Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will go into his meeting with US President Barack Obama on Monday aiming not only to reveal the "true face" of the Iranian regime, but also wanting to hear a reaffirmation from Obama - in the midst of the current diplomatic overtures toward Iran - of Israel's right to defend itself.
One of Israel's main concerns presently is that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's "charm offensive" has chipped away at Israel's legitimacy for military action if Tehran crosses the red line Netanyahu established at the UN General Assembly last year.
Netanyahu is expected to urge Obama not to relieve the sanctions regime on Teheran until it stops uranium enrichment, removes enriched uranium from the country, closes down the uranium enrichment plant at Qom, and abandons a plutonium channel to a nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu arrived early Sunday morning in New York, and besides meetings scheduled with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Turkmenistan's Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, is spending the day in his hotel in meetings with top aides preparing both for the Obama meeting, and for his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
Just before leaving after midnight Sunday overnight, Netanyahu said he was going to "represent the citizens of Israel, our national interests, our rights as a people, our determination to defend ourselves and our hope for peace."
Netanyahu, referring to Rouhani's blitz last week in the US, said "I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet-talk and the onslaught of smiles. One must talk facts and one must tell the truth. Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world and, of course, it is vital for the security of the State of Israel."
“Any miscalculation of one’s position, and of course, of others, will bear historic damages; a mistake by one actor will have negative impact on all others.” These words were spoken Tuesday by President Hasan Rouhani, but they aptly reflect what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently thinking about the thawing relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States of America.
Netanyahu has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t mind standing alone in his opposition to the Iranian overtures, and that he will continue to pour cold water on the budding détente between Tehran and Washington. He seems to embrace being the sole voice of dissent to a Western chorus that is willing to test Iran’s sincerity, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the prime minister makes a point about being a party-pooper during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
It has become a tradition for Netanyahu to insert some sort of gimmick into his major speeches to draw attention, be it a visual aid such as last year’s UN cartoon bomb or rhetorical shtick like the similarly awkward “nuclear duck” he discussed in a March 2012 speech to AIPAC delegates. So internet meme-makers, be prepared. A possible motif for his speech at the UN this week could be an image of Rouhani barely a week ago, presiding over a military parade which featured Shehab-3 missile trucks bearing anti-American messages and the slogan “Israel must be destroyed.” “And the party-pooper?” Netanyahu might ask.
Netanyahu and his speechwriters, as of Sunday, had said very little about its content, beyond that it will compare the Iranian regime to North Korea and warn of the inherent dangers in striking deals with rogue states. The prime minister will almost certainly mention the fact that Rouhani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator in 2003 and has reportedly prided himself on fooling the West into believing that the program had been halted. He may also highlight Rouhani’s place at the heart of the regime going back many more years.
Netanyahu knows all too well that the Iranian diplomatic train has left the station. Obama is already engaging with Rouhani, regardless of what “my friend Bibi” has to say. It’s too late to dissuade the president from at least testing Rouhani’s sincerity. Rather, at the White House on Monday, the Israeli leader will focus on the substance of that engagement, trying to define the parameters of a possible deal as tightly as possible.