Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Israel’s UN delegation to absent itself during Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s address before the UN General Assembly, set to take place on Tuesday afternoon New York time.
In the wake of a relatively welcoming speech earlier Tuesday 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. US President Barack 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.