Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, brushed aside criticism of his country’s recent 50-day bombardment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, equating it with the current US-led aerial strikes against terrorists of the self-declared Islamic State.
In a characteristically indignant address to the General Assembly, Mr Netanyahu repeatedly suggested that there is no differentiating between Hamas, which holds sway over Gaza, and the forces of Isis who have recently advanced across whole swathes of Syria and Iraq. Critics of his country “evidently don’t understand that Isis and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree,” he said.
“Hamas’ immediate goal is to destroy Israel, but it has a broader objective,” the Prime Minister asserted. “When it comes to its ultimate goals, Hamas is Isis, and Isis is Hamas.” He also tied Islamist extremism with Nazism. “Nazis believed in a master race... militant Islamists believe in a master faith,” he offered.
The fire in Mr Netanyahu’s speech had been partially ignited by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, who at the same podium last Friday accused Israel of a “war of genocide” against Gaza. Before it ended in late August, the Israeli campaign had left 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians.
In his riposte, Mr Netanyahu held up a press photograph of two Hamas rocket launches on a Gaza street with children playing nearby and suggested that that was the war crime Mr Abbas should be concerned about. He meanwhile used his few minutes at the UN to urge the world not to buy the “crocodile tears” he said were shed by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani about the spread of terror in the region.
“Don’t be fooled by Iran’s manipulative charm offensive,” Mr Netanyahu said, adding that in the end Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons ambitions posed a greater threat to world security than Isis. “Make no mistake, Isis must be defeated,” he said. “But to defeat Isis and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war… Iran’s nuclear military capabilities must be fully dismantled.”