A farce on the international stage
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Hebrew media review

A farce on the international stage

PM’s no-nonsense UN address garners both praise and criticism in Hebrew press, but most commentators agree it will have little effect in the long run

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 22, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 22, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled no punches when he took the podium at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He harshly criticized the Palestinian leadership for “poisoning the future” by inciting terror, and he charged that the international body itself had become morally bankrupt, thus providing the Hebrew-language media with an ample amount of material to chew on over the weekend.

“The UN, which had begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce,” reads the main headlines of both Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz, referring to the Israeli leader’s most memorable quote from his speech at the General Assembly.

“No gimmicks this time: Netanyahu focused his attack on the UN,” the report in Yedioth continues, hinting at Netanyahu’s tendency to make use of pictures, graphs, and charts during previous addresses to the UN. Netanyahu began his speech at the UNGA by enthusiastically declaring that “Israel has a bright future at the UN,” before launching into a scathing attack against the agency and its bodies for their alleged anti-Israel bias. “Year after year, I’ve stood at this podium and slammed the UN for its obsessive bias against Israel. And the UN deserved every scathing word,” he said.

Israel Hayom focuses on the positive aspects of Netanyahu’s speech, rather than on his criticisms. The daily leads with the prime minister’s insistence that peace talks should resume with direct contact, and also focuses on his invitation for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to speak “to the Israeli people in the Knesset in Jerusalem” and his pledge that he would gladly go to speak at the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.

“You have a choice to make,” Netanyahu said, still addressing Abbas, who had addressed the plenum just moments before. “You can continue to stoke hatred, as you did today. Or you can confront hatred and work with me to establish peace between our two nations.”

Yedioth analyst Yoaz Hendel argues that while there is little room for dispute over the notion that Netanyahu’s rhetorical skills are several levels above those of his rivals both at home and abroad, the prime minister’s annual performance at the General Assembly has little to no real effect on public opinion. “The right thinks [Netanyahu] is lying about his willingness to achieve a two-state solution, and so they raise no objection,” writes Hendel. “The left is sure of this.”

Haaretz stresses not only Netanyahu’s speech, but also Abbas’s warning to the UN that he was planning to seek a Security Council resolution over Israel’s West Bank settlements. Haaretz makes sure to play up Abbas’s placement of blame for the failure of the two-state solution and deadlocked peace efforts on Jerusalem.

The left-leaning daily also dedicates a section of its front page to Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev’s decision to walk out of the Ophir Awards ceremony — Israel’s equivalent of the Oscars — during a reading of the controversial poem Identity Card (“Write down! I am an Arab”), penned by the late Palestinian author and poet Mahmoud Darwish.

Regev’s office had stated ahead of the ceremony that the minister “would not be part of the audience for the poems of Darwish,” yet her move was nonetheless blasted by a host of Israeli actors and artists. Regev has in the past slammed the state-funded Army Radio station for “going off the rails,” after it broadcast an educational program on Darwish. “A publicly funded Defense Ministry radio station must not be allowed to highlight and glorify an anti-Israel narrative,” she told the Hebrew-language NRG website. Army Radio, Regev charged, was “providing a platform to the Palestinian narrative that opposes the existence of Israel as a Jewish democratic state.”

Darwish, who died in 2008, is considered a Palestinian national symbol and was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Born in a village that later became part of northern Israel and a resident of countries including Lebanon, France and Jordan, he spent part of the last years of his life in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Darwish was a frequent visitor to Israel, and four of his books have been translated into Hebrew. He was critical of Israel as well as of the Hamas terror group, which currently rules the Gaza Strip.

Back in Yedioth, Amir Ben-David reports on a recent study by the Israel Meteorological Services claiming that weather patterns in the country have undergone some major shifts over the past several decades, a finding that falls in line with climate research conducted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for other regions across the globe.

For example, Ben-David writes, the Israeli study shows that the frequency of long heat waves has risen significantly in recent years, and, on the flip side, the number of days in which at least some snow has piled up on the ground has soared compared to previous periods. The report offers no projections for the future, but does at least inform readers that the coming weekend’s weather will at least be comfortable. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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