Netanyahu’s bold initiative: Another “historic” speech

Just like in his Washington visit last spring, the Prime Minister will not bring new political ideas to the UN, only rhetoric directed at the anxious public at home

The Israeli morning papers are reporting today (Sunday) that the United States has all but secured the 7 Security Council votes necessary to block the Palestinian request to become a member state of the UN, and therefore a veto won’t be necessary.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth Daily, Germany, Britain and France are likely to vote against the Palestinian bid, and so is Columbia. The paper quotes sources in Washington saying that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is “drunk from power,” and can’t be persuaded to abandon his initiative even though it is bound to fail.

While it’s not clear how accurate this report is, the Palestinian leadership does risk diplomatic failure in turning to the Security Council. As Tony Karon reports on his blog in Time Magazine, the Security Council could decide to form a committee which would examine the Palestinian motion, thus delaying the General Assembly vote (which the Palestinians are sure to win) into the next session, and missing out on the current momentum.

Another last minute effort to reach a deal that would prevent a confrontation at the UN will take place today, in a Quartet meeting.

Last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided he will travel to the UN and deliver a speech at the General Assembly that would present “the truth” about Israel’s case, as Netanyahu has told the media.

This has become a pattern with the PM: whenever a diplomatic or political move is required, he delivers a major speech. Instead of agreeing to freeze settlements during the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu carried out his “Bar Ilan” speech; instead of presenting his own peace plan in Washington, he gave his speech is congress, and now he is about to use the same trick at the UN (minus the thirty standing ovations).

Netanyahu debated for weeks whether to travel to New York. It seemed that the growing criticism on his inaction in dealing with the Palestinian bid has helped him make up his mind. Plus, recent polls have the Likud losing a couple of seats, while the PM’s approval ratings remain in the thirties. After his previous speeches Netanyahu’s numbers surged, and he probably hopes for the same outcome this month. But Netanyahu is not the Prime Minister of last spring. He is hurt by the growing isolation and the internal unrest; more and more people perceive him as inept for the current political moment. Right now, it seems that the lack of any real political challenge from the opposition or from the left remains as his only political asset.