Benjamin Netanyahu used a grade-school level prop at the UN General Assembly in order to convince Washington to help protect Israel’s “nuclear monopoly in the region,” Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies told RT.
RT: Prime Minister Netanyahu used a prop to make his point. Did he manage to get his message across?
Phyllis Bennis: I think his message was aimed much more at President Obama and the American people, as well as his own constituency back home, more than it was at Iran directly or the General Assembly as a whole. His prop, as you have defined it, is a rather cartoonish sort of grade-school level poster of a bomb. And he sort of used this funny language where he said – this is a bomb, this is a fuse.
I can only try to think that he was trying to use the model that has been set by Collin Powell when he was trying to get the Security Council of the United Nations to endorse a war against Iraq in 2002-2003, where he held up a little bottle and said, this isn’t the anthrax, but if it were it would look like this. So it was what? What does that mean? So there is some history to using props.
I think what was interesting was the insistence from Prime Minister Netanyahu that there will be a red line, without the recognition that in fact the US has already established its own red line. They do not use that language, but President Obama and other top US officials have made it very clear that the US red line – which I think is a very dangerous thing to establish under any circumstances – the US red line is that the military force, or as the US likes to put it “all the necessary means” could be used; all things are on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Now the problem for Israel is that it does not match where they want the red line to be. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s red line is at the question of Iran’s so-called nuclear capability, and he had reiterated that today, although it wasn’t his language but basically what he was pointing to. The idea that Iran has some enriched uranium. It is enriched at either three per cent, and for a very small amount, 20 per cent. There is nothing of a level of 90 per cent, which is what you need for a bomb.
RT: What effect do Israeli threats to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran have on Tehran's alleged desire to create a nuclear bomb?
PB: Iran does not have a nuclear bomb. Iran is not building a nuclear bomb, and according to the entire sixteen agencies of the US intelligence services, they have not even made a decision on whether to build a bomb.
So, Israel is creating this so-called existential threat that does not exist. The only threat that Iran poses to Israel is the threat of losing at some point in the future Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the region. Right now, Israel is the only nuclear weapons state in the Middle East. It is not declared, it is not acknowledged, but it is widely known around the world.
For Israel to be claiming somehow that Iran represents an existential danger simply does not square with the facts. The Israelis have made a great gain out of their escalating rhetoric, and that we saw in the first couple of paragraphs in PM Netanyahu’s speech, where he referred to the Palestinians almost dismissively.
It was really only in one paragraph where he basically said, 'don’t bother going to the UN. The only thing that is going to work is the resumption of talks on our terms.' And he emphasized the words demilitarized state – he made it really loud.
RT: President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to get non-member observer status for the Palestinians. Is it within reach?
PB: It is absolutely within reach, and one thing it could accomplish will be joining the International Criminal Court, which would set the stage at least potentially for a serious international investigation of possible Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on Palestinian territory. In Gaza, for instance, during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.