Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What to Expect from Netanyahu's UNGA Speech

What to expect from Netanyahu's speech tomorrow:

More of the same. His political situation at home is not very good, his diverse ruling coalition is fragmented on serious issues such as the economy, the ultra-orthodox, and everything involving Palestinians. As long as Iran is on everyone's mind, the real existential issues for Israel will not be debated, and he will continue with the status quo (which while not optimal for anyone, includes him as the Prime Minister's home). 

Repeated references to Iran's naughty behavior. This will likely focus on terrorism (IRGC and Hezbollah) and Syria, with a special emphasis on Burgas, and the attempted attacks in Thailand, India, Georgia and Cyprus. He is also likely to bring up Iran's non-compliance with the IAEA in providing full access to Parchin (where some, including the IAEA, believe some nuclear weaponization testing has occurred), and its 'deception' (the legality of Iran's actions is disputed by the various parties) in not disclosing the existence of Natanz and Arak until the MeK revealed it in 2003. Lastly he will mention the attempts to infiltrate and target the country through Ali Mansouri. The timing of the release of this information by the Israeli press was certainly not coincidental (corroborated by an unnamed Israeli police official). Israel's press is subject to strict censorship laws on national security issues (on other topics it is quite open) and revealing this episode just after the United States and Iran seem on the edge of a diplomatic 'breakthrough' (quotations because at this point even agreeing to talk is 'progress') and just before his own speech is likely intended to sour the goodwill. 

Fiery rhetoric. I am probably not the only one who looks forward to Netanyahu's speeches. He is eloquent, and comes up with very interesting phrases. While I usually disagree with him, I very much enjoy his clever turns of phrase such as the 'insatiable crocodile of militant Islam' from the 2011 UNGA speech.

No matter what Mr. Netanyahu ends up saying, it is certain to be a major news item because of the importance of Israel and Iran to the American news media. There seems to be some flexibility from Israel on Iran's nuclear program, but I am hesitant to state unequivocally that Netanyahu's speech will contain the same malleability. Netanyahu's Israel has long been the 'bad cop' in the relationship with the US/EU against Iran and I do not think that this is likely to change too much in the near future.

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