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The speech of panic - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There can be no doubt that the Arabs and Palestinians will preoccupy themselves with refuting the speech made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of the US Congress, which was full of mistakes and which represents an attempt to frustrate the peace efforts. However the Arabs and Palestinians must pay attention to one important thing in Netanyahu’s speech, which is as follows:

Netanyahu’s speech, which lasted for 45 minutes, and which received more than two dozen rounds of applause from Congressional members, was nothing more than a speech of panic! Anybody monitoring the Israeli newspapers recently, particularly since the outbreak of Arab revolutions and uprisings, will have noticed all the talk about the necessity of putting forward a new Israeli strategy to deal with the West, and particularly the US, especially in light of the new picture that is beginning to take hold in the West today regarding the Arabs. This chatter revolves around Arab eagerness for democracy and human rights, and that they desire a civil society, in the Western understanding of the word. This is something that represents a threat to the Israelis, who have long presented themselves to the West, and the US, as being the only democracy in the region, however today this picture has begun to change in the eyes of the West, and this is something that will have many implications for Israel.

Israeli concerns increased following Obama’s latest speech on the Middle East, which renewed the Israeli calls for a new strategy in dealing with the US and the West. According to what was published in the Israeli media, this strategy would be based on informing the West, and particularly the US, that Israel is the only democracy in the region, that it is the strongest region in terms of governing authority and institutes, and that there are no sectarian or religious crises in the country, in comparison to the situation in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere. This is precisely what Netanyahu did in his speech to the US Congress, which was full of mistakes; he said that his country is the only democracy in the region, that it is a strong country based on institutes which does not need an aid plan for reconstruction, he also stressed that Israel is a true friend to America. Netanyahu said that Israel is an economic success, and that it is the only country in the region whose citizens enjoy human rights, media freedoms, not like the Arabs who are only seeking all of this now. In summary, what Netanyahu wanted to tell the American people was: don’t be taken in or dazzled by the Arabs, we are stronger and we are your allies.

This is the message that Netanyahu wanted to send to the American people, and he made many mistakes in order to do so. In fact, Netanyahu’s speech – according to a CNN broadcaster – was akin to a set of “demands and conditions.” Netanyahu beseeched the Americans to ensure that Iran does not gain possession of a nuclear weapon, and he thanked them for their economic support, particularly during these trying economic times, he also called on the US to prevent the Palestinians from achieving their dreamed for state via the UN. In other words, Netanyahu told the Americans: help Israel, which is contrary to what he said about the strength and independence of Israel!

The other thing that Netanyahu wanted to tell the Americans was that: we are the only ones that are like you in the region. However the Americans must here ask themselves: how can a country that wants to live in the midst of 400 million Arabs survive when it is not like them, but rather wants to resemble America? How can Israel hope to resemble America, when Europe itself does not?

Therefore, the Palestinians and Arabs must not fall into Netanyahu’s trap, for his speech was a speech of panic with regards to the new situation in the Arab region, and in light of the new sympathy that is being expressed in the West today towards the Palestinian cause, which is greater than at any time before. Netanyahu is not depending upon Israel’s strength to promote his positions, but rather on the weakness of the Arabs, and the situation in the Arab world deteriorating; this is the dilemma!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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