Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN on Tuesday, calling on the world to keep up the pressure on Iran, including sanctions, and explaining why the regime cannot be trusted. “Israel will stand alone if it needs to,” he told the General Assembly. The Times of Israel liveblogged the speech and surrounding developments.
Netanyahu to compare Iran to North Korea
Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to speak in an hour, following addresses by Ecuador (next), São Tomé and Príncipe, and Denmark. One country that already held the podium was North Korea, a rogue nuclear state which the prime minister is expected to compare to Iran.
In his speech, North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon lashed out at the US and UN Security Council for sanctions passed after a missile launch, and called for the UNSC to be stripped of the ability to pass sanctions. Iran would no doubt be delighted by that unlikely development as well.
Netanyahu isn’t the only one connecting Pyongyang to the Middle East. Earlier in the week, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in South Korea, said North Korea was closely watching the developments in Syria for clues on how the US responds to WMD use.
Netanyahu working on speech; mystery over props
The Prime Minister’s Office just sent out a picture of Netanyahu working on his speech. From what we can make out, Netanyahu will say he “feels a profound privilege to stand here representing the State of Israel.”
As in the last two years, Netanyahu is not expected to stick to words but may bring out a prop as well. Pundits have been wondering what he may utilize this time, with guesses ranging from a copy of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s book to this writer’s guess of a fully working centrifuge.
Times of Israel diplomatic correspondent Raphael Ahren, at the UN, reports that some journalists traveling with the prime minister to New York said they saw one of his staffers enter his hotel last night holding a huge piece of cardboard wrapped in a shopping bag.
The staffer refused to comment on what the cardboard will be used for, giving rise to the suspicion the PM might again present a drawing of sorts during his speech.
Netanyahu said before leaving Israel that “I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet-talk and the onslaught of smiles,” so perhaps his prop will have to do with combating smiles.
US envoy says meeting with Obama was held in ‘good atmosphere’
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro tells Raphael Ahren that the US and Israeli are “on the same page” regarding Iran. He says the meeting yesterday went an hour longer than planned and was conducted in a good atmosphere.
Netanyahu is due to speak next. The UN has a live feed on its website here:
Sara Netanyahu and PM’s aide enter UN
Netanyahu’s wife Sara and top aide Gil Sheffer have entered the UN hall, which is almost bereft of journalists as the UN session draws to a close.
— Israel Mission to UN (@IsraelinUN) October 1, 2013
Hall full for Netanyahu
Despite fears that PM would have to address an empty plenary because his is the 68th GA’s last speaker, the temporary hall — replacing the regular GA hall, which is being renovated this year — looks rather full, with many delegates playing with tablet PCs, apparently waiting for the meet’s last highlight, the speech of Netanyahu.
Speech about to start.
Netanyahu: We’ve overcome adversity
Netanyahu says, “We are an ancient people. We date back nearly 4,000 years to Abraham Isaac and Jacob. We’ve overcome the greatest of adversities.”
Netanyahu: We were friends with Persians for thousands of years
Our future is threatened by a nuclear armed Iran, Netanyahu says, and brings up Persian king Cyrus who allowed Jews back to Israel over 2,000 years. Calls it the beginning of a historic friendship.
‘Rouhani loyal servant of regime’
Says presidents have come and gone but all have served the “same unforgiving regime.” ”Rouhani is a loyal servant of the regime,” he says.
‘Rouhani knew about Iranian terror’
Netanyahu is now listing international terror attacks engineered or carried out by Iran. “Are we to believe that Rouhani, the national security adviser, knew nothing about these attacks?”
‘Wolf in sheep’s clothing’
Calls Rouhani the mastermind of a nuclear program behind “very soothing rhetoric.” The PM says the only difference between Ahmadinejad is that the previous president was a wolf in wolf’s clothing, while Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Familiar refrain from him.
“We must focus on Iran’s actions,” he adds.
Calls Rouhani hypocrite on Syria
Calls out Rouhani’s hypocrisy on criticizing Syrian violence while supporting the regime. Seems to be building case that Rouhani cannot be trusted.
Iranian spy in Tel Aviv
The PM brings up the Iranian agent arrested in Israel trying to collect info on the American embassy. Some had asked about timing of revelations on spy. Now we know why.
