As the central drama of the just-concluded United Nations General Assembly played out, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the final speaker of the session, performed a supporting but crucial role. He came on stage as the mood spoiler, the man who disrupted the central narrative of a new, nonthreatening Iran under President Hasan Rouhani ready to reconcile with the world. Netanyahu told the world to wake up and realize that Iran’s new image was all a fiction.
The prime minister’s stern words elicited a wide range of responses, including harsh criticism. In Israel, many found the address jarring. There was much discussion about Netanyahu’s message, and a torrent of debate. Israelis know their prime minister and are familiar with his ability to wield words as piercing weapons. Only 51 percent said they liked the speech.
What’s notable is that the criticism in Israel centered mostly on style and on tactics, rather than on the substance and objectives of the speech. The central message, that Iran remains as dangerous as ever and should not be trusted, was largely without controversy.