Lapid should have known better. There were two major errors in his speech.
Aside from those two things, I totally enjoyed Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s UN speech. Those two things, however, made me grimace from the sheer stupidity of them. In spite of the parts of his speech that make him a pride-inspiring speaker for our country, the whole world is going to emphasize the erroneous parts and forget the rest. That is something the media-wise and entertainment wizard prime minister should have known before he finalized his speech.
The First Mistake Lapid made in his UN speech
Unfortunately, Lapid's opening sentence was cause for dismay. In it, he cemented the misunderstanding believed around the world regarding our ancient homeland. How can we call out other world leaders for this error when our own prime minister, caretaker or otherwise, stated it from the UN podium. He opened with:
“In November 1947 this General Assembly gathered and decided upon the creation of a Jewish State.”
The Jewish State was not "created" in 1947; what happened in '47 was that UNGA passed the partition plan that came to naught.. The independent modern State of Israel was declared by Israel in 1948 and only in 1949 did it become a full member of the UN. Jordan, in contrast, was created out of whole cloth by the British to reward the Hashemites, quite unlike the situation of Israel -- as the modern Jewish state was built upon the ruins of thousand-years-old Jewish sovereign kingdoms.
Here is what he could have said: "in November 1947 this General Assembly gathered and tried to further partition the British Mandate of Palestine after one part had already become Jordan, thereby indirectly recognizing the the modern Jewish State built on our ancient lands, albeit in a form much reduced from its ancient expanse." Notice the difference in what is conveyed. (Actually, I doubt whether diplomatically he could have mentioned Jordan even though it is the truth.)
The Really Bad Part of Lapid’s UN Speech
Prime Minister Lapid made it harder for us going forward with this:
“An agreement with the Palestinians, based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy and for the future of our children.
"Despite all the obstacles, still today a large majority of Israelis support the vision of this two state solution. I am one of them.”
First of all, it is not true that the large majority of Israelis support a two-state-solution. I doubt whether there is even a majority. If that was the case, Meretz and Labour would have more seats in the Knesset than they do. No?
Secondly, there are other possible ways to resolve the conflict besides the two-state-solution. He should have mentioned these. He should have said something like:
“The large majority of Israelis support a humane and just resolution to the conflict between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. That resolution is not necessarily the two-state-solution. There are other creative ideas being raised that need to be seriously considered and we invite everyone around the world to become familiar with the different possibilities if they are really interested in promoting peace.”
And in his heart he could continue that sentence, saying to himself what many of us believe: as opposed to being interested in the anti-semitic goals of total destruction of Israel, or, at least, reducing the Jews to their natural dhimmi status.
There was also a minor error in the speech:
Lapid repeated something everyone seems to think is true — that there are two live Israelis imprisoned by Hamas in Gaza. There are really three: Abera Mengistu, Israeli of Ethiopian origin being held in Gaza since September 2014, Hisham al-Syed, Israeli Bedouin held since April 2015, and Juma Ibrahim Abu Anima, Israeli Bedouin who has been held since July 2016.
There were parts of Yair Lapid’s UN speech that made me proud:
Here are choice quotes from his speech, some abridged so this article will not be too long:
“Seventy-five years later [after 1947], Israel is a strong liberal democracy. Proud and prosperous. The Start-Up Nation that invented Waze and Iron Dome, medicines for Alzheimers and Parkinsons and a robot which can perform spinal surgery. A world leader in water and food-tech, cyber defense and renewable energy. With 13 Nobel prize winners in literature and chemistry, economics and peace.
"How did this happen?
It happened because we decided not to be a victim.
"We chose to invest our energies into building a nation, into building a happy society, optimistic and creative.”
“The people of the Middle East, the people of the entire world, should look around and ask themselves:
"Who is doing better?
"Those who chose the path of peace, or those who chose the way of war?
"Those who chose to invest in their people and country, or those who chose to invest in the destruction of others?”
“There are, however, two major threats hanging over the head of our wonderful country.
"They also hang over your heads, even though you may try to deny them. The first is the nuclear threat. The fear that terrorist states and terrorist organizations will get their hands on nuclear weapons. The second threat is the demise of truth.
"Our democracies are slowly being poisoned by lies and fake news. Reckless politicians, totalitarian states and radical organizations are undermining our perception of reality.
"Last May, the picture of Malak al-Tanani, a three-year-old Palestinian girl, was published all over the world, with the terrible news that she was killed with her parents in an attack by the Israeli Air Force.
"It was a heartbreaking image, but Malak Al Tanani does not exist. The photo was taken from Instagram. It is of a girl from Russia.
"Why are you listening to people who have invested billions of dollars in distorting the truth?”
“We will not be silent when those who wish to harm us use this very stage to spread lies about us.
"Antisemitism is the willingness to believe the worst about the Jews, without questioning.
"Antisemitism is judging Israel by a different standard than any other country.
"Conducting this orchestra of hate is Iran.
"I can give you thousands more examples of similar fake news about Israel. The anti-Israel movement has been spreading these lies for years. In the media, on college campuses and on social media. The question is not why they do it, but why are you willing to listen?”
“There is only one member-state in the UN that openly states its wish to destroy another member-state.
Iran has declared time and time again that it is interested in the total destruction' of the State of Israel.
"And this building is silent.
"What are you afraid of?
"Has there ever been a time in human history where silence stopped violence?”
“Israel’s economic and military strength allows us to protect ourselves but it also allows us something else: To strive for peace . . .”
“You can ask us to live according to the values in the UN Charter, but you cannot ask us to die for them.”
“The State of Israel is the only country in the world founded by a book. The Book of Books. The Tanakh.
"That book and the principles of liberal democracy require us to stretch out our hand in peace. Our history requires us to be clear-eyed and very careful.”
The above quotes show that this was a wonderful speech that, had it been more carefully worded, could have had all Israelis standing behind this caretaker prime minister.
Sheri Oz is a freelance writer living in Israel.