Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly Thursday that Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons was the greatest danger the world faces.
He also used his address to the annual meetings of heads of state and government to blast the United Nations for its report criticizing Israel for using excessive force in its assault on the Gaza Strip eight months ago.
“The greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fundamentalism and the weapons of mass destruction,” Netanyahu said.
“The most urgent challenge facing this body today is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said, speaking as the UN Security Council held a summit on nuclear proliferation.
He also unleashed a tirade against the findings of the UN probe into the Gaza assault, and warned it could affect how Israel reacts in the future towards the Palestinians.
“In condemning Israel this body would also deal a mortal blow to peace,” Netanyahu said, calling the report a “perversion of justice.”
“Only if we have the confidence that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks for peace,” Netanyahu said, referring to Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza.
He linked Israel’s willingness to make future concessions to the Palestinians, to how other nations react to the report.
While the UN investigation found that both Israel and Palestinian groups had committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, it reserved some of its harshest language for the actions taken by Israel against the civilian population in the densely-populated Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu also addressed Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, saying again that he would accept a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel.
However, he offered no further olive branches to the Palestinians and did not refer to calls by the Palestinians and the US to freeze Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.
A lone Palestinian delegate walked out as Netanyahu defended Israel’s December-January assault on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip that Israel launched in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave.
And the Islamic militant group Hamas, the Iranian-backed group that runs the Gaza Strip, countered it was Israel wielding devastating power over its neighbors.
“Israel is the one carrying out a Holocaust against the Palestinians,” said Sami Abu Zahri, reacting to Netanyahu’s comments on Iran.
Israel regards Iran, which has repeatedly threatened to destroy the Jewish state, as its arch-enemy.
Netanyahu devoted much of his speech to Iran and its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who he did not name, instead referring to him as “this man.”
He assailed the UN saying that allowing Ahmadinejad to address the assembly on Wednesday was a “disgrace,” just days after the Iranian leader again denied that the Holocaust took place.
“A mere six decades after the Holocaust you give legitimacy to a man who denies the murder of six million Jews,” Netanyahu said, brandishing the blueprints of the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. “What a disgrace.”
Iran says it only has a peaceful civilian nuclear program to produce energy.