NEW YORK – American Jewish and pro-Israel advocacy groups saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech as a warning to UN member states, as well as a rebuttal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Friday speech in which he accused Israel of genocide. Netanyahu’s detractors, however, derided the prime minister’s speech as fear-mongering and hypocritical.
“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today delivered an eloquent and forceful message to the international community about the urgent threat of militant Islam. The Prime Minister rightfully singled out the Iranian nuclear weapons program as the gravest threat to world peace and security,” wrote AIPAC in a statement released hours after Netanyahu concluded his speech before the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
In its statement, AIPAC reiterated previous warnings that “we cannot accept Iran as a nuclear-threshold state with its program’s infrastructure largely intact, which would be only a small step away from nuclear weapons capability.”
“The United States must insist that any final nuclear agreement with Iran includes the dismantlement of its program such that Tehran is left without a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear weapon,” the statement continued.
In his speech, Netanyahu accused Iran of “trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement that will remove the sanctions it still faces and leave it with a capacity of thousands of …centrifuges…to enrich uranium,” adding that “this would effectively cement Iran’s place as a threshold military nuclear power.”
According to the statement, AIPAC saw Netanyahu’s speech as a “strong and effective response” to Abbas’s speech, which it described as “slanderous” and “a cruel rebuff to both reality and the peace process.”
AIPAC called on America “to stand with our democratic ally as she addresses these challenges and opportunities.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s national chair, Barry Curtiss-Lusher and National Director Abraham Foxman also wrote in a statement following the speech that “the Prime Minister’s vision for a better future for Palestinians and Israelis was a powerful counterpoint to Palestinian Authority President Abbas’ speech to the UNGA, which, in aggressive and hate-filled rhetoric, vilified Israel, and repudiated even the hope of peace and reconciliation.”
The two ADL leaders described Netanyahu’s speech as “an unvarnished and sobering catalog of the challenges of militant Islam and its pursuit of global primacy, the hypocrisy of the U.N. Human Rights Council and the dangers of allowing Iran to reach the threshold of a nuclear weapons breakout capability.”
The ADL leaders challenged the international community to address the challenges raised by Netanyahu in his speech, including what they called “the surge of anti-Semitism” as well as “the threat posed by the militant ideology of ISIS fighters, Hamas terrorists, and the ideologues of the Iranian regime.”
Both the ADL’s leadership and David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) paraphrased Netanyahu’s own words – in which he quoted the prophet Isaiah – by saying that the prime minister had “spoken truth to power.”
“Let’s hope Prime Minister Netanyahu’s clear, crisp and compelling messages are heard,” Harris concluded, “for the security of individual nations and the region are very much at stake. May his eloquent speech serve as a clarion call for the dangers that lurk – and also for the opportunities at hand.”
But Israel’s critics derided the speech as fear-mongering and hypocritical.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said that the speech was evidence that “Netanyahu has lost touch with reality, particularly in refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself or the actions of the Israeli army of occupation in committing massacres and war crimes.”
Ashrawi criticized Netanyahu’s comparison between pan-Islamist ideology and Nazism, claiming that “by creating false analogies between the Nazi concept of ‘master race’ and his view of militant Islam as upholding a ‘master faith,’ he is extending in effect the analogy to Israel as a ‘master state.’”
“Blaming the victim has always been the failed policy of the politically and morally bankrupt, and Netanyahu is no exception,” she continued.
Ashrawi suggested that instead, Netanyahu should have used his opportunity at the UN to announce that he would comply with all relevant UN resolutions and international protocols.
The former PLO spokeswoman accused Netanyahu of trying to buy time for additional settlement construction through his suggestion that the route to peace with Palestine might be preceded by improving relations between Israel and moderate Arab states.
Jewish Voice for Peace also took Netanyahu to task for what it described as “a black and white, and upside down world view in which aggressors are victims and human rights violators deserve applause.”
JVP accused Netanyahu of deploying “fear-mongering and Islamophobic language to deflect attention from Israel’s aggression in Gaza this summer, and its ongoing occupation and illegal siege of Palestinian civilians.”