At U.N., Israel’s Netanyahu Warns of Iranian Nuclear Threat

  • Share
  • Read Later
Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, speaks during the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U..N headquarters in New York, Oct. 1, 2013.

Updated at 3:48 p.m., Oct. 1

Benjamin Netanyahu began his career in politics talking toward the glossy black eye of the television camera. With no particular background in the give-and-take of retail politics back home in Israel, the voluble young diplomat made his mark articulating the country’s position in countless live shots, first from Washington D.C., where he was number two in the Israeli embassy in the 1980s, and then from New York, where he served as Jerusalem’s ambassador to the United Nations. It’s a body that Israelis, for assorted reasons, typically regard askance—“Um-Shmum” is how Israel’s founding Prime Minister David Ben Gurion once dismissed its judgment, using the Hebrew abbreviation. Still, with that stone-façade rostrum and the fixed cameras, the General Assembly hall is also a television studio (especially the temporary version where this year’s annual convocation was held). And Netanyahu — now in his third term as Prime Minister of Israel — looked entirely at home there Tuesday afternoon, calling out his Iranian counterpart again and again and again.

Netanyahu was nearly note-perfect in his address, which by design was the last of scores during the annual assembly of heads of state. In a 2013 session marked by the celebrated, almost giddy beginning of a diplomatic rapprochement between Israel’s most determined enemy, Iran, and its most vital ally, the United States, Netanyahu wanted the last word.

He made the most of it. Almost all of his 40-minute address was devoted to deflating the buoyant expectations surrounding Iran’s newly elected President, who has benefited immensely by the contrast he presents with his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. President Hassan Rouhani had ridden a charm offensive into New York, and was carried back to Iran on the wings of a phone call from President Obama, whose 15 minutes of diplomatic chat broke 34 years of icy silence between the countries. Netanyahu was intent on reminding everyone that the chill was not entirely born of habit or inertia.

He began by noting that in Iran’s theocratic system, elected presidents come and go; ultimate power resides with “the dictator known as the Supreme Leader,” who Rouhani in fact had served for years as head of the national security council during a time of attacks that, by many accounts, were traced to Iran, from the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish club, to the attacks that claimed the lives of 19 U.S. soliders at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.  “Are we to believe that Rouhani, national security adviser at the time, knew nothing about these attacks?” Netanyahu asked.

This year there was nothing so broad as the cartoon bomb Netanyahu hauled out in the same setting in 2012. On Tuesday, he talked tough but also softly and quickly, making haste to make the most of Iran’s rich record of doubletalk on a nuclear effort Netanyahu described as “vast and feverish.” He noted Rouhani’s record, while serving as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator to the West, of boasting that he had succeeded in using diplomacy to stall while Iran mastered technical challenges.

“By creating a calm environment,” Rouhani wrote in a memoir of his time negotiating in the mid 2000’s, “we were able to complete the work in Isfahan,” where Iran was racing to install a facility that converts yellowcake uranium into the gas fed into centrifuges for enriching into fuel — or potentially a weapon. After quoting the memoir, Netanyahu delivered a zinger that could have been too much:  “He thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too.” But he tossed it over his shoulder, and moved on to his next example, citing the apparent diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea that, after being hailed by a New York Times editorial as evidence that “diplomacy can work,” was followed a year later by the detonation of Pyonyang’s first nuclear weapon.

Tehran’s charm offensive may have stolen control of the nuclear narrative from Israel, but it may also be that Israelis are most comfortable in the role of underdog. Netanyahu’s vow, near the close of his speech, that “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone,” seemed to carry coiled within it more of a genuine threat of military action than the scores of allusions to “imminent” military strikes that first galvanized global attention on Tehran’s program two years ago.

(Iran’s UN delegation responded with a reply after Netanyahu’s speech, saying the Israeli “tried to mislead this august body about the Iranian nuclear program, but, unlike last year, without cartoon drawing.”  The riposte eschewed the Islamic Republic’s longstanding policy of referring to Israel only as “the Zionist entity.” It also nodded to the likely existence of Israel’s own nuclear arsenal, noting that “the one who is badly in need to be educated about these issues is Israel which is the only non-party to the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] in the Middle East.”)

Yet the core of Netanyahu’s pitch was a call to keep up the economic sanctions that, in crippling Iran’s economy, did so much to elect Rouhani, with his promise of ending Iran’s international isolation. “The international community has Iran on the ropes,” Netanyahu said. “If you want to knock out Iran’s nuclear weapons potential peacefully, keep it up.”

