The Background of Netanyahu’s Speech at the United Nations General Assembly

UN session, which happened in the previous days, had a rich content in terms of general considerations of the world leaders.  In this regard, Benjamin Netanyahu took the floor and made an elaboration centered on Israel. In the framework of his speech, he once again revealed his country’s foreign policy agenda. This speech, made by the Prime Minister of Israel, is very important in terms of its reflection of the current agenda of Israel.

Netanyahu, dedicated considerable part of his speech to the “Iranian threat” (yet again) and during his speech he warned international community “not to take a false step” about Iran in an outright manner, he also called them to take back the “false steps” taken for Iran. As is known, the reason for the increasing callings is that Iran’s nuclear activity gained a legal status by the agreement reached between Iran and the permanent members of the UNSC and Germany (P5+1). Netanyahu repeated that the agreement is not a “right” one, and it is far from preventing Iran’s “dangerous” activities. Moreover, he indicated the activities of Iran in the region since the meeting in Lausanne that set the framework of the agreement, he added that this agreement strengthened the hand of Iran and increased and enhanced her activities through her “proxies” like Hezbollah.

There are several reasons for Netanyahu’s repeated “Iranian threat” discourse during the UN sessions. The first of these is the atomized structure of the Israel society on the national level and the need to hold the society together. Even a hypothetical external threat could provide unity to this atomized structure and form a basis for a common understanding. Another reason is related to Israel’s effort to consolidate her tacit legitimacy at the regional level. Also at this level, with the tacit acceptance of her existence, Israel minimizes her regional isolation with a “common threat” and establishes an environment for covert cooperation with the Arab states in the region. At the international level, Netanyahu, like in most of his speeches in UN sessions, internalizes the “us and the others” distinction with his “Iranian threat” discourse, also, he considers this discourse as a tool to keep “the Western civilization powers” within the boundaries of the “us”.

Netanyahu’s criticism on UN was also striking. In some parts of his speech, he emphasized that the UN decisions about Israel “have become obsessive” and meant “treating Israel unfairly”.  He then exemplified his claim by a comparison between Israel and Syria with numbers. According to these numbers, there was only one (1) decision taken by the UN about Syria which “is governed by a regime that is responsible of hundreds of thousands of deaths” whereas there were 20 decisions taken against Israel during the same period. Netanyahu especially posited this comparison to emphasize once again on UN’s “discrimination” against Israel. This argument has been used to verify that anti-Semitism is still alive.  Thereby, Netanyahu repeated that the nation he represent live under constant global threat.

Netanyahu also talked about the Palestinian-Israeli peace process during his speech. He said that he is ready for the peace talks, but his counterpart does not have a similar approach. In answer to Mahmud Abbas who spoke to the General Assembly before him, Netanyahu said that facts about Israel are “fabricated”, Israel is not responsible for the tensions in Al-Aqsa Mosque; on the contrary, Israel respects all the divine religions , and therefore,they represent the “only real” democracy in the Middle East. He also indicated that they are not responsible for the escalating tensions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He, yet again, targeted the Abbas administration and the militant Islamic groups. He ignored Abbas’s outright callings for common sense about escalating tensions. Besides, there are several Jewish formations in Israel against Al-Aqsa Mosque that carry out lobbying activities for changing the status quo in the region. Too often, there are provocation attempts by these formations and it is really hard to say that Israeli government maintains a straight stance against this provocations.  As Netanyahu stated in his speech, it is obvious that the Israeli government should take a clearer stance to preserve the status quo in Al-Aqsa Mosque.

*This translated essay was first written for ORSAM (Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies) in Turkish.

About the Author
IR Researcher, studying Israeli politics and Security Studies.
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