Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations General Assembly Monday.
Before leaving for New York, Netanyahu had told reporters he would “refute all of the lies being directed at us,” referencing a Friday address by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which he accused Israel of carrying out genocide during its military campaign in Gaza. Officials close to Netanyahu promised a “razor sharp” response to Abbas’s remarks.
Here’s how his appearance unfolded.
Preamble to liveblog: Netanyahu 11th speaker of day
Welcome to the Times of Israel’s United Nations liveblog. Netanyahu is expected to be the 11th speaker on Monday, which would put his address at around 7:30 p.m. Israel time (12:30 p.m. for those in New York). We will be liveblogging the runup to the speech, Netanyahu’s address as it happens and reactions to the appearance.
Liberman: Abbas has no intention of making peace
Before Netanyahu speaks, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman addresses the media in New York, lashing out at Abbas, as he has done several times since the Palestinian leader’s Friday speech.
“It really was a message of hatred and incitement. It’s clear that he has no intention to make peace with Israel and it’s not the first time,” he says, adding that he does not think Abbas has the legitimacy to speak for the Palestinian people.
FM: Abbas never forgets a slight
Liberman, never one to mince words, also levels a personal attack at Abbas, who, he says, “remembers every slight inflicted upon him since he was born. It is not the way to build credibility with your people.”
“It’s clear that Abu Mazen lost his connection to reality. He really doesn’t represent anyone,” Liberman says in Hebrew, using Abbas’s nom de guerre.
He also condemns the “escalation in his rhetoric,” and says it’s clear that he has no support and has lost his way.
Liberman warns of ‘crazy nuclear arms race’
On Iran, Liberman says if the country achieves nuclear capabilities, the result will be “a crazy nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Of course we are keeping all options on the table.”
He also lists all the actions Israel has taken toward peace, including the Gaza pullout.
“We have suffered more than 18,000 shells and missiles on Israel since the [Gaza] disengagement,” he says.
— Amir Tibon (@amirtibon) September 29, 2014
Liberman insists on Hebrew at press meet
Liberman also displayed a bit of his trademark brusque charm while speaking at the UN. Asked by a Western journalist to speak in English at the press conference, Liberman says: “We have also voters in Israel, so… I’m sorry” and answers in Hebrew.
— Raphael Ahren
5 more UN speakers before Israel’s turn
The Vatican’s Cardinal Pietro Parolin is currently up at the UN, and he will be followed by representatives of Syria, Laos, Bahrain, Liechtenstein and then Israel. For those looking to follow along, the UN has a livefeed of the speeches on its YouTube channel here:
Walid Moallem speaking for Syria
Syrian President Bashar Assad is staying safely at one of his luxurious Damascene residences, meaning Foreign Minister Walid Moallem is speaking instead.
Moallem: No borders for terror
Moallem warns of the dangers of terrorism, which he says knows no borders, alluding to the fact that the Islamic State and other extremist groups don’t only have their eyes on Syria.
“I ask, hasn’t the time come for all of us to stand as one in the face of terrorist takfiri menace worldwide,” he says.
A takfiri is a Muslim who declares other Muslims apostates.
Moallem urges respect for Syria’s sovereignty
Moallem says his country stands with any effort aimed at combating terrorists, but says such an effort must “respect” national sovereignty. He thanks countries that refused to break Syrian sovereignty, a reference to US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State.
Syria calls all rebels “terrorists” whether they are moderate or Islamist extremists, and Moallem is doing his best to paint Assad’s regime, which has seen 190,000 people killed in a bloody civil war of three and a half years, as a peace-seeking administration.
Possible Netanyahu prop spotted
Netanyahu’s office tweets out a picture of the prime minister getting ready for his address.
Notable is what is in Netanyahu’s hand, which is either a placard with large text because he forgot his glasses, or another one of his trademark props.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) September 29, 2014
In 2009, Netanyahu brought out plans from the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp to make a point, and in 2012 he famously used a cartoon drawing of a bomb to give the world a lesson on his “red lines” vis-a-vis Iran’s nuclear program.
Though he eschewed the gimmicks last year, speculation has still been rampant that Netanyahu will seek the use of visual aids to make a point.
— Elie Leshem (@leshemle) September 29, 2014
Palestinians central issue for Syrians, Moallem says
Despite the civil war, Islamic State and a host of other problems, Moallem says “the Palestinian issue is the central issue of the Syrian people.”