81 comments
Leslie Cardinell
Leslie Cardinell

Benjamin Netanyahi may be smooth and fluent in speech, but Israel has shown more than once an unwillingness to take responsibility for the Palestinians being displaced, and the hardships placed upon them because of this. Of course the Palestinians were also wrong in their violent reactions to the situation. At times Israel does like to play the underdog, and by doing so they can avoid accountability for their own actions. While I understand how hard it must have been for many after the war, considering the horrific atrocities they suffered, one would think it might create more compassion for those different from them. Perhaps it is the fear generated from the holocaust that makes Israel sometimes too much on the defensive. If that is the case, it is understandable.

Reza Babazadeh
Reza Babazadeh

good joke man Iran presents peace to world and this man just talks about war and nuclear weapon lets read some history...

JehudahBen-Israel
JehudahBen-Israel

"Woolf in sheep's clothing", indeed..., until and unless Iran doesn't only send its smooth spokesman new president to talk, but actually begin to dismantle its military nuclear development and the development of the means with which to deliver its bombs abroad!!

YehudaElyada
YehudaElyada

A nuclear Iran isn't a direct threat to Israel, because we don't have a border with Iran. 500 miles of crippled Arab countries (Iraq and Syria) separate us, and Iranian ground forces have zero chance of crossing this gap unharmed. The purpose of the Ayatollahs' nuclear program is to become the dominant power over the Muslim countries, reversing the 13 centuries long superiority of the Sunni regimes over the Shiites. They can't destroy Israel, (and would gain nothing if they do) but with a nuclear immunity they will surly dictate policies to Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States – even to Turkey and the central Asian Muslim land-locked states - Including oil prices, strategic disposition and sabotaging the war on terror. It seems that most of the responders here would welcome this development, but Netanyahu is 100% right when he tries to make the responsible Western leaders realize the inevitable consequences of burying their heads in the sands of wishful thinking. War will be prevented only if and when the tyrants will be made (nuclear) powerless. The 120,000 victims of the Syrian revolt will testify to the value of words not backed by a real military option.

deh_meisam
deh_meisam

@TIME @TIMEWorld It's rather time for the world to deal with Israel's nuclear arms which is threading world's peace and stability.

Pourya VH
Pourya VH

Unfortunately, the normal people in Israel have to pay for his stupidity, like the normal Iranian people did under Ahmedinejad for 8 years ;))

Joseph Johnson
Joseph Johnson

Does anyone else see the irony of Israel doing this

Mac Aguilar
Mac Aguilar

Murderer and terrorist ...let be free Palestine and its people !!

Abbas1947Q
Abbas1947Q

@TIME word of a nation at war with all it's neighbors against one which has not attacked anyone in a long time. God knows v shud believe. :(

Disqus666
Disqus666

In the last days Jerusalem will become the World's greatest attraction.  For in those days the World will be ruled from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:4)

The Lord will settle international disputes and all the nations will convert their weapons of war into implements of peace.

Then at Last all the wars will stop and all the military training will end. (Isaiah 2:5)

Shaban Malik
Shaban Malik

Netanyahu has been crying wolf far too long- no one believes him.

Sudhir Mada
Sudhir Mada

What is HE doing here !!! Get Lost !!!

Sandy Rana
Sandy Rana

I don't trust this man. He did business with Romney and still encroaches on Palestinian land.

Smeggypants
Smeggypants

@TIME @TIMEWorld Netanyahu continues to isolate himself as a absurd Zio-Prick by perpetuating the "wipe Israel off map" lies

Paul Coggins
Paul Coggins

hey Netanyawhoo? Give us some of our money back will you

sridhar.sid
sridhar.sid

Bibi, the master story teller is back pedaling his oft-repteated theme that all evil emanates from the Ayatollah's of Iran and all the saints live in Israel! Come on Mr. Prime Minister, grow up! The world wants peace, Obama has bought the genuine overtures from Rouhani, the Russians and Chinese are on side and the Middle East cannot afford sectarian killings on this scale. Iran must be brought back into the mainstream and Nuclear threats to Israel is a line that has lost credibility even amongst his own people

Ivette Justiniano Bermeo
Ivette Justiniano Bermeo

Israel have a lot of Nuclear weapons more than Iran, Get loss Benjamin ! All you know is your way or no way. YOU ARE NOT BETTER THAN ANY BODY. SCARY CAT, THAT SUFFER FROM PARANOIA HE THINKS EVERYBODY IS LOOKING FOR HIM TO KILL HIM.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@YehudaElyada Typical Zionist thinking. The analysis has to move the blame to the party being demonized. Move the UN and the world in that direction. Look mr. Yehuda, Iran without the nuclear power is a predominant force, due to its oil and its advances in technology that is the result, mainly, of its own brains and not the given technology by the putative big pocket of the American taxpayers.

  If you have studied history, mr Yehuda, Iran has to be aware of the moves of the USA and its putative daughter and not the other way around.

