Being the party crasher is not a popular thing. Certainly not now, in these days of bon ton. It is better to swim with the current rather than to be left out. This is how it was in 1993 during the Oslo Accords, and in 2011 during the Arab Spring. It is best to think positively. And whoever thinks differently should just stay home.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a problem: Similar to 1993 and 2011, now, too, he is seen as the "party crasher." With the former he was perceived as anti-peace; with the latter he was seen as being anti-democracy. The facts, incidentally, are not particularly important -- it is all about the bon ton.
The thing is, the party crasher cannot stay home. The prime minister is obligated to present the world with his doctrine, even if it is not popular. His mission is not an easy one, because he will have to show the U.N. General Assembly that the emporer (Iranian President Hasan Rouhani) has no clothes. The problem is that no one wants to believe it -- even if it is true. On the other hand, Netanyahu can take the credit for Iran even being in the headlines in the first place.
The prime minister will also depart for the U.S. after the Iranian president has already left, following his successful public relations campaign there. Actually, it seems there was no General Assembly at all during the first week, rather a Persian film festival. Iran is no longer relegated to the horror film category (the Ahmadinejad genre), it is winning the Oscar for best romance drama, highlighted by a phone call.
This could all be quite amusing really, were we not talking about Iran and its nuclear weapons program. An Iranian taxi driver, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, was quoted on Saturday by The Washington Post as wondering, "Yesterday, we said death to America. Now we’re supposed to say hello to America?"
The problem, however, is not really with the Iranian people, rather with the regime. The Iranian people, at least a large portion of them today, are the solution. The vast majority of Iranians are not anti-American.
U.S. President Barack Obama should have remembered this during the violent crackdown on protesters in 2009, following the election fraud in June of that year, but he chose in advance to support the ayatollah regime. From his first day in office Obama hoped to be the person to break down barriers. For Obama, the phone conversation with Rouhani was undoubtedly a historic moment, perhaps even touching (were we not talking about the Iranians), but it coincides with his doctrine.
It is not clear if this coincides with the ayatollahs' doctrine. Obama's predecessors could have also picked up the phone to call the Iranian president, certainly after the 9/11 attacks or during the Second Gulf War, when Iran saw Western forces near its border and batted its eyelashes at the U.S. The previous administrations, however, did not trust the Iranians, and justifiably so.
Of course the harsh sanctions imposed on Iran's economy have done their job. In New York, not only did Rouhani succeed in changing his country's image, he managed to dictate the pace of events (no to shaking hands, yes to a phone call) and also to meet his obligation toward his people, to whom he promised to have the sanctions removed. In addition, with an impressive acrobatic display, he was also able to satisfy his boss, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, by emphasizing that Iran would continue with its nuclear project and carry on enriching uranium.
Netanyahu also has some difficult acrobatics ahead of him: He will need to expose Iran's true colors to the world without revealing too much, because the war is still raging and the threat of a nuclear bomb is real. Those who truly need to know what Netanyahu cannot talk about -- already know. However, as we have already said, in the days of bon ton it is not the facts that matter, just the ambiance.