Israeli prime minister's explicitness is unlikely to endear him to the Obama administration, but it was certainly memorable
© Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Netanyahu: "Here, see? Iran has nuclear bombs to wipe us all out!"
Binyamin Netanyahu's cartoon nuclear bomb certainly grabbed attention, but not necessarily the kind he wanted. No doubt it was intended as a bold and graphic way of presenting the Iranian nuclear threat, but much of the initial response - on Twitter, at least - was ridicule
In his speech to the UN general assembly, the Israeli prime minister adopted the persona of an elementary school science teacher talking to a particularly dim class to explain Iran
's nuclear programme and the point at which it must be stopped.
Having incessantly talked about "red lines" for the past few weeks, he literally drew one across the bomb to illustrate the point at which the international community should take decisive action. Netanyahu set his literal red line at the 90% threshold of uranium enrichment, a point which he said could be reached by next spring or summer.
Such explicitness is unlikely to endear him to the already-tested Obama administration, which has made clear in recent weeks that it will not be bounced into drawing red lines. The strain in the relationship between the two allies is likely to deepen after Netanyahu's stunt.
According to Haaretz
's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters after the speech that the bomb ploy was aimed at the general public, not world leaders. In that respect, it achieved at least part of the goal: it was very memorable and very clear. Any talk in the coming hours and days will be of this, not of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas
's exposition of life under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.
On that issue, Netanyahu said almost nothing. For the past two years at least, he has consistently argued the Palestinian issue is irrelevant and unimportant in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat. The strategy has been hugely successful in eclipsing the moribund peace process.
But Abbas's lack of clear strategy on that front is also part of the picture. His speech was a familiar recitation of the grievances of the Palestinian people, which should not be diminished simply because they have been heard so often. Settler violence, land grabs, house demolitions, displacements, ethnic cleansing, the suffocating blockade of Gaza
- all these got a mention.
But his failure to offer any new approach, despite explicitly saying one was needed, will fuel the cynicism so prevalent on both sides of the conflict. A request for "non-member state" status at the UN general assembly - a big step back from last year's application for the state of Palestine to be admitted as a full member of the "family of nations" - just does not cut it.
Final score? Bibi and his cartoon bomb wins.