“I wish I could take comfort in the claim that this deal blocks Iran’s path to nuclear weapons,” Mr. Netanyahu said in his speech at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. “But I can’t, because it doesn’t.”
There had been some expectations that Mr. Netanyahu would use the podium at the United Nations to move past his bitter rift with the Obama administration over the Iran nuclear agreement, which eases sanctions on that country in exchange for guarantees that its nuclear work remains peaceful. But his remarks showed that he was not letting the disagreement go so easily, even though the accord has been completed.
“The vast majority of Israelis believe that this nuclear deal with Iran is a very bad deal,” Mr. Netanyahu said, appearing to risk further isolation not only with the Obama administration but other countries on the Iranian nuclear question. “And what makes matters even worse is that we see a world celebrating this bad deal, rushing to embrace and do business with a regime openly committed to our destruction.”
His speech was frequently applauded by the Israeli delegation in the General Assembly hall. Delegates from the United States, which helped lead the negotiations on the nuclear agreement, were silent.
Mr. Netanyahu opened by reminding the General Assembly how Iran had sought to expel Israel from the United Nations more than three decades ago, reinforcing his argument that Iran is one of Israel’s most dangerous adversaries.
Describing Iran as “a dark theocracy that conquers its neighbors,” Mr. Netanyahu rejected the view that Iran would use money freed by the nuclear deal’s sanctions relief for economic development.
“Unleashed and unmuzzled, Iran will go on the prowl, devouring more and more prey,” Mr. Netanyahu said in one of at least two animal analogies bound to offend the Iranians. He also questioned why many nations could now believe Iran will change from a “rapacious tiger into a kitten.”
“Here’s a general rule I learned,” he said. “When bad behavior is rewarded, it only gets worse.”
Mr. Netanyahu spent the bulk of his 40-minute address criticizing the Iran deal as well as the United Nations for what he called the organization’s “obsessively hostile” positions toward his country.
At one point he took a lengthy pause to underscore what he called the world’s “deafening silence” in response to Iranian threats to destroy Israel.
“It would be far easier to remain silent,” Mr. Netanyahu said later. “I refuse to be silent.”
After his denunciations of the Iran deal, Mr. Netanyahu said he still saw the United States as Israel’s best friend and ally.
Turning to the Palestinians, Mr. Netanyahu reiterated his readiness to return “immediately, immediately” to direct peace talks. He described President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority as a rejectionist because of what Mr. Netanyahu called Mr. Abbas’s preconditions.
“How can Israel make peace with a partner who refuses to even sit at the negotiating table?” he asked. “I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state.”
Mr. Netanyahu did not directly address Mr. Abbas’s declaration, in his own United Nations speech on Wednesday, that the Palestinians would no longer consider themselves bound by signed agreements with Israel, including the Oslo Peace Accords, if Israel continued to violate them. Israel maintains it upholds all agreements, though the Palestine Liberation Organization earlier Thursday issued a 13-page document detailing violations.
The Israeli leader exhorted his Palestinian counterpart to “stop spreading lies about Israel’s intentions on the Temple Mount,” the contested holy site in Jerusalem called the Noble Sanctuary by Muslims. Mr. Abbas on Wednesday accused Israel of trying to divide or destroy the site.
Repeating his oft-stated commitment to maintaining the status quo at the site, which prohibits non-Muslim prayer, Mr. Netanyahu said Palestinian youths who bring weapons and try to prevent Jews and Christians from visiting “are the real threat to these holy sites.”
Mr. Netanyahu drew a surprisingly strong reaction, at least online, for his boasting about Israeli innovations “on your plate” in the form of the cherry tomato, which he said had been perfected in Israel.
Palestinian advocates said that he had given them a new product to boycott. Gabriel Helou, whose Twitter profile identifies him as a lawyer specializing on the occupied Palestinian territory, wrote: “The violation of international law has also been perfected by consecutive Israeli governments.”
On Israel’s Channel 2 News, the political commentator, Amnon Abramovich, said the claim sounded ridiculous to Israelis this week, when a confluence of holidays and weather had led to a shortage of tomatoes and driven up their price.
Rick Gladstone reported from New York, and Jodi Rudoren from Jerusalem.
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(via NY Times)