He calls for an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
— Stuart Winer
Laos calls for peaceful end to conflict
Laos’s deputy prime minister is now speaking, calling for a peaceful resolution to “the conflict in Palestine.” Thongloun Sisoulith says sanctions don’t help but only hurt countries, likely referring to Gaza and mentioning the embargo on Cuba by name.
The landlocked southeast Asian country, some 6,800 kilometers from Israel, isn’t the only non-neighbor to express concern over the conflict here.
The leader of the tiny island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, for instance, used part of her speech Friday to call for an end to Israel’s “illegal embargo” of the Gaza Strip.
“Trinidad and Tobago remains committed to the negotiation of the two-state solution as the preferred means to bring lasting peace to the region so that the people of Palestine, so long denied their rightful place in the international community, can live in larger freedom with their Israeli brothers and sisters,” Kamla Persad-Bissessar said.
Sheldon Adelson shows up to GA speeches
Channel 2 political reporter Amit Segal notes that billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is watching the UN speeches from the balcony (asking jokingly why the address by Liechtenstein is so interesting to him).
Adelson, a big political spender, is considered one of Netanyahu’s staunchest (and most deep-pocketed) supporters, a stance many say is reflected in the free daily Israel Hayom, which Adelson owns.
Bahrain speaks on global warming
With Laos finished, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa steps up to the plate, kicking off his speech with a slam dunk on the dangers of global warning. The issue is one close to the island nation, whose goal is to not be drowned by melting ice caps.
Bahrain FM praises Abbas
Khalifa saves mention of Israel for his penultimate point — after issues in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere — praising Abbas’s UN speech (in which he called the Gaza war a genocide) and blasting Israel for “targeting the Palestinian people by confiscating their land, building or expanding settlements therein and imposing blockades on them.”
“These violations found their ugliest expression in the latest criminal aggression against the Gaza Strip which resulted in tremendous damage and caused the death of more than 2,000 martyrs, the displacement of a great number of Palestinians and the destruction of infrastructure,” he says.
His final point relates to Iran’s occupation of three islands that Bahrain says belong to the United Arab Emirates.
Liberman complains to new UNHCR chief
While the muckety-mucks are addressing the General Assembly, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is meeting with Jordanian Prince Zeid Al-Hussein, the United Nations’ new High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York.
Liberman, who had a tense relationship with Hussein’s predecessor Navi Pillay, complains about the Human Rights Council, saying it was a “political” body dominated by countries hostile to Israel.
— Raphael Ahren
Liechtenstein Foreign Minister Aurelia Frick gets up to the podium now, the last speech before Netanyahu goes up.
Frick devotes the start of her speech to worries over the conflict in Ukraine, calling for use of the ICC to prosecute war crimes.
Liechtenstein against anti-Semitism
Frick speaks out against persecution of minorities, specifically mentioning anti-Semitism and calling for UN to address it.
“This Assembly should respond by uniting in a call against the persecution of any religious minority, carried out anywhere in the world,” she says.
Frick calls for Palestinians to join ICC
Frick weighs in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Palestinians in groups of people she feels should be able to get “their day in court” in the ICC — something Israel has lobbied against.
“The recent conflict in Gaza was carried out at the expense of civilians by both conflict parties,” she also says, in Lichtenstein’s famously neutral language.
Kyrgyzstan speaks instead of Israel
Despite being scheduled to give his speech now, the UN announces that Kyrgyzstan will instead speak now instead of Netanyahu.
PM putting ‘final touches’ on address
As Kyrgyzstan’s foreign minister Erlan Abdyldayev holds forth on central Asia’s burning issues, the Prime Minister’s Office tweets out that Netanyahu is putting the “final touches” on his UN speech.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) September 29, 2014
Schedule switch inspires sarcasm
The last-minute switch from Israel to Kyrgyzstan, which, let’s be honest, wasn’t exactly at the top of the UNGA marquis today, inspires some sarcasm by twitterati.
The new Israeli prime minister is apparently a gentleman from Central Asia with a great love for Kyrgyzstan.
— DavidKenner (@DavidKenner) September 29, 2014
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) September 29, 2014
Picture of Netanyahu revising
In case you were wondering what Netanyahu making last-minute revisions looks like, here you go.
Can we get this guy a desk?
— Embassy of Israel (@IsraelinUSA) September 29, 2014
Netanyahu gets chance to speak
With Kyrgyzstan now finished, it is finally actually Netanyahu’s turn at the podium. The only thing we know for sure is that his speech will include a reference to former Yankees great Derek Jeter.
