Rare wall-to-wall praise was heard in Israel and abroad for Netanyahu’s historic speech in the UN on Thursday - though Hamas didn't like it.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was present in the hall, was restrained in his praise: “It was a very persuasive speech, the hall was filled, there was great interest, and he did it well.” Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was also there, was more effusive: “The prime minister’s speech was a speech that will be imprinted in the world’s consciousness. He knows how to do it. The photograph of him with the plans for Auschwitz will be carved into international memory.”
President Shimon Peres and many government ministers called Netanyahu immediately afterwards to warmly congratulate him, and it took him some 40 minutes to exit the building because of all the well-wishers. He even received an embrace from a long-time guard at the UN who said he remembered Netanyahu from his days as Israel’s Ambassador from over 20 years ago.
Israel’s Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, called the speech, “Successful and even historic.” Oren told Army Radio that the speech received across-the-board support in the UN, adding, “In general this was a good week for Israeli diplomacy. Netanyahu had a very full and successful week – a historic week in terms of American-Israeli relations.”
Netanyahu was applauded twice during his speech: When he said that though the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People, and despite the historic links between them, Israel is willing to allow a demilitarized PA state to be formed there; and when he concluded with quotes from Churchill and the Prophets.
Some criticism was leveled, both in Israel and in New York, at the fact that Netanyahu saw fit to go to such lengths to rebut Iranian President Ahmadinajad and prove the veracity of the Holocaust. On the other end of the spectrum, a Hamas spokesman lambasted Netanyahu's "crooked logic" and said he was merely trying to recruit the UN in his "Zionist-terrorist agenda."
The Palestinian Authority delegate walked out of the hall when Netanyahu spoke about Gaza, the thousands of rockets fired by Hamas, and Israel’s restrained response.
Netanyahu: We Have to Know if We Should Take Risks
Netanyahu blasted the international community for encouraging Israel to leave Gaza, and then condemning Israel in the Goldstone Report when it responded to the rocket attacks that resulted: “This biased and unjust report is a clear-cut test for all governments. Will you stand with Israel or will you stand with the terrorists? We must know the answer to that question now, and not later. Because if Israel is again asked to take more risks for peace, we must know today that you will stand with us tomorrow. Only if we have the confidence that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks for peace.”
The Mattot Arim grassroots organization did not like that implication: “A thousand risks have already been taken, a thousand Israelis have already lost their lives, and the Netanyahu government must not repeat this pointless approach.”