Can’t believe Rouhani
I wish i could believe Rouhani, the PM says, but he can’t because of the facts of Iran’s “savage” regime. Says Iran was caught red-handed building nuclear facilities twice.
Questions for Iran
The PM asks if anybody can believe Iran only wants peaceful nuclear energy if it builds secret facilities, and why they would want nuclear power if they have vast energy reserves. Asks why Iran would build ICBMs whose purpose is to deliver nuclear weapons. “You don’t build ICBS to carry TNT thousands of miles away.”
Says ICBMs can reach New York in 3 or 4 years.
Another path to bomb
Mentions Arak facility, which gives Iran “another route” to the bomb.
Here comes the red lines. Says Iran has not crossed red line he drew last year, but can race it across it at time of its choosing.
Iran’s game plan
Says sanctions are the only thing holding Iran back. Says sanctions are “bearing fruit,” and thanks US and other countries. “Regime is under intense pressure from people” to get sanctions removed. Rouhani wants to get sanctions lifted but doesn’t want to give up nuclear program.
Netanyahu lays out Iranian game plan:
1. smile a lot
2. pay lip service
3. offer meaningless confessions
4. ensure Iran retains sufficient nuclear material to race to the bomb at a time that it chooses to do so.
‘Have yellowcake and eat it too’
Netanyahu quotes from Rouhani’s 2011 book that said Iran was installing nuclear material in Isfahan “by creating a calm environment.”
“He fooled the world once, now he thinks he can fool it again. Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too,” he adds.
Iran and North Korea
The PM compares Iran to North Korea, and quotes from a NY Times editorial about Pyongyang backing off its nuclear program. “Diplomacy, it seems, does work after all,” he quotes.
A year later North Korea exploded its first nuclear device, he reminds his audience.
Says nuclear Iran is much worse than N. Korea, and would have a chokehold on energy, and make the Middle East a tinderbox. It would make nuclear terrorism a clear danger.
“It would be another 50 North Koreas.”
History lesson from Netanyahu
He addresses critics who think he is exaggerating. “Have these people learned nothing from history?” The PM says the last century taught us that regimes will abuse power. “The world may have forgotten this lesson, the Jewish people have not.”
Interestingly, he does not mention the Holocaust by name.
Four things Iran must do
The PM quotes Obama to the effect that Iran’s words must be matched by “meaningful action.”
He lists four things Iran must do:
1. cease all uranium enrichment
2. remove stockpiles of enriched uranium
3. dismantle infrastructure for nuclear breakout capability, including Qom and Natanz
4. stop all work at Arak.
Boost sanctions if…
“Iran’s nuclear weapons program must be fully and verifiably dismantled and … pressure on Iran must be continued.”
Says sanctions should be boosted if nuclear work continues.
Says no to a partial deal, with sanctions lifted only when Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons program.
Iran on the ropes
Says the international community has Iran on the ropes. “Don’t let up.”
Quotes Reagan: “Trust but verify.”
Netanyahu’s new take: “Distrust, dismantle and verify.”
‘If Israel is forced to stand alone, it will’
“Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. Yet in standing alone Israel will know that we are defending many many others.”
Palestinian peace talks
Says Israel is growing closer to its Arab neighbors. Brings up Palestinians, and says Israel wants a peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish State of Israel.
Historic compromise if…
For peace to be achieved, Palestinians must finally recognize a Jewish state and Israel’s security needs must be met. The PM says: I am prepared to make a historic compromise for genuine and enduring peace but will never compromise security of the one and only Jewish State.
The descendants of the Maccabees
Tells story of his grandfather being attacked by anti-Semites. “They beat him senseless. They left him for dead. And before he passed out covered in blood he said to himself, what a disgrace. The descendants of the Maccabees lie in the mud powerless to defend themselves. Promised himself if he lived he would take his family to Jewish homeland.”
“I stand here today as PM because my grandfather kept that promise.”
The PM quotes the biblical prophet Amos in English and Hebrew before finishing.
“The Jewish people have come home never to be uprooted again.”
Gets tepid applause.
Iran is now speaking at the UN.
