NEW YORK — While visiting a special exhibit at the United Nations on Thursday that marked 3,000 years of Jewish presence in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu castigated the world body for seeming to distance itself from the display.
“There is a long history that is being cherished by us and by friends of the Jewish people, and the friends of truth; it is being denied by those who seek to erase the history of our people, our connection to our land, and our connection to our eternal capital Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said to gathered reporters after he and his wife, Sara, toured the exhibit.
“And I saw a sign, right at the entrance there. It says, ‘This doesn’t represent the United Nations.’ I have two comments on that. The first is, of course it doesn’t represent the United Nations, it represents the truth,” he said, to laughs from some in the press pool.
“But the second point is this: This exhibit would not have been possible 10 years ago, and this exhibit won’t even be necessary 10 years from now. We are changing the world. We are changing Israel’s position in the world, and above all we are making it clear that we fight for the truth and for our rights.”
Outside the exhibit, titled “3,000 Years of History: Jews in Jerusalem,” was a sign that said its contents were not endorsed by the United Nations, and that its sponsors were solely responsible for it.
A UN events coordinator told The Times of Israel shortly after the prime minister’s remarks that it puts that sign on all exhibits on the United Nations’ grounds.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu clearly took it to be a reference to the repeated resolutions passed in recent years by UN agencies that reject a Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
In May of last year, for instance, UNESCO passed a resolution that indicated Israel has no legal or historical rights in Jerusalem, and the text repeatedly referred to the country as an “occupying power.” The passage of the measure also coincided with Israel’s Independence Day.
Netanyahu’s visit to the exhibit came shortly after he met with US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, whom he lauded for her supportive posture toward Israel since taking up her post in the Trump administration.
“Talk about the tailwind for Israel. We call her Hurricane Haley,” Netanyahu said. “She does magnificent work for the truth and for the defense of Israel here at the UN.”
But the prime minister said his meeting with her — which he described as “wonderful” — and with other Trump officials during his US visit this week, was mostly devoted to one subject: Iran.
Taking an opportunity to criticize the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, Netanyahu said he was asked in Washington about his position on other Middle East countries seeking to enrich uranium. He said he responded by asking why they would want to do that.
The officials, he said, told him “the reason that they’re asking to enrich uranium is because Iran has received the right to enrich uranium under the dubious nuclear agreement.”
“The best way to prevent the nuclearization of the Middle East is to either fully fix the Iran deal, or fully nix it,” he then said. “This is the only way to prevent the inevitable spread of nuclear technology and nuclear weapons in the Middle East.”
Throughout his trip, Netanyahu has repeatedly said he supports US President Donald Trump’s ultimatum to the US Congress to either modify the nuclear deal — by ending its sunset provisions, incorporating a ban on ballistic missile tests, and granting greater access to Iran’s military sites — or that he will abrogate it. The American legislature is now on a deadline of less than two months to reach an agreement.
In a brief media availability before their conversation, Haley also expressed concern over the situation regarding Tehran. “I think that Iran is a big focus right now,” she said. “We’re very concerned for Israel. You’re feeling more and more threatened and I think you’re going to have to end up making some decisions and I’m concerned that they won’t make the right ones.”
Haley also said they would discuss Iran’s efforts to establish a military presence in Syria and the administration’s attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.