Wile E. Netanyahu

Sep 28 2012 @ 12:13pm

Goldblog says Bibi's bomb drawing was "the Middle East equivalent of Clint Eastwood's chair" – and likely almost solely intended for American audiences. His take on the main message:

Benjamin Netanyahu's speech today before the U.N. General Assembly was many things. It seemed to be a concession speech (no attack until at least the spring). Unless, of course, it was a bluff designed to make us think that there will be no attack (in other words, a reverse bluff). The only reason I suspect that this could be true is that no sane prime minister would order Israel's Air Force to attack Iran at a moment Iran is expecting such an attack, unless of course Israel has developed a means of completely neutralizing Iranian air defenses. Remember that the previous two Israeli attempts at nonproliferation-by-force — in Iraq and Syria — were preceded by zero public discussion, and certainly not by cartoons. 

Bob Wright's view:

Without quite saying so, he has now backed off of the limb he had gotten himself out on. Whereas only weeks ago he was suggesting that Israel might bomb Iran before he finished his next sentence, the upshot of today's speech was that Israel won't bomb Iran before spring. At least, that's the only plausible interpretation of the speech that I can find. 

Jay Newton-Small looks at the campaign angle, figuring Bibi knows he's now stuck with Obama:

Netanyahu’s speech on Thursday didn’t leave much for Romney to put in a press release. So, what changed in the past week that led Netanyahu to back off of Obama? Perhaps he got a look at recent polls showing Obama pulling ahead in key swing states and increasing his lead nationally. It’s one thing to put a finger on the scale when a race is close and quite another to flat out provoke the man he’s likely going to have to spend the next four years working with. Especially when Israel is due to hold elections next year. As the scripture says and Netanyahu well knows: "An eye for an eye."

But Uri Friedman thinks the diagram might actually be effective in forcing a response from the candidates:

In the days and weeks ahead, the indelible image of Netanyahu drawing a thick red line on his crude diagram could compel Romney to offer more specifics about his red line, and Obama to explain how and why his stance differs from the Israeli prime minister's, if at all.  

Harriet Sherwood points out another motivation:

According to Haaretz, Israel'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.

Indeed, ridiculed or not, the image has already been widely seen. Joshua Keating places Bibi's diagram in the historical context of UN prop use, while Ali Gharib notes that Netanyahu didn't even draw the red line in the right place. Gharid updates his post with a correction; he misunderstood the metric that Bibi was using but nevertheless finds fault:

Uranium spun in centrifuges to a purity of 90 percent makes for weapons-grade stuff. Since Netanyahu was discussing Iranian uranium enrichment, I mistook his chart for referencing these levels. In fact, Netanyahu's chart wasn't about anything technical, anything clear. Instead, Netanyahu's chart used an invented metric: the degree to which Iran had moved along the continuum to producing a nuclear weapon, where things go bang at 100 percent.

So the diagram had a Seinfeldian twist: it was about nothing. It's as if he just needed to make up his 90 percent metric because, well, above 90 percent sounds very dire—it's almost there!—and he wanted to give the sense of desperation and exacerbation that things had gone so far without any action.

Many of Israel's top analysts were also confused [NYT] by Bibi's contrived metric. Juan Cole sees the whole thing as "psychological warfare": 

The Iran bogeyman is Netanyahu’s way of changing the conversation, of making sure that his Occupation of the Palestinian territories is never brought up. The US and Europe, who pay lip service to a ‘peace process’ in actual fact go along with the continued Occupation and ongoing expropriation of the Palestinians, and seem to fall for the Iran misdirection.

Laura Rozen rounds up more analyst reactions here. Meanwhile, The New Yorker responds with a caption contest.