Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the 2020 UN General Assembly Tuesday (September 29) from Jerusalem.
Amidst a global crisis ignited by the COVID-19 pandemic and a nationwide lockdown in Israel, Netanyahu addressed the international forum virtually, speaking with an image of Jerusalem’s Old City in the background.
Israel’s prime minister touched on a myriad of pressing topics such as peace between Israel and the Arab world, regional security, the Palestinians, Iran and Hezbollah. He highlighted the recent peace agreements that were signed between Israel and two Gulf states—the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. Emphasizing the potential gain from the deals Netanyahu stated, “These new agreements will bring our peoples the blessings of peace and the enormous benefits that come with more trade, more investment, more commerce, transportation, tourism, increased cooperation in so many areas.”
After praising US President Donald Trump for choosing what Netanyahu referred to as a “different path to peace—one anchored in reality,” he continued to advance his long-held claim that peace with the Arab world is the true road to eventual peace with the Palestinians.
“The expanding circle of peace will not make an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians less likely. It will make peace between Israelis and Palestinians more likely,” Netanyahu asserted. He further added, “Palestinian leaders will increasingly realize that they no longer have a veto over peace and progress in our region, and hopefully, those leaders will ultimately decide to make peace with the Jewish state.” Netanyahu made clear that he is willing to begin negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of Trump’s Peace and Prosperity peace plan.
Netanyahu’s masterful oratory skills and impeccable English have earned him quite the reputation for delivering fiery, and at times even entertaining, speeches. The prime minister’s addresses are hardly boring, usually appearing more like a performance or an engaging lecture rather than a diplomatic address on the world’s most important international stage. A master of gimmicks, he is usually equipped with props, maps, coordinates, images and PowerPoint presentations in order to effectively communicate his message.
In the past, Netanyahu has also been notorious for exposing intelligence information with the intention of showing the world the dangers of the covert activity of Israel’s enemies, particularly Iran and Hezbollah.
In April 2018, PM Netanyahu revealed to the world a set of Iranian files obtained during an Israeli intelligence operation claimed to prove that the Islamic Republic was already developing nuclear weapons prior to 2015. In another disclosure that was made possible by the same intelligence operation, Netanyahu exposed the existence of a secret Iranian nuclear facility that was perpetually used for nuclear weapons development destroyed and covered up south of Isfahan.
During this year’s address to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu once again came ready with another surprise up his sleeve. This time, the disclosure was directed against Israel’s archenemy to the north—Hezbollah.
PM Netanyahu revealed the exact coordinates, along with images, of a secret arms depot held by the Lebanese armed group. The arms depot is apparently located in the Beirut neighborhood of Janah. It is located in close proximity to an international airport, is merely 50 meters away from a gas company which stores gas canisters at the location and is completely surrounded by civilian housing.
It couldn’t have been a more opportune time for Israel to reveal such damaging information to Hezbollah. The group, which also has a political wing holding many seats in Lebanon’s national parliament, has been under heavy pressure since the devastating explosion that took place at the Port of Beirut in August, leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured. Soon after, many speculations were raised regarding where to start placing blame. One direction was Hezbollah. Questions were asked suspecting that perhaps it was a weapons cache belonging to the terrorist organization or other explosive materials intended to be used for its precision guided missile program.
During the subsequent mass protests that broke out throughout the country, Hezbollah and its leaders were an instant target. Unprecedented images in which a doll figure of the group’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah could be seen hanging from a noose. It goes without saying that disclosing sensitive information showing an arms depot in another residential area is likely to raise fear among the Lebanese public. It is likely to cause further damage to an already weakened Hezbollah position in Lebanon.
The decision to reveal such sensitive information at this particular time was strategic. Scholars have recognized that strategically disclosing sensitive information has become common practice in international politics. In this case, and the other instances that are mentioned above, the disclosure of intelligence information is being weaponized. It is being utilized in order to place pressure on the international community, and in this case the Lebanese public and decision makers as well, for the purpose of coercing them to act. The goal is to expose the danger Hezbollah poses for the people of Lebanon and to convince both the Lebanese public and international community that the threat indeed is real and that this dangerous group must be stopped.
Having knowledge bears much responsibility. Disclosing covert information about Hezbollah’s activity forces the international community to cope with what they now know and make a decision—to act against the group or remain silent. The ball is now in their court.