Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said of President Trump’s speech at the U.N today, “In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech.” Netanyahu’s speech to the U.N. wasn’t bad either. You can read it here.
Netanyahu began by celebrating Israel’s vastly improved standing in the world:
We’re in the midst of a great revolution, a revolution in Israel’s standing among the nations. This is happening because so many countries around the world have finally woken up to what Israel can do for them. Those countries now recognize what brilliant investors like Warren Buffet and great companies like Google and Intel, what they’ve recognized and known for years: that Israel is the innovation nation — the place for cutting-edge technology in agriculture, in water, in cyber security, in medicine, in autonomous vehicles — you name it, we’ve got it.
Those countries now also recognize Israel’s exceptional capabilities in fighting terrorism. In recent years, Israel has provided intelligence that has prevented dozens of major terrorist attacks around the world. We have saved countless lives. You may not know this, but your governments do, and they are working closely together with Israel to keep your countries safe and your citizens safe.
I stood here last year on this podium and I spoke about this profound change in Israel’s standing in the world and just look at what has happened since, in one year: hundreds of presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other leaders have visited Israel, many for the first time.
For his part, Netanyahu has represented Israel on visits to six continents — all but Antarctica. Thus, “after 70 years, the world is embracing Israel, and Israel is embracing the world.”
Netanyahu then contrasted the world’s embrace of Israel with the U.N.’s shameful treatment of the Jewish state:
Unfortunately, when it comes to UN decisions about Israel, that simple recognition is too often absent. It was absent last December when the Security Council passed an anti-Israel resolution that set back the cause of peace.
It was absent last May, when the World Health Organization adopted — you have to listen to this: the World Health Organization adopted a Syrian-sponsored resolution that criticized Israel for health conditions on the Golan Heights.
As the great John McEnroe would say, “You can-not be serious!” I mean, this is preposterous.
Syria has barrel-bombed, starved, gassed and murdered hundreds of thousands of its own citizens and wounded millions more, while Israel has provided lifesaving medical care to thousands of Syrian victims of that very same carnage. Yet who does the World Health Organization criticize? Israel.
Netanyahu elected to play the U.N.’s most absurd anti-Israel resolution for laughs:
[I]n July, UNESCO declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage site. That’s worse than fake news. That’s fake history.
Mind you, it’s true that Abraham, the father of both Ishmael and Isaac, is buried there, but so too are Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca – Sarah is a Jewish name, by the way – and Leah, who just happen to be patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. You won’t read about that in the latest UNESCO report.
But if you want to, you can read about that in a somewhat weightier publication — it’s called the Bible. I highly recommend it. I hear it even got 4 ½ out of 5 stars on Amazon. And it’s a great read. I read it every week.
However, Netayahu noted a slight improvement in the U.N.s’ posture towards Israel. He attributed it to President Trump and Ambassador Haley, thanking them for “speaking the truth about Israel.” Left unsaid, but clearly implied, was that President Obama and Ambassador Power did not do so.
Netanyahu spoke with grim determination about the threat posed by Iran. He echoed Trump’s denunciation of the nuclear deal, describing Israel’s position on the deal as “very simple: Change it or cancel it; fix it or nix it.”
Netanyahu also addressed the problem of Iranian aggression in the region. He did so in stark terms:
From the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, from Tehran to Tartus, an Iranian curtain is descending across the Middle East. Iran spreads this curtain of tyranny and terror over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, and it pledges to extinguish the light of Israel.
Netanyahu’s response was emphatic:
Today, I have a simple message for Ayatollah Khamenei, the dictator of Iran: The light of Israel will never be extinguished.
Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril. Israel will defend itself with the full force of our arms and the full power of our convictions. We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces. We will act to prevent Iran from producing deadly weapons in Syria or in Lebanon for use against us.
And we will act to prevent Iran from opening new terror fronts against Israel along our northern border.
As long as Iran’s regime seeks the destruction of Israel, Iran will face no fiercer enemy than Israel.
Netanyahu concluded his discussion of Iran with a Reaganesque twist. He addressed the people of Iran with words that should make mullahs shudder:
But I also have a message today for the people of Iran: You are not our enemy; you are our friends. Shomaah doosteh mah hasteed [You are our friends]. One day, my Iranian friends, you will be free from the evil regime that terrorizes you, hangs gays, jails journalists, tortures political prisoners, and shoots innocent women like Neda Sultan, leaving her choking on her own blood on the streets of Tehran. I have not forgotten Neda. I am sure you haven’t too.
And when that day of liberation finally comes, the friendship between our two ancient peoples will surely flourish once again.
Talk about a bold statement. But there is, indeed, a history of friendship and good will between the “two ancient peoples.” So says my wife, a Jew with strong ties to Israel who lived in Iran for almost 25 years.
The current situation is an anomaly. Of course, there has always been anti-Semitism in Iran, as just about everywhere else. But until the revolution of 1979, it was not widespread, and relations between Iran and Israel were good.
In President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the West appears to have two strong, unapologetic leaders in the fight against its sworn enemies. Netanyahu has been tested; Trump has not been, and he faces pressure from within the administration to soften and accommodate, perhaps at the expense of Israel in some cases.
Today, though, I think we can put this concern to one side and take pleasure and at least some comfort in the rhetorical one-two delivered by Trump and Netanyahu at the U.N.