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Netanyahu: Iran leader's U.N. speech was 'cynical,' 'full of hypocrisy'

September 25, 2013|By Batsheva Sobelman
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement from his office following President Obama's speech at the United Nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement from his… (Israeli Government Press…)

JERUSALEM -- Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israel's delegation to leave the room during this week's U.N. speech by Iran's president, he was listening and was not happy with what he heard.

"As expected, this was a cynical speech that was full of hypocrisy," Netanyahu said in a statement Wednesday.  

Netanyahu rejected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's comments describing Iran's controversial nuclear program as an effort aimed at civilian purposes.

"Any rational person understands that Iran, one of the most oil-rich nations, isn't investing capital in ballistic missiles and underground nuclear facilities in order to produce electricity," he said.

Ahead of Rouhani's speech, Netanyahu warned the world not to be fooled by half-measures providing a "smoke screen for Iran's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons."

His attitude after the speech remained unchanged. Iran's strategy is "to talk and play for time" as it advances toward a military nuclear capability, he said.

The Israeli leader has demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium, remove already enriched material from the country, shut down the enrichment facility and halt the development of plutonium.

"Only a credible military threat can allow diplomacy or other steps to halt this armament process," Netanyahu reportedly told his Cabinet this week.

Although joked about widely, many believe that Netanyahu's use of a cartoon of a bomb, representing Iran's nuclear program, during a speech last year at the United Nations gained support for Israel's position opposing the Iranian effort.

But a combination of circumstances, including recent elections in Iran, have changed the diplomatic climate, and some observers contend that Netanyahu has been slow to adapt.

Israel will have to upgrade and nuance its arguments on Iran, Raphael Ahren, a correspondent with the Times of Israel, wrote this week. Although Israel's doubts are reasonable, "Rouhani is singing a new tune and Netanyahu risks sounding like a broken record," he wrote.

Netanyahu has proved himself a responsible statesman regarding Syria but is flailing around on Iran, Barak Ravid, a writer with the newspaper Haaretz, told Israel Radio on Wednesday. 

"I expect my prime minister to identify change and adapt his messages and policies accordingly," said Ravid, who said Netanyahu's recent comments on Iran, as well as the boycotting of Rouhani's speech, were hysterical.

Netanyahu has his work cut out for him when he comes to the U.N. next week to make Israel's case, Ariel Kahana of the daily newspaper Makor Rishon said during the radio debate.

Not only have circumstances and players changed since last year, even the timing of Netanyahu's speech before the world body -- a full week after the appearances of President Obama and Rouhani -- renders him the "underdog," Kahana said.

However, he defended Netanyahu's response to Rouhani's speech: "Netanyahu has to speak the truth. Because if he doesn't, who will?" 

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Sobelman is a news assistant in the Times' Jerusalem bureau.

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