I’m sure the architect who drew up the plans for the U.N. General Assembly thought green was great. Maybe he meant it to convey a feeling of freshness. But the only association that comes to one’s mind is of muck and decay. Perhaps he was thinking of matching the look and feel of the hall to the words of the world leaders expected to stand upon the podium.
Every year, the U.N. General Assembly hosts an international circus of world class politicians, appearing one after the other. Any words that spew forth and have any connection with the actual facts or subject matter are purely coincidental. Demanding entertainment, the public at home sit riveted to their TV screens, and their leaders respond in kind with clever gimmicks, inflammatory phrases, and controversial claims.
This weekend, it was the turn of Abu Mazen to unleash his incendiary words. Mounting a diplomatic offensive against Israel, Abu Mazen used terms such as “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”. Terrible choice of words, to say the least. In Israel of course, these words were received in shock and complete surprise. “No Partner”, “Oslo is Dead”, “An End to Peace” the headlines are screaming. It seems we always expect the Palestinians to behave the way we expect them to.
While Abu Mazen’s speech greatly damaged the little credibility he still had in the eyes of many Israelis, and definitely did not improve chances for resuming talks in the near future, it was hardly surprising. Just like I do not expect Netanyahu to throw flowers at the feet of the Palestinian representatives listening to his speech (if they stay seated of course), I did not expect Abu Mazen to use conciliatory terms and ignore the bloodbath in Gaza.
Despite the drama, the simple truth is that Abu Mazen’s speech did not change a thing. Who would we rather speak to? Ismail Haniyeh? Haled Mashal? No. Abu Mazen is still the only alternative. The IDF and Abu Mazen’s security forces continue their security cooperation on the ground. Israelis and Palestinians still live side by side, Israelis seeking security and Palestinians – self determination. The solution remains the same as well – two states for two people.
So despite all the rhetoric, one would do well to remember that these speeches mean nothing from a political point of view, and are more symbolic than anything else, filled with clichés aimed mainly at the respective home crowd. Can anyone recall a meaningful and ground breaking statement from a world leader made in front of this forum?
One would also do well to realize that not only Abu Mazen, but also the Israeli government has a say in what our future looks like, not only Abu Mazen. Ask not only what Abu Mazen has done for peace, but what the Israeli government has done for peace as well, besides annexing more land in the West Bank and expanding settlements that is. It is so easy to place the entire blame for the continuing stalemate at the footsteps of the Palestinians while at the same time not lifting a finger ourselves.
This is the favorite time of the year for Netanyahu. Showing off his excellent oral skills in English, Netanyahu is often the star in this show. Free for just a while from the petty politics back at home, and at large in the Big Apple, Netanyahu is a master on this stage.
But as he puts on his makeup before climbing onto the stage to make his speech, Netanyahu should consider not only countering the lies of Ahmadinejad, Rowhani and now Abu Mazen, but also looking Israelis straight in the eyes and telling us once and for all how the Israeli government he leads sees our future: two independent states for two people or one bi-national state.
Mr Prime Minister, the world may not want to hear you set the record straight, but Israelis sure do.