NEW YORK – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took to the dais at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to re-declare that Israel would never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, he said, if Israel has to stand alone against Iran, it will, but with the knowledge that in defending Israel, “we will be defending many, many others.”
When Netanyahu appeared before the assembled diplomats, supporters and detractors in 2012, he brought the now-infamous cartoon bomb and drew a physical red line, telling the world to keep a close eye on Iran’s nuclear progress. This time, there were no props, just hard words against Iran in an attempt to counter the months-long “charm offensive” staged by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and to convince the world to see it his way: Iran’s nuclear program is still a threat – to Israel and to the entire world.
With strong rhetoric and an aggressive tone, Netanyahu lit into Iran for what he characterized as a deception tactic to lull the international community into a false sense of security.
“Now I know: Rouhani doesn’t sound like Ahmadinejad,” he said. “But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community.”
Netanyahu called Rouhani’s speech on Friday a ruse and a ploy, and he scolded the member states during his speech on Friday for falling for Rouhani’s words, claiming that “in pursuit of its nuclear program, Iran has never chosen deceit and secrecy.”
“Does anyone believe him?” Netanyahu asked the assembly, with incredulity in his voice, after laying out Rouhani’s resumé and former positions in the Iranian government.
“I wish I could be moved by Rouhani’s invitation to join his wave – a world against violence and extremism… I wish I could believe Rouhani; but I don’t, because facts are stubborn things, and the facts are that Iran’s savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani’s soothing rhetoric.”
He urged the UN to keep the pressure on Iran, saying the economic sanctions were working, and “thanks to the efforts of many countries and under the leadership of the United States, tough sanctions have taken a big bite off the Iranian economy.
“I’ve argued for many years that the only way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to combine tough sanctions with a credible military threat,” Netanyahu said.
“And today, that policy is bearing fruit. The regime is under intense pressure from the Iranian people to get the sanctions removed. That’s why Rouhani got elected. That’s why he launched his charm offensive. He wants the sanctions lifted, but he doesn’t want to give up the nuclear-weapons program.”
He declared that “Rouhani wants to have his yellow cake and eat it too,” referring to partially refined uranium.
He went on to compare Iran’s situation to that of North Korea, which exploded a nuclear device a year after agreeing to accede to the Non- Proliferation Treaty.
“A nuclear-armed Iran in the Middle East wouldn’t be another North Korea. It would be another 50 North Koreas,” he said, explaining that such a state could put a stranglehold on the world’s energy reserve and inflame tensions in “the most unstable part of the planet.”
The Israeli leader touched on the Palestinian issue toward the end of his speech, saying Israel “welcomes engagement with the wider Arab world” and that it “continue[s] to seek compromise with our Palestinian neighbors,” without compromising the integrity of Israel.
Iran’s delegation did not take kindly to Israel’s accusations, and in its reply said it “wish[es] to thank sincerely all countries who continue to support Iran’s sovereign right to peaceful nuclear science and technology.”
“Iran has an inalienable right to peaceful nuclear energy,” said Muhammad Khazaee, permanent representative of Iran.
Khazaee echoed his president’s words, saying, “There is no single acceptable reason to possess a nuclear weapon, but agreeable reasons to abolish them all. Nuclear weapons have no place in the defense structuring of my country.”
Without referring to Netanyahu by name, he poked fun at the Israeli prime minister, saying he was “trying to be more royal than than the king” and attempting to mislead the UN about the Iranian nuclear program.
“But unlike last year, he did not bring the cartoon drawings,” he added.
“Unlike Israel, Iran did not and would not attack any country,” Khazaee said. “It is not because of its inability, but due to a principled policy in rejecting the use of force. Iranians are proud of being the best at exercising their inherent right to self-defense under article 51 of the UN charter. Therefore, the prime minister better not even think about attacking Iran, let alone plan for it.”
“We have been accused of having a ‘smile attack,’” Khazaee concluded. “As our foreign minister said, a smile attack is better than a military attack. Indeed, a smile policy is much better than a lying policy.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Netanyahu met later on Tuesday to discuss regional issues following the premier's address to the UN General Assembly.