Photo Credit: United Nations
Naftali Bennett speaks at the UN. Sept. 27, 2021

The greatest grace that can be afforded to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is to refuse outright to respond to his pleas to be compared to his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu. When, on the eve of his journey to New York to address the UN General Assembly, he insisted on informing us with scornful contempt that, unlike the former premier, he would not require the assistance of visual aids, he was in fact forcing us to perform a comparative analysis of two speeches and two speakers.

This is an ongoing trend in Bennett’s media and rhetorical conduct. He is determined to turn lemons into lemonade; In other words, to present his lack of charisma as the mark of a new kind of quality leadership. He seemingly forgoes any attempt to be as original and dominant as Netanyahu. From now on, these qualities are to be seen as negative, an expression of narcissism covering for failure. Bennett is a new kind of leader: quiet, minor, and one who acts without saying much.

He can also rely on a bevy of commentators and advocates who will make a feverish effort to market these new qualities as a fresh political ideal.


“Bennett proved he knows how to deliver a speech in pristine English and relay a message without props. What stood out was the tranquility and not the harsh words,” one such generic social media user posited on Twitter. Yes, we live in an incredibly wonderful time in which a phenomenal orator is “fiery,” and a speech that fails to make either a personal or diplomatic mark is “tranquil.” Mediocrity is king.

Still, even the “tranquility” with which Bennett allowed himself to deliver his UN General Assembly address was something of a privilege. It is a privilege for an Israeli prime minister to enter the General Assembly and smile at everyone in attendance on his way to the podium. It brings me back to the enigmatic but intriguing concept in rhetorical theory known as Kairos, a Greek term relating to the importance of timing when making an argument. It’s all good and well to “tell our story,” and it will always warm any patriot’s heart to see the prime minister lavish praise on Israel in English, dedicating 60 seconds to praising Zion and the miracle of democracy flourishing in a tough neighborhood. Yet it would have been wiser to share these sentiments about Israel at a time when all of the UN and half of the world hate you and turn their backs on you when you pass them in the hallway.

It took 12 years of harsh words, Bristol boards, and pompousness, alongside painstaking diplomatic efforts, for things to change and to enlist country by country, government by government, at first that of Micronesia [Oh, how they laughed at that], then the Czech Republic, followed by India, Brazil, and then Africa, and suddenly America – until suddenly, there exists a pro-Israel front.

Netanyahu’s speeches certainly did affect change in this world.

Without creating his own moment, without presenting original ideas to be recognized as his from now on, Bennett entered a rhetorical genre Netanyahu himself invented to a great extent to prove to those watching from Israel that he is in fact capable of reciting those same lines without his knees buckling from the pressure.

This was an anachronistic speech of low expectations, as banal as the unnecessary summer sequel that tries to squeeze out any remaining success of its predecessor, but without any star power. Above anything else, it was a speech that wanted to get along with the world, instead of doing what great rhetoric does best: change it.

(Written by Dr. Eithan Orkibi, editor of Israel Hayom’s Hebrew opinions’ section)

{Reposted from the Israel Hayom website}

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