‘I’ve come to expose brazen lies’
“I’ve come here to speak about the dangers we face and the opportunities we see. I’ve come here to expose the brazen lies spoken from this podium against my country and the brave soldiers who defend it,” Netanyahu begins.
Militant Islam like cancer — Netanyahu
Netanyahu speaks out against militant Islam — “not militants, and not Islam, but militant Islam.” It is spreading across the world, he says, adding that its ultimate goal is to dominate the world.
That threat might seem exaggerated, he says, saying it starts out small like a cancer, but left unchecked, like cancer, it grows.
“We must remove this cancer before it’s too late,” he says.
Hamas is ISIS, Netanyahu repeats
Netanyahu repeats his line that Isis and Hamas are part of the poisonous tree and quotes Islamic State head al-Baghdadi saying a day will come when the world will see Islam as a master who will destroy the idol of democracy.
Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, says a similar thing, Netanyahu says: “Our nation will sit on the throne of the world.” he quotes. Says Hamas wants to destroy Israel, but the group also wants a caliphate.
“Hamas shares the visions of militant Islamists.”
“Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas,” he repeats, throwing in Boko Haram, al-Nusra and a motley crew of other terror groups.
Nazis and terrorists share creed, Netanyahu says
Netanyahu brings up the Holocaust, comparing Nazis to terrorists.
“The Nazis believed in a master race, militant Islamists believe in a master faith; they just disagree on who will be the master of the master faith.”
“The question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its violent ambitions,” he adds.
Iran practices terror, Jeter played for Yanks
Turning to Iran, Netanyahu accuses Rouhani of shedding crocodile tears over terrorists.
“You can ask him to call off Iran’s global terror campaign,” he says.
“To say that Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is to say Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees,” he says in a topical twist.
He adds that Tehran’s stance is “one of world’s greatest displays of double talks.”
Iran hasn’t moderated — Netanyahu
Rebuffing claims that Iran has become more moderate, Netanyahu quotes from a treatise written by foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif. He says the moderation campaign is only for the sake of removing sanctions.
Iran is trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement that will leave the sanctions, but leave it with thousands of centrifuges,” he says.
“The world’s most dangerous regime, in the world’s most dangerous regime, will obtain the world’s most dangerous weapons.”
Don’t let Iran get bomb
Netanyahu says battling militants in pickup trucks is easy compared to fighting terrorists with nuclear weapons.
“Would you let ISIS enrich uranium … develop ICBMs? of course you wouldn’t. Then you musn’t let Iran do those things either,” he says.
Once they have a bomb, their smile will vanish, he says, warning that they will unleash their weapons on the world.
He calls to dismantle nuclear weapons capabilities, he says, earning tepid applause.
Netanyahu links IS to Iran
“To disarm ISIS but leave Iran with the bomb would be to win the battle but lose the war,” he says, repeating the point twice for emphasis.
Israel didn’t target civilians
Turning to Israel’s 50-day war in Gaza, he asks how the world would respond if rockets were being fired on their towns.
He says Israel also had to fight Hamas propaganda, saying Israel was forced to kill civilians that were put in harm’s way by a cynical Hamas.
He adds that Israel did everything to minimize civilian casualties.
He lists the various methods Israel took to keep civilians safe, saying no other country has ever taken such extensive steps.
PM shows picture of rocket launcher next to kids playing
Lashing out at Abbas’s claim of genocide, he says Israel’s army is the most moral in the world.
Netanyahu pulls out his prop of the year, a picture of a rocket launcher next to children playing, taken by a French news photographer.
“Ladies and gentleman, this is a war crime, and I say to president Abbas these are the crimes, the war crimes committed by your Hamas partners in the national unity government you created and which you are responsible for … and which you should have spoken out against in your speech last week.”
UNHRC a ‘terrorist rights council’
PM says UN’s human rights council is sending a message to terrorists that they can use civilians as a human shield by giving Hamas a pass while criticizing Israel.
Netanyahu calls the Human Rights Council a terrorist rights council, and says the UN’s human rights council is an oxymoron, and says it’s connected to anti-Semitism.
Listing a number of anti-Semitic incidents, he notes that they are not the result of Israel’s policies, and speaks of fears that it is now entering polite society.
“Today the Jewish state is demonized with the apartheid libel and charges of genocide.”
