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What to expect from Netanyahu at the UN

In the past three years we’ve gotten crocodiles, Medieval villains, cartoons and unnaturally pointy pearly whites.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UNGA plenary, September 23, 2011. (Photo by UN/Marco Castro)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UNGA plenary, September 23, 2011. (Photo by UN/Marco Castro)

What should you expect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say in his speech to the UN on Monday?

Seven words: Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.

Okay, he’ll probably say a few more things than that: Iran. (It will be interesting if Netanyahu accidentally completes his logic game and concludes that if ISIS = Hamas, and Iran = Hamas, then it must hold that ISIS = Iran. Spoiler alert, Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post last week that, “The biggest threat without question is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, which means Iran.”)

Let’s take a look back at the past three speeches Netanyahu has given at the annual UNGA General Debate.

In 2011, the prime minister took a stab at animal allegory in an attempt to show the world just how silly its demands on Israel are, and of course to impress upon us that militant Islam is no joking matter (although he provided plenty of fodder for comedians and single-issue Twitter accounts):

[C]ritics continue to press Israel to make far-reaching concessions without first assuring Israel’s security. They praise those who unwittingly feed the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam as bold statesmen. They cast as enemies of peace those of us who insist that we must first erect a sturdy barrier to keep the crocodile out, or at the very least jam an iron bar between its gaping jaws.

In 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu went medieval on all of us to drive home just how bad these primitive forces of radical Islam really are, and that Israel is the polar opposite. (2012 was also the year of the classic ACME bomb cartoon):

[T]oday, a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval. The forces of modernity seek a bright future in which the rights of all are protected, in which an ever-expanding digital library is available in the palm of every child, in which every life is sacred.

The forces of medievalism seek a world in which women and minorities are subjugated, in which knowledge is suppressed, in which not life but death is glorified. These forces clash around the globe, but nowhere more starkly than in the Middle East. Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity.

In 2013, the Israeli prime minister took it old school and brought back the animal characters we got to love two years earlier. The new radical Islamic president of the Radical Islamic Republic of Iran, you’ll remember, smiled much more than his predecessor and Netanyahu was terrified that the world would be charmed by his unnaturally pointy pearly whites:

[T]he only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Rohani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the eyes — the wool over the eyes of the international community.

So, what will Netanyahu give us this year? Will he use props? Will we be introduced to fun new animal characters? Will we learn more about nuclear physics through cartoonish infographics?

Or perhaps the answer lies right under our eyes. Upon boarding his plane to New York Sunday morning, Netanyahu told reporters: “In my address to the UN General Assembly, I will refute all of the lies being directed at us and I will tell the truth about our state and about the heroic soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world.”

Just don’t forget, he’s been doing this for a while.

Then Israeli Ambassador to the UN Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the GA during a “debate on the situation in the Middle East.” (Photo by UN/Saw Lwin)

Then Israeli Ambassador to the UN Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the GA during a “debate on the situation in the Middle East.” (Photo by UN/Saw Lwin)

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    1. Jihadi violence serves not only to advance the terrorist’s delusion of immortality, but also to add, however perversely, an apparent and desperately needed erotic satisfaction, using religion as the justification.

      Persuasive promises of immortality — the desperate hope to live forever — underlie virtually all major religions.

      Washington and Jerusalem should finally address what needs to be done in addition to military remediation — reinforcing efforts to convince these terrorists that their expected martyrdom is ultimately just an elaborate fiction.

      Even after witnessing several beheadings and mass executions, American and Western strategists dealing with Jihadist terror still miss the key point. Whatever the particular terrorist group of the moment — the Islamic State [IS or ISIS], Hamas, al-Qaeda, or some other kindred terror organization — the core struggle is never really about territory, geography, or democracy. Always — in Iraq, Afghanistan Syria, or Gaza — this enemy seeks something far more important and compelling. In essence, Jihadi violence serves not only to advance the terrorist’s delusion of immortality, but also to add, however perversely, an apparent and desperately needed erotic satisfaction, using religion as the justification.

      This core point is not difficult to understand. Persuasive promises of immortality — the desperate hope to live forever — underlie virtually all major religions. Yet this point remains neglected or misunderstood in Washington, Jerusalem, and all other Western capitals.

      The Jihadi terrorist claims to “love death,” but in his or her mind, that “suicide” is anything but final. Ironically, these Islamist terrorists aim to conquer mortality by “killing themselves.” The would-be killer has been promised that death will represent just a trivial and momentary inconvenience, a minor detour on just one more glorious “martyr’s” fiery trajectory toward a life everlasting, in Paradise.

      How can one ever hope to counter such a seductive promise? How can any promise compete with the incomparable promise of immortality?

      The answer has little or nothing to do with currently envisioned applications of military force, whether as so-called “boots on the ground,” or as aerial bombardments.

      If the problem of IS and other terrorist groups were just military, the associated threat could be solved by military acts. But as Islamist violence is expected to lead to promised martyrdom, the Jihadist terrorist will not be deterred by any threats of military reprisal.

      In both conception and execution, Jihadist terror has little to do with land or politics or strategy. Rather, it is a routinely predictable and repetitive expression of “sacredness through violence” — taking pleasure in inflicting harm on assorted “unbelievers,” and then justifying it as doctrinally-based religious belief. This expanding network of carefully planned and staged homicides represents a current form of religious fervor: religious sacrifice, a grotesque practice that stems from pre-modern Islamic customs, which conveniently link each blessed suicide’s “martyrdom” with a selected victim’s ritual slaughter.

