Warning the United Nations General Assembly that the world must act quickly to halt Iran, Netanyahu brandished a red marker and drew his own clear red line atop a drawing of a bomb.
By the middle of next year, Netanyahu argued, Iran could have enough enriched uranium to make a weapon within “a few months, possibly a few weeks.” His red line landed just below the “final stage” on the diagram.
The gambit grabbed as much attention as his dire message: The image of Netanyahu drawing that “red line” was irresistible to the media after photo after dull photo of suited diplomats at the U.N. If cartoonish, it was unforgettable. If simplistic, it was easily grasped. Some saw it as a brilliant stroke of political stagecraft.
“Bibi's use of that chart was one of the most effective, gripping uses of a chart I've ever seen. Is the world listening??” former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted.
In a rarity for the sober world of international diplomacy, “Bibi’s bomb” went viral, as Internet users competed to get in the best quips.
But illustrating the tense and serious issue with a cartoon fell flat with others watching the speech. Some said that the act made Netanyahu himself look cartoonish, an image that didn’t spell out the threat so much as conjure up animated villains.
“It is precisely because Iran's nuclear program is such a threat to Israel that turning to cartoon bombs to explain the issue is a lousy idea,” tweeted Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent with the Atlantic.
But amid the misgivings and mockery, Netanyahu's cartoonish bomb hit one clear target.
“Anyone remember what Abbas said? Is anyone talking about his statehood bid. Nope,” tweeted BBC Middle East bureau chief Paul Danahar, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “Bibi has done what he set out to do he's set the agenda.”
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles. Paul Richter in New York and Edmund Sanders in Jerusalem contributed reporting.
Photo: Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, points to a red line he drew on a graphic while addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday in New York City. Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images