Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s speech to the UN General Assembly Tuesday, calling it “cynical and full of hypocrisy.”
He said he was vindicated in ordering the members of Israel’s UN delegation not to be in the hall when Rouhani spoke, since their presence “would have given legitimacy to a regime that does not accept that the Holocaust happened and publicly declares its desire to wipe Israel off the map.” As Israel’s prime minister, he said, “I won’t allow the Israeli delegation to be part of a cynical public relations charade by a regime that denies that Holocaust and calls for our destruction.”
Rouhani, said Netanyahu, “spoke about human rights at a time when Iranian forces are participating in the slaughter of innocent civilians in Syria. He condemned terrorism at a time when the Iranian regime carries out terrorism in dozens of countries worldwide. He spoke of a peaceful nuclear program at a time when the IAEA has established that the [Iranian] program has military characteristics, and when it’s plain to all that one of the world’s most oil-rich nations is not investing a fortune in ballistic missiles and underground nuclear facilities in order to produce electricity.”
Netanyahu, who had earlier Tuesday urged the world not to be “fooled” by Iran’s new moderate rhetoric, said that it was no coincidence that Rouhani’s speech featured “no realistic offer to halt Iran’s nuclear program and contained no commitment to uphold the [relevant] UN Security Council resolutions.”
This, the prime minister said, precisely reflected Iran’s plan: “To talk, and buy time, in order to advance Iran’s capacity to attain nuclear weapons.” Rouhani was a past master of such tactics, said Netanyahu, recalling that the new president “has boasted about the way in which he misled the world a decade ago [as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator], when Iran was negotiating while simultaneously advancing its nuclear program.”
The international community, Netanyahu said, “must judge Iran by its actions, not its words.”
In his comments earlier in the day, in the wake of a relatively welcoming speech by US President Barack Obama for Iran’s recent moderate rhetoric on the nuclear issue, Netanyahu said, “I appreciate President Obama’s statement that ‘Iran’s conciliatory words will have to be matched by action that is transparent and verifiable,’ and I look forward to discussing this with him in Washington next week.”
“Iran thinks that soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb,” Netanyahu said. “Like North Korea before it, Iran will try to remove sanctions by offering cosmetic concessions, while preserving its ability to rapidly build a nuclear weapon at a time of its choosing.”
He stressed: “Israel would welcome a genuine diplomatic solution that truly dismantles Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons. But we will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smokescreen for Iran’s continual pursuit of nuclear weapons. And the world should not be fooled either.”
In calling for Israel’s diplomats to walk out on the Iranian president, Netanyahu said that the policies of the Iranian regime toward Israel have not changed with the new government, and noted that Rouhani has refused to recognize the Holocaust as a historical fact; his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly denied any genocide against the Jews had taken place.
“When Iran’s leaders stop denying the Holocaust of the Jewish people, stop calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and recognize Israel’s right to exist, the Israeli delegation will attend their addresses at the General Assembly,” Netanyahu said.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid called Netanyahu’s decision to have the Israeli delegation absent during Rouhani’s speech “a mistake,” and said such an action did not advance Israeli interests.
“Israel doesn’t need to be seen as a perennial rejectionist of negotiations and a state that isn’t interested in peaceful solutions,” Lapid said. “We have to let the Iranians be the ones to reject peace, and not appear as though we’re the ones who are not open to change. Leaving the Assembly hall and boycotting it isn’t relevant in modern day diplomacy and is reminiscent of the way Arab states behaved towards Israel,” Lapid said.
More than 130 world leaders are meeting this week at the annual General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. Obama, who spoke fourth, said his country was willing to engage with Iran if the Islamic Republic’s new government proves willing to make concessions on its nuclear program.
“The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama said.
The US president added that although the US prefers to resolve the Iranian issue peacefully, it is determined to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and would use any means necessary in order to do so. Resolving Iran’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Obama said, would help bring peace and stability to the region.
The UN’s live webcast can be viewed here.