For 40 minutes at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eloquently articulated the challenges posed to Israel and to the international community by Iran and by Islamist fanaticism. He warned of the growing danger that Iran, “unleashed and unmuzzled,” will constitute in the wake of its nuclear deal. And he castigated the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for “libeling” Israel, from the same podium 24 hours earlier, by falsely asserting that Israel was seeking to harm religious freedom on the Temple Mount, when it was Islamic extremists who were desecrating the site by “smuggling explosives” into Al-Aqsa Mosque.
But most dramatically, he rebuked the membership of the very institution where he was speaking — the United Nations — for tolerating Iran’s relentless threats to destroy the Jewish state and “rushing to embrace” the regime. “Seventy years after the murder of six million Jews, Iran’s rulers promise to destroy my country, murder my people. And the response from this body, the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here,” he charged furiously, “has been absolutely nothing. Utter silence. Deafening silence.”
And then Netanyahu paused, staring defiantly, reproachfully out into the hall, head nodding slightly. For 44 very long seconds. In silent rebuke. And in apparent mourning for international morality.
Like a biblical prophet, Netanyahu had come to warn, to chastise, and to indict.
As in years past, too, he determinedly asserted his desire for a permanent peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. By announcing that the Palestinians no longer regard themselves as bound by the Oslo accords and other agreements with Israel, Abbas, this year, had made it a little easier for Netanyahu to assert that Israel was sinned against rather than sinning when it comes to the peace deadlock.
He urged the world to at least hold Iran to the terms of the nuclear deal, deeply flawed though they may be. He encouraged the UN to help advance peace with the Palestinians — not via biased resolutions but by backing direct, bilateral talks. He pleaded for the UN to end its decades of “obsessive” Israel bashing. He sounded like a man of convictions; he did not sound like a man expecting to be heeded.
Netanyahu is only too aware of how isolated he is.
It is unlikely anybody will even have seriously registered his pledge that “Israel will not allow Iran to break in, sneak in, or walk in to the nuclear weapons club,” and that “No one should question Israel’s determination to defend ourselves against those who would seek our destruction.”
As he has for years, Netanyahu insisted that Israel would stop Iran from getting the bomb.
"Israel will not allow Iran to break in, to sneak in or to walk in to the nuclear weapons club," he declared in an allusion to his country's vow to strike at Iran militarily as a last resort.
Netanyahu listed what he said were disruptive actions by Iran even as the nuclear deal was being negotiated: shipping weapons and proxy fighters to Syria; arms to Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon; sending top Iranian military officers to the divided Golan Heights region, and threatening to topple Jordan's government.
Describing the greatest danger to the world as "the coupling of militant Islam with nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said the Iran nuclear deal may well "prove to be the marriage certificate of that unholy union."
"Do any of you really believe that a theocratic Iran with sharper claws and sharper fangs will be more likely to change its stripes?" he asked. "Keep Iran's feet to the fire."
A senior European Union official has warned of rising anti-Semitism in Europe as attacks and threats against Jews continue in EU member countries.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Thursday that “in the last couple of years you’ve seen this age-old monster come up again in Europe.”
Speaking before a conference on religious intolerance, he said, “This is unacceptable. I thought we knew better. I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible… but it’s happening again.”
The EU’s fundamental rights agency says that anti-Semitic stereotyping is a reality in many countries and that some EU political parties are openly anti-Semitic.
Europe’s top human rights watchdog also voiced concern Thursday at mounting racism and anti-Semitism in Germany, citing a wave of far-right, anti-Islam demonstrations at odds with the more recent image of a country ready to open its doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees.
French Jews in particular have moved to Israel in record numbers recently amid an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents, including an attack in a kosher supermarket by an Islamist gunman that left four shoppers dead. In 2014, nearly 7,000 French Jews left for Israel – more than three times the number in 2011.