By Uri Anvery
4 October 2014
If I could choose between the two rhetorical gladiators, I would rather have Mahmoud Abbas representing Israel and Netanyahu representing the other side. Abbas stood almost motionless and read his speech (in Arabic) with quiet dignity. No gimmicks.
Netanyahu used all the tricks taught in a beginners’ course in public speaking. He rotated his head regularly from left to right and back, stretched out his arms, raised and lowered his voice convincingly. At one point he produced the required visual surprise. Last time it was a childish drawing of an imagined Iranian atom bomb, this time it was a photo of Palestinian children in Gaza playing next to a rocket launcher.
Everything a bit too slick, too smooth, too “sincere.” Like the furniture marketer he once was. Both speeches were delivered to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Abbas spoke two weeks ago, Netanyahu this week. Not that it matters. One does not speechify in the General Assembly in order to convince its members. One speaks there for the home audience. Netanyahu did, and so did Abbas.
The speech of Abbas was a contradiction between form and content: A very moderate speech clad in very extreme language. It was clearly addressed to the Palestinian people, who are still boiling with anger over the killing and destruction of the Gaza war. This led Abbas to use very strong language. He used the word “genocide” — not once, but three times. That was a bonanza for the Israeli propaganda machine, and it immediately became known as the “Genocide Speech.”
The speech itself, shorn of the strong language, was quite moderate, as moderate as it could be. Its crux was a peace program identical with the terms Palestinians have proposed from the start of Yasser Arafat’s peace policy, as well as with the Arab Peace Initiative.
It stuck to the Two State Solution: A State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital “alongside the State of Israel,” the 1967 borders, an “agreed-upon solution to the plight of the Palestinian refugees” (meaning: Agreed upon with Israel, meaning: Essentially no return). It also mentioned the Arab Peace Initiative. No Palestinian leader could possibly demand less. It also demanded a “specific time frame” to prevent the charade of endless “negotiations.”
I have known Mahmoud Abbas for 32 years. There was a striking difference between the personalities of Arafat and Abbas. Arafat was flamboyant, extrovert and outgoing, Abbas is withdrawn and introvert. Arafat made decisions with lightning speed, Abbas is deliberate and cautious. Arafat was warm in human relations, fond of gestures, always preferring the human touch (literally). Abbas is cool and impersonal. Arafat inspired love, Abbas inspires respect.
But politically there is almost no difference. Arafat was not as extreme as he seemed, Abbas is not as moderate as he looks. Their terms for peace are identical. They are the minimum terms any Palestinian leader — indeed any Arab leader — could possibly agree to. The basic Palestinian demands are unshakable. Take them or leave them. Netanyahu says: Leave them. If you leave them, what remains?
The status quo, of course. The classic Zionist attitude: There is no Palestinian people. There will be no Palestinian state. God promised us the whole country (including Jordan). But in today’s world, one cannot say such things openly. One must find a verbal gimmick to evade the issue.
At the end of the recent Gaza war, Netanyahu promised a “new political horizon.” Critics were quick to point out that the horizon is something that recedes as you approach it. Never mind.
So what is the new horizon? Netanyahu and his advisers racked their brains and came up with the “regional solution.”
The “regional solution” is a new fashion, which started to spread a few months ago. One of its proponents is Dedi Zuker, one of the founders of Peace Now and a former Meretz member of the Knesset. As he explained it in Haaretz: The Israeli-Palestinian peace effort is dead. We must turn to a different strategy: The “regional solution.” Instead of dealing with the Palestinians, we must negotiate with the entire Arab world and make peace with its leaders.
Good morning. Dedi. When my friends and I put forward the Two-State Solution in early 1949, we advocated the immediate setting up of a Palestinian state coupled with the creation of a Semitic Union, to include Israel, Palestine and all Arab states, and perhaps Turkey and Iran, too. We have repeated this endlessly. When Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah (then crown prince) produced the Arab Peace Initiative, we called for its immediate acceptance.
Now comes Netanyahu in the General Assembly and proposes exactly the same. There is a solution! The “regional” one. No need to talk with the Palestinians anymore. We can talk with the Arab leaders.
Netanyahu is always quick to exploit changing circumstances to promote his unchanging attitude. The latest hot issue is IS. So Netanyahu connects all his enemies with IS. Abbas, Hamas, Iran — they are all IS. In logic classes one learns about the Inuit (Eskimo) who comes to town and for the first time sees glass. He takes it in his mouth and starts to chew. His logic: Ice is transparent. Glass is transparent. Ice can be chewed. So glass can also be chewed.
By the same logic: IS is Islamist. IS strives for a worldwide caliphate. Hamas is Islamist. So Hamas wants a worldwide caliphate. They all want to dominate the world. Like the “Elders of Zion.”
Netanyahu counts on the fact that most people do not know what he is talking about. By the same logic, France belongs to IS. Fact: The French revolution chopped off heads. IS chops off heads. Some time ago, the British chopped off the head of their king. All IS.
In the real world, there is no similarity at all between Hamas and IS, except their professed adherence to Islam. All these facts are well-known to anyone interested in world politics. They are certainly known to the diplomats in the corridors of the UN. So why does Netanyahu repeat these misrepresentations (to use a mild word) from the UN rostrum?
Because he was not speaking to the diplomats. He was speaking to the most primitive voters in Israel, who are proud to have such a fluent English-speaking representative to address the world. And anyway, who cares what the Goyim think?