Netanyahu: Israel “will stand alone” against Iran if it has to

Netanyahu: Israel “will stand alone” against Iran if it has to

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations
Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations

Benjamin Netanyahu has told the United Nations that Iran’s record “flatly contradicts” its new president’s peace-seeking appearance and that Israel “will stand alone” against the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons if it has to.

In the famous New York auditorium, the Israeli prime minister said Iran had been “very careful not to cross the red line, but it is positioning itself to race across that line in the future”.

During his bullish speech, Netanyahu confirmed that Jerusalem was under no illusion that the newly-elected Hassan Rouhani was “a sheep in wolf’s clothing,” adding that his predecessor was “a wolf in wolf’s clothing”.

During the week-long international gathering, talk focused on Syria, where a plan to dismantle 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons has just been agreed.

However, in terms of publicity, the undisputed star of the show was the new Iranian president, whose charm offensive last week resulted in a personal call with US President Barack Obama on Friday.

The niceties were fooling no-one, said Netanyahu, adding: “Iran’s savage record flatly contradicts its new president’s soothing rhetoric.”

But in an interesting aside, Netanyahu also revealed that the Iranian nuclear issue had led to Israel being seen in a new light.

“The danger of a nuclear Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbours to recognise, finally recognise, that Israel is not their enemy,” he said.

“This affords us the opportunity to overcome historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships and new hopes.”

But on Iran, Netanyahu declared: “I want there to be no confusion on this point: Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.”

The prime minister used the speech to reiterate what Iran must do to satisfy Israeli concerns, including removing all enriched material and dismantling the bulk of its nuclear programme.

He described the current Iranian strategy as “smile a lot, pay lip service to peace and offer meaningless concessions”.

However, observers were keen to talk about the details of any Iranian concessions, which many see as forthcoming.

Ambassador Dennis Ross, who advised former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said: “The key is to test what clearly is an interest the Iranians have in a deal. The supreme leader allowed Rouhani to win even though he ran against the policies that created the current circumstances Iran finds itself in.

“That at least suggests they have an interest in a deal. What it doesn’t tell s is whether it’s a deal we can live with.”

In stark contrast to the issue of Iran, the Israeli PM made only fleeting reference to peace talks with the Palestinians, announced with much fanfare this summer and supported by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

But rather than harm peace prospects, commentators felt that the renewed focus on Iran might allow negotiators some room to breathe.

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