The representative, speaking from his seat, claims that Iran has complied with international demands on nuclear development and says the country is not interested in nuclear weapons.
“We reject equating the peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy with nuclear weapons,” he says.
Iran says it wants nothing from nukes
Iran says there is no acceptable reason to possess nuclear weapons, says it is against Islamic law. “Nuclear weapons have no place … in my country.”
Says there’s a deep mistrust by the Iranian nation over policies and intentions by countries that don’t trust the UN. “There is a need for building trust by relying on force of logic, not logic of force.”
Iran calls to end sanctions
The Iranian delegate says Iran is ready for a diplomatic process, says the nuclear program will remain peaceful. Calls for sanctions to be removed. “Good faith … is essential for a win-win solution. Other parties need to adopt the same approach.”
Iran calls Netanyahu speech ‘inflammatory,’ calls on Israel to join NPT
“We just heard an extremely inflammatory statement by the last speaker,” an Iranian diplomat says. “I do not want to dignify such unfounded accusations with an answer other than categorically reject them all. He tried to mislead this august body, but unlike last year, without cartoon drawings.”
Says “he tried to be more royal than the king,” by laying out Iran’s nuclear program, but he must know that Iran is fully committed to its right to a nuclear program under the Nonproliferation Treaty.
“The one that badly needs to be educated is Israel, which is the only non-party to the NPT and Israel has no choice but to accede to the NPT.”
Threatens force against Israel
The Iranian delegate accuses Israel of hypocrisy, saying it has waged 10 wars over the last 65 years. He calls the IDF savage, especially in occupying. “He should seriously avoid miscalculation against Iran.” “Iran’s century-long policy of nonaggression should not be interpreted as an unwillingness to defend itself.”
‘Don’t dare think about attacking’
“Prime minister must not dare think about attacking Iran,” delegate says.
Make smiles, not war
Iran delegation says smile policy better than waging war.
Coming to grips with reality of diplomacy
Summing up the speech: Netanyahu was adamant and clear about Israel’s readiness to stop Iran on its own if necessary. That apart, he did not say anything radically new, tempering calls for pressure on Iran with the seeming realization that the diplomatic window has taken the military strike off the table. He reiterated his oft-repeated four demands of Iran, including dismantling its nuclear program and ending enrichment, and followed that up by urging the international community to boost sanctions if work continues and to not take an interim deal.
Though Netanyahu spent the first half of the speech explaining why Rouhani cannot be trusted, beyond calls to “verify,” he seemed to abandon that tack by addressing the fact that diplomacy will go forward. And it seems he’s trying to get the best deal possible for Israel.
“Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons,” he said in his most blunt moment, but it was a familiar refrain, reminding the world that Israel will act if diplomacy and all else fails.
Unlike the gimmick-laden addresses of years past, the speech seemed more toned-down, possibly an effect of his meeting with Obama the day before.
Danon: We’ll keep all action on the table
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, speaking to Fox news right after the speech, says Israel is not buying Iran’s “sweet talk.”
“[Rouhani] is a master in buying time, and he is playing with the West. Now that he’s back in Iran, the real issue is what is he going to do with the reactors, the centrifuges.”
Danon adds that Israel ”will keep all action on the table. We will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves.”
However, he says he welcomes seeing the US “involved in diplomacy.”
Iran: Threatening and mocking
The Iranian response was in turns calm, threatening and mocking of Netanyahu’s use of a drawing last year.
After saying he did not want to justify Netanyahu’s speech with an answer, the diplomat spent several minutes calling on Israel to join the NPT and threatening that Iran’s “non-aggression policy” was not absolute.
J Street: Speech missed chance to talk about peace process
Left-wing Israel lobbying group J Street calls Netanyahu’s speech a “missed opportunity” and notes the short shrift he gave to peace talks with the Palestinians.
“In a 33-minute address, he devoted less than two minutes to the vision of peace with the Palestinians. It was as if he wanted to send a message that peace was not a high priority for him and that it barely warranted his attention,” the group says in a statement.
“The prime minister has every right to state his determination to defend his country and his people against external threats — but I wish he had been more inspiring and open-hearted about the promise of a better future with the Palestinians, especially now with serious negotiations underway.”
