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At UN, Netanyahu lays it all on the table

On Sept. 27, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu came to the UN General Assembly and laid it all on the table.  He held up a stylized drawing of a bomb, explained to the nations of the world the three stages of enriching the uranium required to produce a nuclear weapon, took out a red marker and drew a red line across the chart.  

The red line – the stage after which Iran can no longer be stopped from getting a nuclear bomb.

The step Iran must not be allowed to cross, if we are to eliminate this perilous threat to our way of life.

And the red line which President Obama refuses to draw.

As Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told Bloomberg News from Russia on Sept. 9: “We’re not setting deadlines.”

Ironically, her message was confirmed by the President to Netanyahu on the evening of Sept. 11.  So around the same time the President was pretending the deadly terrorist attack in Libya was a video problem, he told Netanyahu he was not going to get tough with Iran. The New York Times quotes an unnamed “senior administration official” describing the conversation: “President Obama rejected an appeal by Prime Minister Netanyahu to spell out a specific “red line” that Iran could not cross in its nuclear program.”

Netanyahu went out of his way to be bipartisan – referring to what he said were common goals of “Democrats and Republicans alike.”  But the two leaders appear to be on a collision course and there is nothing Netanyahu can do about it – short of failing to defend his people.

Netanyahu pressed hard to make the case that “red lines don’t lead to war; red lines prevent war.”  He argued that faced with red lines Iran would “back down.”  He urged listeners to be realistic: “today, a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval…The forces of medievalism seek a world…in which not life but death is glorified.”

But President Obama spent his time earlier this week at the General Assembly repeatedly conjuring up images of harmony and telling UN members “people everywhere long for” freedom, dignity, and justice.

Perhaps exemplifying the distance in judgment between the two governments was the behavior of their respective ambassadors.  When President Obama spoke, the Ambassador of Israel Ron Prosor, was seated respectfully in the Israeli General Assembly seat.  When Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke, the Ambassador of the United States Susan Rice was absent.  She is said to have had more important things to do.

When Americans decide on their next commander-in-chief, they will not be able to say they haven’t been warned.  Netanyahu told all who would listen:  “Iran is the world’s most dangerous terrorist regime.” “Imagine the world with a nuclear-armed Al Qaeda.”

Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow her on Twitter @AnneBayefsky.