Speaking to the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans on Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared that "a nuclear Iran is the greatest threat to Israel and to the world," and warned against the delegitimization of Israel.

Netanyahu said that Israel, like any living organism, must first recognize danger. Pointing out the extended reach that Iran has with its terrorism, without nuclear weapons, the prime minister pondered what the threat will be if they do acquire atomic weapons.

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The prime minister praised the efforts of American Jews in helping to rehabilitate and rebuild the city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He said that "just as the Jewish people have always rallied to help Israel, you rallied to help New Orleans get back on its feet." He continued by telling the crowd that he was proud of them.

Speaking about the delegitimization that Israel faces -
which he called "a modern day blood libel" - he discussed accusations included in the Goldstone report regarding high civilian casualties. Referencing a recent Hamas revelation that hundreds of their fighters had been killed during the Gaza War, Netanyahu said that the international community "owes Israel an apology."

Hecklers interrupted the speech several times, eventually leading to a man being escorted out of the hall by security personnel.

Discussing ways to prevent Iranian nuclear proliferation, Netanyahu reiterated many of the same sentiments he expressed on Sunday to US Vice President Joe Biden, saying that the Iranian threat requires a military threat from the US.

Meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Sunday, Netanyahu told Biden that "The only way to ensure that Iran is not armed with nuclear weapons is to create a credible threat of military action against it, unless it stops its race to obtain nuclear weapons,” on Sunday.

Click for full Jpost coverage of the GA 2010

Netanyahu's words marked a sharp escalation from his past statements on Iran, which have focused more on the need for diplomatic measures such as harsh economic sanctions, rather than military deterrence.

Sanctions have affected the regime but have not persuaded Teheran to drop its pursuit of nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said.

“The only time that Iran stopped its nuclear program was in 2003, and that was when they believed that there was a real chance of an American military strike against them,” Netanyahu told Biden, according to diplomatic sources.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday responded to Netanyahu's statements, saying that although military action against Iran remains an option, the threat of force is not the only way to stop Iran from building a nuclear bon, he said during a visit to Australia.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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