02 октября 2015 14:57

Israel PM imposes silence on UN over Iran deal


Israel's prime minister savaged the nuclear deal with Iran, falling silent for nearly a minute at the United Nations Thursday in protest and offering to resume direct peace talks with the Palestinians, AFP reports.

Israel's prime minister savaged the nuclear deal with Iran, falling silent for nearly a minute at the United Nations Thursday in protest and offering to resume direct peace talks with the Palestinians, AFP reports.

Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the General Assembly as he seeks to repair ties with President Barack Obama, damaged by the Iran deal and the Israeli leader's rejection, while seeking re-election, of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, angering the White House.

Not long after he spoke, Palestinians shot dead two Israelis in a vehicle between two Jewish settlements near the Palestinian city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli security source said.

Netanyahu held up a book by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling it a detailed plan for the destruction of Israel, and saying that he had vowed Israel would not exist in 25 years' time.

"Seventy years after the murder of six million Jews, Iran's rulers promise to destroy my country, murder my people, and the response from this body, the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here has been absolutely nothing," he said.

"Utter silence. Deafening silence," added Netanyahu, before falling silent for 45 seconds from the rostrum.

He glared pointedly at the vast General Assembly chamber, from which not a sound could be heard, until he resumed speaking.

"Perhaps you can understand why Israel is not joining you in celebrating this deal," he said.

Obama and European governments have championed the Iran deal as the best way of preventing Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon, but Netanyahu and many in the Republican party are bitterly opposed to it.

The prime minister, who presides over the most right-wing government in Israeli history, is a fluent English speaker who has a history of taking headline-grabbing gimmicks to the United Nations.

Three years ago at the General Assembly, he made headlines by holding up a cartoon of an Iranian bomb and drawing a red line on it.

On Thursday, he reiterated that Israel will do whatever it takes to defend "our state" and prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb.

  Commits to Al-Aqsa status quo 

On the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, he said he was prepared to "immediately resume direct peace negotiations" without preconditions, although the Palestinians condition a resumption of dialog on an end to settlement building and the release of prisoners.

"Israel expects the Palestinian Authority to abide by its commitments. The Palestinians should not walk away from peace," he said.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas told the Assembly on Wednesday that his people could not be bound by past agreements in the face of Israel's refusal to release prisoners and stop settlement activity.

"President Abbas, I know it's not easy. I know it's hard. But we owe it to our peoples to try," said Netanyahu.

His remarks come more than a month before his planned November 9 meeting the White House with President Barack Obama, when the two leaders will attempt to patch up frayed relations.

Years of personal frosty relations between Netanyahu and Obama, which reached a boiling point over the Iran deal, plummeted further during Netanyahu's re-election campaign when he rejected a two-state solution, which Obama supports.

On Wednesday, the United Nations for the first time raised the Palestinian flag -- a symbolic gesture supported by the majority of UN members with the Middle East peace process in the deep freeze.

The latest US peace initiative collapsed in 2014, and the international community is now focused on the war in Syria.

Netanyahu also committed to the status quo at the sensitive Jerusalem Al-Aqsa mosque compound, one of his strongest remarks in face of the recent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians.

"Stop spreading lies about Israel's alleged intentions on the Temple Mount. Israel is fully committed to maintaining the status quo there," he said, addressing Abbas and referring the site by its Jewish name.

Abbas warned Wednesday that the violence risk turning a political conflict into a religious one, "creating an explosive situation."

"Israel will always respect the sacred shrines of all," said Netanyahu.

"Far from endangering the holy sites, it is Israel that ensures their safety," he added.

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