At UN, Netanyahu warns Iran: 'Those who threaten Israel face mortal peril'
Jewel SAMAD (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed what he called a "bold and courageous" speech by US President Donald Trump to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday with his own address offering a stern warning to its arch-foe Iran.
"Iran vows to destroy my country every day," Netanyahu said. "As long as Iran seeks the destruction of Israel, it will not have a worse enemy than Israel."
"Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril. Israel will defend itself with the full force of our arms and the full power of our convictions," he said.
"We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces," he said, also vowing to prevent Iran from producing any weapons that could hit the Jewish state.
Netanyahu slammed the nuclear deal signed with Iran by the US and other world powers, warning that it was doomed to have the same outcome of that signed with North Korea.
"Israel's policy on Iran deal is simple," Netanyahu said. "Change it or cancel it. Fix it or nix it."
"In the last few months, we've all seen how dangerous even a few nuclear weapons can be in the hands of a small rogue regime," he said, referencing North Korea. "Now imagine the danger of hundreds of nuclear weapons in the hands of a vast Iranian-Islamist empire with the missiles to deliver them anywhere on earth."
Netanyahu vowed that Israel would fight what he called an "Iranian curtain" descending on the Middle East, pledging not to allow Tehran to establish a permanent presence in Syria.
"From the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, from Tehran to Tartus, an Iranian curtain is descending across the Middle East," Netanyahu told world leaders, echoing Winston Churchill's Cold War declaration of a communist "Iron Curtain."
Israel is concerned that Iran will use the power vacuum in war-torn Syria and strong Russian influence to establish military bases in Syria with the aim of opening up a second front against Israel in the event of a war with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.
- This year's schticks: Penguins and Farsi -
In a message directed to Iran's "dictator" Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Netanyahu vowed "the light of Israel will never be extinguished."
But Netanyahu drew a clear distinction between Iran's Islamic leadership and the people of Iran, whom he told in both English and Farsi: "We are your friends."
Netanyahu has developed a reputation for headline-grabbing addresses at the annual get-together at the UN headquarters. In 2012, he famously held a diagram showing how close Iran was to obtaining nuclear weapons, and in 2015 led a dramatic 44-second pause after noting Iranian leaders' threats to destroy Israel.
The Israeli premier kept up his schticks, this year joking that he hoped his diplomatic accomplishments would one day take him to Antarctica, where he heard "that penguins are also enthusiastic supporters of Israel."
"Now, you laugh, but penguins have no difficulty recognizing that some things are black and white, are right and wrong, and unfortunately, when it comes to UN decisions about Israel, that simple recognition is too often absent," he said, rhyming off a host of supposedly anti-Israel decisions endorsed by the world body.
But, Netanyahu said "there are signs of positive change, even at the United Nations," pointing the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' declaration that "denying Israel's right to exist is anti-Semitism, pure and simple."
Netanyahu issued special praise for Trump's "unequivocal support for Israel" and for the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, whom he thanked for "speaking the truth about Israel."
Netanyahu also used the address to rhyme off Israel's various technological contributions to global society as well as his "historic" diplomatic progress with the US, India, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
"We are in the midst of a revolution in Israel's standing in the world," Netanyahu stated.
- 'Israel committed to peace' -
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all mention of which was absent from Trump's 42-minute address, was only mentioned briefly by Netanyahu who said that "Israel is committed to achieving peace with all our Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians."
"Yesterday, President Trump and I discussed this, all of this, at great length," he said. "Together, we can seize the opportunities for peace, and together we can confront the great dangers of Iran."
Middle East peace has long been one of the US' most elusive foreign policy goals, and shortly after coming to power Trump assigned his son-in-law Jared Kushner and former business associate Jason Greenblatt with finding a way to secure the "ultimate" deal by getting the two sides back to the negotiating table.
The last round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians fell apart in 2014.
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