Remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu During General Debate of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Thank you, Mr. President. I feel deeply honored and privileged to stand here before you today representing the citizens of the state of Israel. We are an ancient people. We date back nearly 4,000 years to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have journeyed through time. We’ve overcome the greatest of adversities.
And we re-established our sovereign state in our ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.
Now, the Jewish people’s odyssey through time has taught us two things: Never give up hope, always remain vigilant. Hope charts the future. Vigilance protects it.
Today our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction. But I want you to know, that wasn’t always the case. Some 2,500 years ago the great Persian king Cyrus ended the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people. He issued a famous edict in which he proclaimed the right of the Jews to return to the land of Israel and rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. That’s a Persian decree. And thus began an historic friendship between the Jews and the Persians that lasted until modern times.
But in 1979 a radical regime in Tehran tried to stamp out that friendship. As it was busy crushing the Iranian people’s hope for democracy, it always led wild chants of “death of the Jews.”
Now, since that time, presidents of Iran have come and gone. Some presidents were considered moderates, other hard-liners. But they’ve all served that same unforgiving creed, that same unforgiving regime, that creed that is espoused and enforced by the real power in Iran, the dictator known as the supreme leader, first Ayatollah Khomeini and now Ayatollah Khamenei.
President Rouhani, like the presidents who came before him, is a loyal servant of the regime. He was one of only six candidates the regime permitted to run for office. See, nearly 700 other candidates were rejected.
So what made him acceptable? Well, Rouhani headed Iran’s Supreme National Security Council from 1989 through 2003. During that time Iran’s henchmen gunned down opposition leaders in a Berlin restaurant. They murdered 85 people at the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. They killed 19 American soldiers by blowing up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.
Are we to believe that Rouhani, the national security adviser of Iran at the time, knew nothing about these attacks?
Of course he did, just as 30 years ago Iran’s security chiefs knew about the bombings in Beirut that killed 241 American Marines and 58 French paratroopers.
Rouhani was also Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. He masterminded the — the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smoke screen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric.
Now I know: Rouhani doesn’t sound like Ahmadinejad. But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the eyes — the wool over the eyes of the international community.
Well, like everyone else, I wish we could believe Rouhani’s words, but we must focus on Iran’s actions. And it’s the brazen contrast, this extraordinary contradiction, between Rouhani’s words and Iran’s actions that is so startling. Rouhani stood at this very podium last week and praised Iranian democracy — Iranian democracies. But the regime that he represents executes political dissidents by the hundreds and jails them by the thousands.
Rouhani spoke of, quote, “the human tragedy in Syria.” Yet, Iran directly participates in Assad’s murder and massacre of tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Syria. And that regime is propping up a Syrian regime that just used chemical weapons against its own people.
Rouhani condemned the, quote, “violent scourge of terrorism.” Yet, in the last three years alone, Iran has ordered, planned or perpetrated terrorist attacks in 25 cities in five continents.
Rouhani denounces, quote, “attempts to change the regional balance through proxies.” Yet, Iran is actively destabilizing Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and many other Middle Eastern countries.