Netanyahu rails against UN for backing Iran deal

Netanyahu rails against UN for backing Iran deal
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE unleashed a harsh condemnation of the international nuclear deal with Iran on Thursday in an aggressive speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Netanyahu scolded governments around the world for cheering the pact, which leaders from the U.S., China and elsewhere have heralded as a momentous triumph for international diplomacy.

The Israeli leader invoked the memory of the Holocaust and said that his country would refuse to be silent as the rest of the globe prepares to forge ahead with implementing the agreement.

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“It’s not easy to oppose something that is embraced by the greatest powers in the world,” Netanyahu said in his thick baritone. “But throughout our history, the Jewish people have learned the heavy price of silence.

“I refuse to be silent,” he declared, striking the lectern.

“The days when the Jewish people remain passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over.”

Netanyahu has been critical of the deal for months, and Thursday’s U.N. speech largely stuck to themes he has expressed in the past.

He did, however, take a more accusatory tone toward the countries supporting the deal, whom he accused of turning a blind eye to Iran’s aggression toward Israel.

Amid Iran’s pledges to wipe Israel from the map, Netanyahu said, “the response from this body, the response for nearly every one of the governments represented here has been absolutely nothing.”

“Utter silence. Deafening silence,” he added.

He followed that declaration with a tense, 40-second silence as he stared down the room full of diplomats.

“If Iran’s rulers were working to destroy your countries, perhaps you’d be less enthusiastic about the deal.”

Netanyahu’s protests, though, struck the audience as largely symbolic.

Critics in Congress failed to stop the deal from going into effect this summer, laying the groundwork for Iran to begin putting restrictions on its nuclear program and for the world to lift sanctions on Iran's oil and financial sectors.

While calling for global leaders to be tough in their inspections regime, Netanyahu on Thursday pledged that Israel would “do whatever it must do to defend our state and to defend our people.”

The bulk of Netanyahu’s speech on Thursday focused on condemning the Iran deal, but he also accused the U.N. of repeatedly “bashing” his country.

A day before Netanyahu’s speech, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took to the floor of the U.N. to declare that he was no longer bound by diplomatic agreements with Israel, including the Oslo Accords that laid the groundwork for the peace process.  

“We cannot continue to be bound by these signed agreements with Israel and Israel must assume fully all its responsibility as an occupying power,” Abbas said, as the Palestinian flag was raised at the U.N. for the first time. The Palestinian Authority has non-member observer status at the U.N. 

In response, Netanyahu on Thursday accused the Palestinian leader of walking away from any chance of Middle East peace.

“I am prepared to immediately resume direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without any preconditions whatsoever,” Netanyahu said.

“Unfortunately, President Abbas said yesterday that he is not prepared to do this. I hope he changes his mind.”