   You call tyrant to the head of a theocratic democracy, but be very careful, sir, in your definitions. First of all, Iran has never attacked, or invaded, or stolen other people's land. Iran has never disavowed resolutions from the UN condemning her of crimes against humanity as your country has been condemned. Iran has helped other Arab countries and doesn't have a concentration camp, or apartheid, in foreign lands.

  As to the war on terror, sir, you have conveniently forgotten that your country had two former terrorists, so called by Britain, as your Prime Ministers. 

  You see, sir, when you call someone else a tyrant you have to be very careful, since, your treatment of the Palestinian is not humane, is tyrannical. As to the term theocracy so often used to describe Iran, tell me, sir, what is the difference with your democracy?  What is the diversity of theists beliefs in your country? How many catholic and protestants churches and mosques has been built since the creation of your country?  What is the only religion or whatever you want to call it, that rules your country? 

  Finally, your arrogance, the Zionist arrogance has no limits. The last part of your post is just the pinnacle of arrogance when you say that WAR WILL BE PREVENTED, NAMELY, YOU TAKE FOR GRANTED THAT YOU AND YOUR BIG DADDY WILL START A WAR IF THE IRANI "TYRANT"( YOUR WORDS, NOT MINE) DOESN'T CHANGE ITS WAYS AND BECOME JUST A SHEEP AT YOUR MERCY. 

  Ah, mr Yehuda, I was forgetting what you wrote about Syria. There your and your theocratic philosophy is shown:  Nothing could have happened in Syria if a " REAL MILITARY OPTION" could have been achieved. Yes, mr Yehuda, there you are naked, for your Zionist thinking the UN and diplomacy don't exist. Everything can be achieved with violence, the way you have demonstrated in your dealings with the Arabs and the Palestinians. 

kamanalonokapu
kamanalonokapu

@Disqus666Bibical prophecies are never fulfilled yet people keep quoting them as if they are always accurate.

Mr.Stark
Mr.Stark

@Ivette Justiniano Bermeo Israel has had nukes for a long time and has made it clear they are not going to abuse them. Israel is our strongest ally. Iran funds terrorist organizations that are sworn to kill us. Iran has raised an entire generation on a doctrine of hating the west. To compare the two is absurd.

Mr.Stark
Mr.Stark

@miteemouse32 @TIME @TIMEWorld Israel is surrounded by nations that would love nothing less than to kill them. Israel has had nukes for a long time and they have demonstrated their responsibility in using them. Furthermore, Israel is our closest ally.

Mr.Stark
Mr.Stark

@RamonRoman The "Zionist Peril" is the modern way of talking about the "evil jew"

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

@RamonRoman  There was a Xzorkian in downtown Miami the other day, warning Earth people of the incipient Xzorkian Invasion!  People had video cameras, but I don't know if it made youtube yet. 

Reasonandpeace1
Reasonandpeace1

Iran has never attacked people's land? Really? Really? You paint Iran in THE most skewed light. That is the arrogance at play. Israel does not claim to be perfect, but it seems as though you claim Iranian-perfection? I'd be careful when structuring your argument around a slant view of history, coupled with a hypocritical example of "arrogance". Israel is imperfect. Iran is imperfect. I am imperfect. Are you perfect?

kamanalonokapu
kamanalonokapu

@Mr.StarkIt were the americans who overthrew democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh on Augst 19, 1953 so that the british and american oil companies could move in to Iran and steal Iran’s oil.  Iran absolutely should have nuclear weapons!  No telling what the US is planning to  do to Iran to get its oil.


RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@FrankBlank @RamonRoman hey, Frankie, I don't catch the analogy. I must really be that stupid. Why don't  you explain it to me to see if you are trying to teach me something.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@Mr.Stark @RamonRoman I knew it, the old defense of the victims. Nobody can touch them, not even with words. The chosen, the apple of god's eye. Oh, yeah, halleluia, they can bomb, invade, kill, take hostages, commit war crimes, kill americans, threaten to put the middle east in flames, they can do whatever they please because they own the American congress and then they come into the UN and stomp their feet because the world doesn't react to its hysterical screams of divas. Oh, yeah, halleluia, I am a racist, because I tell them that they are behaving in the same way that Nazis behaved against them. I am racist, but in their little country due that they couldn't get rid of the Arabs, they gave them second banana status. In their little country they label Iran as a theocracy, but in their country the only religion is the jewish one. Tell me, mr stark, in your heterogenean and diverse country, how many catholic, Christian  churches and mosque have been built since the creation, I am sorry, the stealing of the Palestinian land with the Israel name. And you call me racist, you bloody fanatic. That's why the people in America are wakening and seeing the true face of Zionism, the face that wants to dig America in another war because the Zionist feel threatened by the advances in technology of Iran, that is a threat to their hegemony and their pure racism that is worse than theocracy.

  You are dealing here with somebody that is not an ignorant, mr stark. I know too much of history to be stepped on by racist and pseudo victims as you and your group of fanatics.