Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was only about four minutes into his speech to the General Assembly of the Jewish federations this morning before he was interrupted by a lone protestor carrying a red, hand-lettered sign, flashing a peace sign, and shouting “Shame on you! Stop the rape of Gaza!” The audience at a Washington Marriott closed ranks around the politician almost as fast as security tackled the man—one person shouted, “We love you, Bibi!” while others booed loudly—and Netanyahu, who seemed entirely unruffled, responded archly: “I was better received at the United Nations than here.”
Which wasn’t true, of course. At the United Nations last month, whole delegations left in a silent boycott of Netanyahu’s address, which included a show-and-tell of documents proving the Nazis’ plans to liquidate the Jews of Europe; in Washington, the audience sat rapt as he insisted that he was ready to get down to brass tacks with his Palestinian counterparts about creating an independent Palestinian state. As in his address at Bar-Ilan University last June, Netanyahu was clear about his parameters: no preconditions, no right of return for refugees, total demilitarization of Palestinian territory, and recognition of the Jewish state. But progress, he insisted, as he has for several months now, is entirely in the hands of the Palestinians, and specifically to Mahmoud Abbas, the embattled president of the Palestinian Authority. “My goal is to achieve a permanent peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, and soon,” Netanyahu said, to applause. “I cannot be more emphatic on this point—but to get to a peace agreement, we have to start negotiating a peace agreement. We have to stop negotiating about the negotiations. Let’s get on with it! Let’s move!” The assembled Jewish leaders cheered.