‘Military weapons,’ not ‘program’
Raphael Ahren points out that even though Netanyahu’s four core demands remain the same, one thing was new in his speech.
Netanyahu is now making sure to talk about dismantling Iran’s “military” nuclear program, “or military weapons” program. That’s a rhetorical device meant to counter the argument that he’s denying the Iranian people the right to enrich uranium for civilian purpose — an Iranian aspiration Obama says he respects.
By repeating that he rejects the “nuclear weapons” program, Netanyahu looks less like someone who wants to deny the Iranians a legitimate request but rather like someone who is concerned about Iranian weapons.
The icing on the yellowcake
Like his quacking duck and cartoon bomb of last year, Netanyahu’s yellowcake comment has become a quick hit on the Internet.
— Sara Hussein (@sarahussein) October 1, 2013
— Elie Leshem (@leshemle) October 1, 2013
"Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too." — Bibi with the corny and therefore effective soundbite of the day
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) October 1, 2013
— Ben Hartman (@Benhartman) October 1, 2013
— Katy Shafigh (@KatyShafigh) October 1, 2013
and of course there is the fact that just yesterday Hyundai revealed it would build a Yellowcake concept car.
— Hyundai USA (@Hyundai) September 30, 2013
MK: New York should not think it is safe
MK Nissan Slomiansky [Jewish Home] says he supports Netanyahu’s address, which he says reminded the world that Israel isn’t the only one under threat of Iran’s missiles.
“Netanyahu implied that the problem is not just Israel’s. You need to remember that the Iranian missiles can make it to New York as well. There is much importance in the prime minister’s statement that if Israel remains alone it will be forced to respond alone.”
In actuality Netanyahu said Iranian missiles would be able to reach New York in three to four years.
Full text of speech released
The full text of Netanyahu’s speech was just released. Here’s a snippet, with more to come:
I feel deeply honored and privileged to stand here before you today representing the citizens of the state of Israel. We are an ancient people. We date back nearly 4,000 years to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have journeyed through time. We’ve overcome the greatest of adversities.
And we re-established our sovereign state in our ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.
Now, the Jewish people’s odyssey through time has taught us two things: Never give up hope, always remain vigilant. Hope charts the future. Vigilance protects it.
Today our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction. But I want you to know, that wasn’t always the case. Some 2,500 years ago the great Persian king Cyrus ended the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people. He issued a famous edict in which he proclaimed the right of the Jews to return to the land of Israel and rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. That’s a Persian decree. And thus began an historic friendship between the Jews and the Persians that lasted until modern times.
But in 1979 a radical regime in Tehran tried to stamp out that friendship. As it was busy crushing the Iranian people’s hope for democracy, it always led wild chants of “death of the Jews.”
Yachimovich: Iran is not an existential threat
Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) responds to Netanyahu’s speech by questioning whether Iran represents a threat to Israel at all.
“Iran does not represent an existential threat, there are many more threats and we know how to deal with them,” she tells Walla News. “We want a complete stop to Iran’s nuclearization. The question is what is the best and most stable way to do it. Is it the isolation that the Prime Minister has created against the whole world? I think not. The correct way is to join hands with our central ally the United States.”
Deputy FM: Israel hoping for diplomatic solution, but will do what needs to be done
Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin, speaking to Raphael Ahren, says Netanyahu’s “standing alone” comment means Israel is prepared to do the job the world won’t.
“That means two very simple things: one, that the State of Israel will not agree for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. It prefers that this problem will be solved through diplomatic means by international community. But if there will be no choice, and the world doesn’t do its work, then Israel will have to do the job. Secondly, the prime minister said that for the diplomacy to work, one has to continue two conditions the pressure will stay strong and that the sanctions wont be reduced, because it works.”
“Secondly, there needs to be a real military threat, aside from the diplomatic option,” he continues. “Just as it worked for Syria, so it could perhaps work for Iran. If the world doesn’t place the military option clearly enough before the Iranians, then it is possible that the State of Israel will be the one doing it. That’s was what the prime minister did today during his speech.”
He adds that solving the crisis through diplomatic means is done ”not through smiles and by easing the pressure. Rather, the only way that works is a strengthening and the of a real military threat.”
This marks the end of our liveblog. Thanks for tuning in.