Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at the Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv. (Reuters/Nir Elias)
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, having somehow secured the last speech on the week-long agenda, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did his best to serve as a human wrecking-ball against the unfolding US-Iran rapprochement that is underway. But his extreme rhetoric, unfounded statements and hyperbole simply undermined his case.
From the opening lines of the speech, Netanyahu dove into the deep end. Israel, he said, is “challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction”—even though no one, perhaps except Netanyahu himself, would argue that Iran is “nuclear-armed.” Not an ounce of Iran’s enriched uranium is close to the level at which it could be used in a bomb, and Iran has not demonstrated that it has the ability to create a nuclear weapon even if it had enough highly enriched uranium. So, needless to say, Iran has no nuclear weapons and it is not nuclear-armed.
Netanyahu also accused Iran of leading “wild chants of ‘Death to the Jews!’” Again, this is nonsense. If anything like that happened in Iran in the decades since 1979, it’s the equivalent of tattooed rednecks in Texas shouting, “Nuke the ayatollahs!” Netanyahu’s silly charge is particularly ironic, coming after President Hassan Rouhani and his government have reached out to Jews worldwide, sending greetings and best wishes for the recent Jewish holidays, acknowledged that the Holocaust was a terrible crime and taken other steps to signal that Jews are not the enemy. Rouhani even traveled to New York last week accompanied by the Jewish member of Iran’s parliament—a parliament which, incidentally, filled with hardliners and conservatives, yesterday endorsed Rouhani’s outreach to the United States and his commitment to nuclear diplomacy.
Netanyahu, wildly mixing metaphors filled his speech with phrases such as calling Rouhani “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” who can’t “have his yellowcake and eat it, too.” And he said: “A nuclear-armed Iran in the Middle East wouldn’t be another North Korea. It would be another fifty North Koreas!” I’m not even sure what that means.