      What about diplomatic solutions? As such sacrificial violence expresses “death for Allah”, there can never be any room for meaningful negotiations. For America and the West, there will never be any advantages to concessions or compromises, especially if they are sequential.

      There also should never be any expectations of reciprocity. If, for example, Israel were to offer any further territorial surrenders to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, or Islamic Jihad, there could be no plausible hope for any suitable quid pro quo. The surrenders would be for nothing. In all likelihood, they will only be encouraged and strengthened by repeated and one-sided territorial surrenders and prisoner exchanges, such as the sorts of concessions made regularly (and foolishly) by Israel.

      The connection between Islamist sacrifice and political violence has a long history, including links to ancient Greece. There, Plutarch’s Sayings of Spartan Mothers revealed the model female parent as one who had reared her sons expressly for civic sacrifice.

      The deepest roots of all Jihadist terror — whether from Iraq, Syria, “Palestine” or elsewhere — originate, at least in part, from contemporary cultures that enthusiastically embrace similar views of sacrifice.

      To us, in the West, these hopes may sound silly. Still, in this particular sphere of world politics, there can be no greater power — or illusion — than power over death.

      Martyrdom operations, based upon a long-codified Muslim scripture, have been associated with Jihad since the beginnings of Islam. Jubilant, celebratory invocations for this twisted and prohibited-by-international-law species of warfare can be found in the Koran and also in the Hadith, the presumptively authoritative acts and sayings of Muhammad.

      For the U.S., Europe, and Israel, the security implications of any doctrine fusing religion, erotic passion, and violence warrant a closer look.

      The implications for policy mean that our current and projected wars, including the well-intentioned presidential plan to “degrade” and “destroy” IS, are partially beside the point. Those responses are directed more at the symptoms of a pathology than replacing the underlying disease itself. Regrettably, they are unlikely to make any substantial dent in Jihadist thinking. Any effect on the desire of Jihadists to inflict harm may be only minimal.

      A really good strategy needs to begin at the conceptual or psychological level. It is actually the Jihadists’ fear of death that leads them to suicide, always in the hope that any short-term “dying” — the vainglorious fantasy that “martyring” themselves — will enable them to live forever in Paradise, and as beloved heroes on Earth.

      While Washington and Jerusalem seek “peace” — an end to bloodshed — as their overriding objective, these faith-driven adversaries appear to see “peace” as merely a pretext. Their real objective is jihadist victory over “unbelievers,” on the blessed road to a global caliphate.

      This asymmetric view puts us all at a grievous disadvantage. While our Jihadist foes get ready for Paradise, by the slaughter of “infidels,” our own political leaders seem to remain blithely unaware of — or in denial about — their enemies’ fusion of sacredness with violence.

      Among more “normal” conflict scenarios, America, Europe and Israel now need to consider mega-threats of both unconventional war and unconventional terrorism. Faced with determined adversaries — who are not only willing to die, but who actively seek their own “deaths” in order to live forever — Washington and Jerusalem should finally address the what needs to be done in addition to military remediation.

      Sustained and selective armed force against IS and related Jihadist targets is certainly necessary and appropriate. However, it is also important to remind our leaders that force always needs to be combined with reinforcing efforts to convince these terrorists that their expected martyrdom is ultimately just an elaborate fiction.

      Jihadists, in killing Americans, Israelis, and all other “unbelievers,” may not even intend to commit evil, so much as to do themselves and Allah good — and to do so with an absolute purity of heart. In their view, waging Holy War can never be shameful; it can only be heroic.

      Going forward, our main task should be to systematically undermine these fantasies and doctrinal “underpinnings.” In conjunction with the recommended nuanced persuasions of military firepower, it can be done.

      Reprinted with author’s permission from the Gatestone Institute

      Read more at http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/22080/jihadists-promise-power-death/#DVB6wFFTSlMqEhjG.99

      Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      What I’m expecting from his speech is the moment at which the majority of the room clears out when he starts talking, leaving him to spout his nonsense to a 75% empty house. I’d just love to see that.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lo

      My money is on the “ISIS = Hamas = Iran” line of attack. Odds are less for a cartoon prop but even for an animal analogy.

      If he wasn’t the Jewish version of Richard Nixon, he’d be a pretty funny guy.

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        Richard Nixon was actually not a bad president, when you ignore all the illegal activities (he wound down wars and opened up communication channels. He did more for world peace than Obama has.

        Comparing Netanyahu to Nixon is wrong, in my opinion. Netanyahu is comparable to Dick Cheney – an unscrupulous, uncouth Islamophobe with a penchant for war and war-profiteering, and a dislike for freedom of speech.

        Netanyahu and Cheney are cut from the same cloth.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ray

          I remember Hunter Thompson once writing that Dubya made him miss Nixon. It is hard to ignore all the bad stuff Nixon did with Kissinger, considering the body count and damage done.

          But your comparison to Cheney was spot on.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Jacob

      If Hamas is ISIS, then Netanyahu is Nouri al-Maliki. Just as Maliki’s sectarian policies opened the door for ISIS, so too do Netanyahu’s land grabs and other provocations empower Hamas and lengthen the conflict needlessly.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Average American

      Israel is the friggin regional superpower. It is not threatened by Iran or anybody else. It is not an innocent little baby being abused. If Israel wants to attack Iran, let them do it with the lives of their own sons and daughters, their own equipment and their own treasury. Ridiculous idea that Iran with nuclear weapons would be more dangerous than Israel with nuclear weapons. America wants to keep Iran alive for its friggin oil. What reason does America bother keeping Israel alive?

      Reply to Comment