Israel is looking like the new leader of the Free World. The previous leader, the United States, resigned this role last week at the United Nations to take the position of global community organizer. This was made plain by President Obama in his speech, titled "Responsibility for Our Common Future," in which he heralded "a new chapter of international cooperation." By contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a blunt and forceful call to action in the central challenge facing free people today. This is the struggle of "civilization against barbarism" being fought by "those who sanctify life against those who glorify death."
Mr. Obama's address was the predictable mix of criticism of the past policies of the United States, self-praise for correcting said policies and vague calls to united action on matters of collective interest. It sought to ingratiate rather than offend. But Mr. Netanyahu chastised the United Nations for its "systematic assault on the truth." He spoke truths that Mr. Obama would never whisper regarding the regime in Iran, which is "fueled by an extreme fundamentalism" and an "unforgiving creed." Mr. Netanyahu rebuked those members who countenanced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's diatribe before the same world body, rightly calling it a "disgrace."
Mr. Netanyahu repeatedly paid tribute to the blessings of liberty and "the allure of freedom." He marveled at the technological advances freedom made possible. He asked if the international community would support the Iranian people "as they bravely stand up for freedom." He envisioned a future of Israel and Palestine, "two free peoples living in peace, living in prosperity, living in dignity." Mr. Obama, meanwhile, touted the imperative of responding to global climate change and mentioned as an afterthought that democracy should not be an afterthought.
Israel stands out because it understands the central challenge faced by the civilized world and by its willingness to take action. Israel is readying to stem the tide of barbarism and stand up to the threat of a nuclear Iran. In return, it asks only for moral support. "If Israel is again asked to take more risk for peace," Mr. Netanyahu said, "we must know today that you will stand with us tomorrow." He challenged the countries of the world with a clear-cut test: "Will you stand with Israel? Or will you stand with the terrorists?"
Mr. Obama said in closing that "we call on all nations to join us in building the future that our people deserve." But people only deserve what they have earned. Mr. Netanyahu called on the civilized world to "confront this peril, secure our future, and, God willing, forge an enduring peace for generations to come." Sometimes the future doesn't come without a fight.
Hopefully, Mr. Obama was taking notes.