***Live Updates*** Netanyahu at UN
12:05 p.m. EDT: Netanyahu has taken the podium.
Introduction: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly Tuesday, on the final day of the UN’s opening general debate. Unfortunately, he may be last and least. The Iranian “charm offensive”--which is actually just plain offensive--has already left the station.
Netanyahu got a taste of how marginal are his priorities for this administration when he met President Barack Obama on Monday. Reporters were more interested in the government shutdown than Iran.
With the two men sitting side-by-side, President Obama was not subtle. He began by making it clear that he intends to pressure Israel hard in the coming days during the Israeli-Palestinian “peace” talks. Said Obama: "We have a limited amount of time to achieve the goal" of a two-state solution. A limited time after 65-plus years of Arab rejection of the Jewish state? A limited time or else--what? Last week, Secretary Kerry completed the same sentence by pointing to the possibility of more Palestinian terror or more Palestinian unilateral moves at the UN. It’s blackmail, by any other name.
On Iran, President Obama’s remarks in Netanyahu’s presence were also disturbing. Obama claimed that “the Iranians are now prepared to negotiate"--as if this were some kind of concession. Of course they are prepared to negotiate, they have already been negotiating, and they are more than happy to keep negotiating--right up until the time their bomb is completed.
Obama also lectured Netanyahu: "We have to test diplomacy." That’s exactly the same lecture he gave when he took office in 2009. And now we are five years closer to an Iranian nuclear weapon. Obama also announced that "we have to see if Iran is serious about a willingness to abide by international law." But we already know that they are not serious. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency just reported that Iran is systematically and repeatedly not abiding by international law.
All this talk about talk amounts to one primary directive to Netanyahu: Israel must not make any military move on Iran while the gabfest is on. Israel’s hands will be tied behind its back, until a time of the President’s choosing. That has the direct effect of undermining Israel’s sovereign right of self-defense.
Netanyahu responded to President Obama in front of the cameras with three main points: (1) “Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction.” In other words, this diplomatic game is not a joke. (2) Sanctions must be kept tight, and strengthened in the face of inevitable Iranian non-compliance. To which Obama said nothing. (3) Israel has a right of self-defense. When an Israeli Prime Minister has to repeat this fact to the President of the United States, we know Israel’s in trouble.
Netanyahu is expected to revisit some of these messages in his UN speech. His actual UN audience will be small, since the top brass from around the world have all gone home. Left behind are the professional diplomatic staff from UN missions, for whom Israel-bashing is part of daily UN life. Netanyahu won’t impress them. He’s hoping somebody else out there is listening.