“In what moral universe does genocide include warning the civilians to get out of harm’s way,” he asks, adding a number of Israel’s other efforts during the Gaza conflict.
Without using Abbas’s name, he mentions the Palestinian leader’s writings denying the Holocaust.
“Israel will continue to stand proud and unbowed,” he says to applause.
‘I am ready to make a historic compromise’
“Together we can strengthen regional security,” Netanyahu says on peace with the Arab world, giving a more upbeat turn.
He adds that it can also help Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“Peace can be realized with the active involvement of Arab countries,” he says.
“I am ready to make a historic compromise,” he adds, but says Israel is not an occupier. “I want peace because I want it to create a better future for my people, but I want a genuine peace,” he says.
However, he adds, rock solid security arrangements are needed, citing Gaza and southern Lebanon as reasons for Israel to be jittery about territorial concessions.
Netanyahu: ‘I will protect Israel, Jewish people’
“The distance between the 1967 lines and the suburbs of Tel Aviv is like the distance between the UN building and Times Square,” he says, trying to localize the conflict to Turtle Bay.
“Despite everything that has happened, some still don’t take Israel security concerns seriously, but I do and I always will, because as prime minister of Israel I am entrusted with the awesome responsibility of ensuring the survival of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”
“I will not waver.”
Netanyahu quotes Isaiah: Speak truth to power
“There is a new Middle East,” Netanyahu.
Israel is willing to work with regional and international actors to confront new threats.
Calls role of Arab states in peace with Palestinians “indispensable.”
“Truth must always be spoken, especially here, in the United Nations,” he says, before quoting Isaiah’s line to speak truth to power.
Switching to Hebrew, he quotes a line that “for the sake of Zion I will not be silent, for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still…”
“Ladies and gentleman, let us light a torch of truth and justice to light our future,” he says, concluding his speech to extended applause.
‘That was good’ — or was it?
As Netanyahu’s speech ends, an off-camera voice seems to say in English, “That was good,” so at least one person liked his speech. Now the rest of the pundits will weigh in.
Herzog: Netanyahu speech unimpressive
Opposition chief Isaac Herzog is one person not impressed by the speech, saying Netanyahu failed to offer anything new.
“If Iran is really the biggest issue, then he needs to be honest with the Israeli people that the world demands something in return” for its help in the matter, he says from Channel 2’s studio.
Flash reactions to Netanyahu’s speech
Some more quick-hit thoughts from the speech:
Netanyahu’s call for the updating of the Arab Peace Initiative to reflect new regional realities was probably the most concrete proposal to come out of the address.
Netanyahu was harsh on Abbas, though he seemed to tread carefully, mentioning the Palestinian leader’s dissertation questioning the Holocaust but not using his name.
The prime minister repeated old lines about being willing to make a historic deal, but offered little of substance, signaling a possible distancing from peace talks.
Given that, and Abbas’s own harsh speech, his meeting with Barack Obama Wednesday should be interesting.
Many of Netanyahu’s remarks were recycled talking points from the summer war and its aftermath, including regarding the Islamic State and Hamas’s war crimes.
And then there’s this:
Netanyahu's done. Militant Islam=Nazis=Iran=Derek Jeter, obligatory graphic, no mention of Palestinian state. לשנה הבאה בניו יורק
— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) September 29, 2014
Likud MKs praise PM’s address
The prime minister’s UN speech draws praise from Likud MKs Danny Danon and Ze’ev Elkin.
Danon says Netanyahu “did well in that he stressed the threat to the nations from Islamic terror, which has been in our backyard for 66 years.
“This year there was no need for any kind of diagrams, the beheading videos from the Islamic State producers demonstrated the dangers better than anything else. The world is in a bad movie and is burying its head in the sand in the hope that the danger will pass. We need to know that we can only rely on ourselves.”
Elkin hailed what he says is “an appropriate response to the lies and slanders” of PA President Abbas, but calls on the government “to move from words to actions.”
Abbas must know that his tactics in the international arena “will exact a painful price that he and the PA will have to pay.
“It’s inconceivable that Abu Mazen [Abbas], who is dependent on us at every stage and for nearly everything, will continue to enjoy our help and at the same time conduct a diplomatic and advocacy war against us,” Elkin says.
End of liveblog
After the prime minister’s lengthy address, which touched on everything from the Islamic State and the Iranian nuclear program to the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the West and peace with the Palestinians, we will be signing off of our liveblog here at The Times of Israel.
Thank you for tuning in, and wishing you a good night from Jerusalem.