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(photo credit: AP)
The world's "moment of truth" regarding Iran has arrived, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday night, adding that the international community knows well the "lessons of the past" and the "consequences of appeasement and indifference."
Iran doesn't deserve a seat in the United Nations or among the family of nations, she said, telling the world leaders gathered in New York that there was "no greater challenge" today to the values of the democratic world "than that posed by the leaders of Iran."
Full text of Livni's UN address
"They deny and mock the Holocaust," she said. "They speak proudly and openly of their desire to wipe Israel off the map."
Chiding the UN, which has been dragging its feet for months on whether to clamp sanctions on Teheran for not stopping its uranium enrichment, Livni asked, "What more needs to happen for the world to take this threat seriously? What more needs to happen to end the hesitation and the excuses?"
"The international community is faced with no greater responsibility than to stand against this dark and growing danger - not for Israel's sake, but for its own; for the sake of the values it claims to embrace; for the sake of the world we all wish our children to inherit," she said.
Livni's blunt, harsh words against Iran were not universally applauded in Jerusalem, with one diplomatic official saying that Israel was making a mistake in becoming the spokesman for the anti-Iranian coalition.
"The Saudis are as afraid of Iranian getting the bomb as we are," the Israeli official said. "But when we stand there and shout from the rooftops, they don't have to - we are essentially doing their dirty work."
The official said Israel should discreetly provide the international community with the relevant intelligence information regarding Iran, but should not take the lead in attacking Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his regime.
According to assessments in Israel, in addition to the Saudis, the Egyptians, Jordanians and Gulf States are extremely concerned about Iran's nuclear march, and would like to see it stopped.
"When Israel stands up and shouts against Iran, they can all remain quiet," the official said, saying that these countries might have taken a more public stand against Iranian nuclear weapons were the issue not perceived to such a large extent as an Iranian-Israeli one.
Livni told the world body that the "recent conflict in Lebanon should put to rest any lingering doubts about Iranian motives." She said Hizbullah must never again be allowed to threaten the future of the region, adding that the world faces a critical test "to ensure the full implementation of [UN] Resolution 1701, and the immediate and safe release of the Israeli hostages."
Regarding the Palestinians, Livni reiterated Israel's commitment to a two-state solution. She quoted from a speech former prime minister Ariel Sharon gave a year ago at the UN General Assembly - widely perceived as his "victory lap" following implementation of the disengagement plan - in which he said the Palestinians were "also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own."
This vision was not just Sharon's, but the "vision of a nation," Livni said, adding that two states meant just that - two states, one for Jews, which ingathered its own exiles, and one for Palestinians, with Palestinian refugees to be settled there.
"If Palestinian leaders are unwilling to say this, the world should say it for them," she said. "This is the real and only meaning of the two-state vision. It requires each people to accept that their rights are realized through the establishment of their own homeland, not in the homeland of others."
Livni seemed to address those in the international community questioning the wisdom of demanding that the Palestinian Authority renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements, saying that these conditions "are not an obstacle to peace or to the establishment of a responsible Palestinian state. They are a crucial ingredient for their realization."
Livni said a two-state solution required the creation of a new reality where "both sides will need to commit to compromise and to believe in coexistence." Instead, she said, "the Palestinian Authority is dominated today by a terrorist organization that teaches children to hate and seeks to transform the conflict from a resolvable political dispute into an endless religious confrontation."
Livni said being moderate in the Middle East is often perceived as being weak, and "our challenge is to empower the peacemakers and dis-empower their opponents."
Livni said to do this the world must show "determination, not half-measures and vague formulations." If the world hesitates, she said, "the extremists sense opportunity. And if it appeases, they sense victory."â€¢