The annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly carries some unmistakable similarities to that other great gathering of people in New York each fall — the Jewish High Holidays:
- People are together for the only time all year.
- Well-dressed people, mostly men, stand on a platform and deliver powerful speeches full of clever metaphors and biblical allusions to drive home crucial, life-or-death points, while most of the people in the hall are busy socializing with all the friends they haven’t seen in a year.
- Most of what is said, and all of what is heard, is exactly the same as the year before and the year before that, just as it surely will be the same each year to come.
- You’re sure to hear an appeal or two or three for money.
- People are going to talk about Israel and the need for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, leading to a back-and-forth about settlements and terrorism and leadership (or lack thereof).
- The rest of the world begrudgingly gives the Jews our time.
You could watch the proceedings in late September with the volume muted and know President Barack Obama was vowing that the U.S.-Israeli relationship was stronger than ever while also nudging his not-so-good friend Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze the settlements and put a bit of effort into making peace.
You didn’t even have to watch to know that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was again telling tales from some alternate-reality Middle East, the one where Israelis want to blow up Al-Aqsa mosque and sell Palestinian organs on the black market and whatever other blood-libel fantasy he can come up with. All in an effort to encourage Europe to force a pro-Palestinian deal on Israel.
It’s clear that Abbas, well into the 12th year of his four-year term as president, not only isn’t a leader who can sell an agreement to his own people, but he isn’t interested in trying. At age 81, he’s running out the clock, knowing that in the Arab Middle East these days, the only assurance a political leader has of dying happy is to stay in office.
Naturally, we expected Netanyahu to play his part, blaming Abbas and Hamas for the lack of a peace process and the continued attempts to kill Israeli civilians, whether by knife, rifle, car or rocket; warning of the threat Iran poses to the world; presenting Israel as a besieged outpost of Western-style democracy; and blasting the United Nations for its latest assortment of anti-Israel (if not anti-Semitic) atrocities, such as denying the Jewish history of Jerusalem and the land of Israel.
But Netanyahu pulled a surprise, hitting the unfriendly crowd with a positive vision of a not-too-distant future when Israel is the belle of the U.N. ball instead of the scapegoat destined for a desert death.
Israel will soon be popular in the halls of the United Nations, Netanyahu argued, because Israel is becoming a valued friend and partner all around the world. Those medical and technological and agricultural wonders we love to celebrate on the Israel Pride page each week are making Israel an irreplaceable nation.
That’s why more than 160 countries now have diplomatic relations with Israel, and that’s why each year promises to be a little bit sweeter for the Jewish state.