The image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the diagram of a bomb with a lighted fuse became top news.

Share story

JERUSALEM — When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up a cartoonish drawing of a bomb during his speech at the United Nations, he set off an explosion of jokes and mockery — but it also got plenty of attention.

The Bibi Bomb, as it’s being called using Netanyahu’s nickname, is the latest in a series of props used by the Israeli leader as he tries to keep the spotlight on Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

The image of Netanyahu and the diagram of a bomb with a lighted fuse was top news worldwide. Headlines in Europe referred to Netanyahu’s “bomb cartoon” and “comic strip.”

“How much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb? And how close is Iran to getting it?” Netanyahu asked in his speech Thursday to the U.N. General Assembly.

“Well, let me show you. I brought a diagram.”

He proceeded to use a marker to draw a red line across what he said was a threshold that Iran was approaching and that Israel could not tolerate: 90 percent of the way to the uranium enrichment needed to make a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu is a fan of visual aids. At the U.N. in 2009, he waved the blueprints for the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

He also uses props on domestic issues. At a news conference in Jerusalem this year, Netanyahu drew a tree to symbolize the state of Israel.

As he explained his economic vision, he added roots, fruit and leaves to represent different facets of society.

“It’s a perfect and extreme example of how politicians and leaders find themselves adapting their modes of communication in order to get the maximum amount of publicity,” said Gadi Wolfsfeld, a professor of political communication at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a college near Tel Aviv.

Within hours of Netanyahu’s speech Thursday, the stunt was fodder for jokes.

A “Bibibomb” hashtag made waves on Twitter. Memes of Netanyahu and the bomb diagram surfaced, with the weapon replaced with a photo of President Obama and Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli.

On “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart mocked Netanyahu’s drawing by saying: “Bibi, bubbe. What’s with the Wile E. Coyote nuclear bomb?” Stewart then presented his solution to counter such a weapon by holding up a drawing of an equally cartoonish giant magnet.

Barcelona’s El Periodico newspaper said in a headline that Netanyahu used “a ridiculous chart” to warn about the advance of Iran’s nuclear program. Even the mockery was welcomed by Netanyahu’s supporters. The jokes “are maybe part of the success because it was an unforgettable speech that delivered its message,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Israel’s Channel 2 TV. “Today everyone is talking about it.”

Iran said Netanyahu’s claims of an impending Iranian atomic-weapons threat were baseless theatrics and it called on Israel to disband its own unacknowledged nuclear-weapons arsenal and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty just as Iran had done 44 years ago.

Israel has never acknowledged its supply of nuclear weapons. The Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan group in Washington, D.C., has reported Israel possesses between 75 and 200 nuclear warheads.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, said Obama and Netanyahu spoke by telephone Friday and “discussed a range of security issues, and the president reaffirmed his and our country’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”

The statement also said both men “are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also spoke by phone with Netanyahu on Friday. Romney later said he can’t take a military option off the table but does not believe force will be needed.

Material from The New York Times is included in this report.