Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today soundly dismissed the “soothing rhetoric” of Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani, calling him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
On the heels of last week’s historic diplomacy between Iran and the U.S., Netanyahu sought to tear apart the credibility of the newly elected Iranian president and said Israel is prepared to “stand alone” to prevent a nuclear Iran.
“Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said on the last day of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.”
Immediately following Netanyahu’s speech today, the Iranian delegation on the UNGA floor exercised the right to reply. In a rare direct response lasting 10 minutes, the delegation delivered what sounded like prepared comments, describing Iran’s nuclear weapons program as “exclusively peaceful,” a claim Israel has repeatedly rejected.
“It’s not hard to find evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said. “It’s hard to find evidence that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program.”
A nuclear Iran represents an “existential threat” for Israel, Netanyahu reiterated, and said the only way to prevent a nuclear armed Iran was to completely dismantle its capability to enrich nuclear fuel, imploring the international community to keep up the pressure and continue sanctions. He said the international response should be “distrust, dismantle and verify.”
As the last speaker at this year’s UNGA, Netanyahu took the opportunity to respond nearly point by point to Rouhani’s speech last week at the UNGA.
“I wish I could be moved by Rouhani’s invitation to join his wave,” Netanyahu said. “Yet, the only waves Iran has generated in the last 30 years are waves of violence and terrorism that it has unleashed in the region and across the world.”
Despite Rouhani’s claims that Iranians voted for a new, moderate regime, Netanyahu said Rouhani is no different than his predecessors. “Presidents of Iran have come and gone,” he said, but all have “served that same unforgiving creed, that same unforgiving regime.”
“Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Netanyahu said. “A wolf who thinks he can pull the… wool over the eyes of the international community.”
“I wish I could believe Rouhani, but I don’t,” Netanyahu said, using sarcasm and historical events dating back 30 years to publicly bash Rouhani’s reputation.
“Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too,” Netanyahu bellowed, in reference to the raw uranium ore used to develop nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu’s speech was broadcast live on the Iran’s state-run English language channel, Press TV, and on Monday Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif launched a preemptive defense.
“We have seen nothing from Netanyahu but lies and actions to deceive and scare, and international public opinion will not let these lies go unanswered,” Zarif told state TV.
Early this morning, Zarif tweeted from his verified Twitter account: “Pres. Obama’s presumption that Iran is negotiating because of his illegal threats and sanctions is disrespectful of a nation, macho and wrong.”
During the brief right to reply period this afternoon, Iran’s UN delegation called Netanyahu’s speech “inflammatory,” and said “these inhuman weapons would not and would never bring security to Iran. They are the greatest threat to security to those who have and those who have not. Nuclear weapons have no place in the arsenal of Iran.”