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Empty speech to empty hall: Bennett UN address mocked by Likud, rapped by Meretz

‘What a joke,’ ex-premier Netanyahu’s party says after PM’s first address to General Assembly; left-wing coalition party laments omission of Palestinians

In this photo provided provided by his office, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2021, at UN headquarters in New York. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
In this photo provided provided by his office, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2021, at UN headquarters in New York. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s UN speech Monday was slammed by both right and left-wing opposition parties, and also faced some criticism from coalition partner Meretz.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, the largest opposition party, lambasted Bennett’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, dismissing the premier as irrelevant and his words as empty.

“Bennett gave an empty speech in front of an empty hall and wasted empty words instead of making use of an important international stage,” Likud said in a lengthy statement that expressed strong disapproval with all parts of Bennett’s address.

The party charged that the government is failing to take action to curb the current COVID-19 outbreak “and he presented that as leadership. What a joke.”

Likud also panned Bennett for touting the current government he heads as a model of unity: “Since when does an Israeli prime minister raise internal political matters to the top of the agenda at an international forum?”

It called the premier’s words on Iran “empty” as well, since, it claimed, he has already “promised not to wage a global struggle against the nuclear agreement and subjugated our operational activity to prior coordination with the Americans.”

Related: Full text of Bennett’s UN speech: Iran’s nuclear program at a ‘watershed moment’

“Bennett showed today how the world views an inexperienced Israeli politician who only has six Knesset seats — like a tree that falls in the woods that nobody saw, nobody heard and nobody cares about,” the Likud statement said.

In a separate tweet, Likud wrote: “If it looks like a politician with six Knesset seats, and sounds like a politician with six Knesset seats — it’s a politician with six Knesset seats,” alongside an image of an almost vacant General Assembly hall.

Mocking Bennett’s concluding words, Netanyahu himself tweeted, “A bit of light dispels much darkness,” with a picture of him speaking at the UN when serving as premier.

Elsewhere on the political spectrum, MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Arab-majority Joint List party castigated Bennett for failing to mention the Palestinians in his address, claiming this shows that the current government is continuing Netanyahu’s approach.

“Concealing the occupation and the existence of the Palestinian people, claims of Israel’s moral superiority, and warmongering on Iran. Those were the principles guiding Netanyahu’s right-wing government, and they are guiding Bennett’s government,” she said in a statement.

“Only a change of direction from the path of the right will bring peace and security to both nations,” Touma-Sliman added.

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman attends an event titled ‘After 54 years: Between occupation and Apartheid’ in the Knesset, on June 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The left-wing Meretz party, a member of the current government, also criticized the absent focus on the Palestinians.

“We in Meretz are actually very interested in the Palestinians,” the party said in a statement.

“We will continue to work both within and outside the government to push for a two-state solution and restore ties with the Palestinian Authority. Ignoring the Palestinians means continuing the creeping annexation and rushing into a binational state,” Meretz added.

Israel’s current government, headed by Bennett, is made up of eight parties from across the political spectrum. “About 100 days ago, my partners and I formed a new government in Israel. What started as a political accident, can now turn into a purpose. And that purpose is unity,” he said in the speech on Monday.

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