that had spent the summer committing war crimes.
The Israeli premier stressed that, contrary to the claims spewed last week by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, he is prepared to make peace with the Jewish state’s Arab neighbors, but that it must be done on equitable terms.
Netanyahu went on to suggest what is becoming increasingly clear to most Israelis – that in today’s Middle East, it would be easier to first forge genuine peace with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states, and then leverage those new alliances to conclude an agreement with the Palestinians.
The reason for that is linked to Netanyahu’s next point – that the sweeping scourge of radical Islam in the form of the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) is a threat to everyone who truly seeks to live in peace.
To illustrate that Israel knows all too well what moderate Arab states are now facing, Netanyahu drew a direct comparison between ISIS and Hamas. Both, he insisted, “are of the same poisonous tree.”
Sadly, it was Israel’s American allies that failed to accept that last, crucial point.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that while Washington had designated both ISIS and Hamas as terrorist organizations, it does not view them equally since Hamas poses no direct threat to American interests.
But the Obama Administration’s response to Netanyahu’s remarks was not the most disappointment aspect of the story. Rather, it was the half-empty hall that the prime minister wasted his measured words upon.
The fact is that the hall of the UN General Assembly was more than half empty when Netanyahu took the podium, and a great many of those nations represented already largely side with the Jewish state on critical issues.
In other words, Netanyahu was left singing to the choir.
“Netanyahu knows how to speak, and I agreed with more than a little of what he said, but the problem is that the world is no longer listening,” said Opposition and Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog.
Unfortunately, Herzog’s critique rang true, as Netanyahu’s speech garnered frighteningly little attention from an international media and community predisposed to accepting the Palestinian narrative.