On September 27, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accused Iran of destabilizing the Middle East and working towards a nuclear weapon. “Iran's nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning,” he warned in his debut address to the U.N. General Assembly. “Israel will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
The right-wing leader, who took office in June, blasted Iran for arming and training proxy militias—including Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad—on Israel’s borders. “Iran’s great goal is crystal clear to anybody who cares to open their eyes: Iran seeks to dominate the region – and seeks to do so under a nuclear umbrella.”
Bennett also condemned Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, for his role in the 1988 massacre of an estimated 5,000 political prisoners. “His nickname is ‘the butcher of Tehran,’ because that's exactly what he did.” Raisi was one of four members of the so-called “Death Committee” that planned and organized the executions.
Iran-phobia runs rampant at UN. The Israeli regime PM’s speech was full of lies on Iran. That regime is in no position to discuss our peaceful program when it has hundreds of nuclear warheads. And his silence on Palestine illustrates a determination to deprive Palestinian rights.— Majid Takht Ravanchi (@TakhtRavanchi) September 27, 2021
Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, dismissed Bennett’s speech as “full of lies.” He said that the Israeli “regime is in no position to discuss our peaceful program when it has hundreds of nuclear warheads.”
Iran’s U.N. mission claimed that Bennett’s “threatening language” violated the U.N. charter. It also accused the prime minister of deception and slammed Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Bennett’s objective was “to cover up all expansionist and destabilizing policies and criminal practices of the Zionist regime in the region over the past seven decades,” Second Secretary Payman Ghadirkhomi said in a statement. The following are excerpts from Bennett’s speech and Iran’s response.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
While Israel strives to do good, we cannot lose sight for one moment of what’s happening in our neighborhood. Israel is, quite literally, surrounded by Hezbollah, Shiite militias, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. On our borders. These terror groups seek to dominate the Middle East and spread radical Islam across the world.
What do they all have in common? They all want to destroy my country, and they're all backed by Iran. They get their funding from Iran, they get their training from Iran, and they get their weapons from Iran. Iran’s great goal is crystal clear to anybody who cares to open their eyes: Iran seeks to dominate the region – and seeks to do so under a nuclear umbrella.
For the past three decades Iran has spread its carnage and destruction around the Middle East, country after country: Lebanon. Iraq. Syria. Yemen. And Gaza. What do all these places have in common? They are all falling apart. Their citizens – hungry and suffering. Their economies – collapsing. Like the Midas touch, Iran's regime has the "Mullah touch." Every place Iran touches – fails.
If you think Iranian terror is confined to the Israel, you're wrong. Just this year, Iran made operational a new deadly terror unit – swarms of killer UAVs armed with lethal weapons that can attack any place any time. They plan to blanket the skies of the Middle East with this lethal force.
Iran has already used these deadly UAVs called Shahed 136 to attack Saudi Arabia, US targets in Iraq and civilian ships at sea, killing a Brit and a Romanian. Iran plans to arm its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with hundreds and then thousands of these deadly drones. Experience tells us that what starts in the Middle East doesn't stop there.
In 1988, Iran set up a "death commission" that ordered the mass murder of 5,000 political activists. They were hanged from cranes. This "death commission" was made up of four people. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's new president, was one of them.
Raisi also oversaw the murder of Iranian children. His nickname is "the butcher of Tehran", because that's exactly what he did – butchered his own people. One of the witnesses of this massacre stated in her testimony that when Raisi would finish a round of murder, he'd throw a party, pocketing the money of those he just executed… and then would sit down to eat cream cakes. He celebrated the murder of his own people, by devouring cream cakes. And now Raisi is Iran's new president. This is who we're dealing with.
Over the past few years, Iran has made a major leap forward, in its nuclear R&D, in its production capacity, and in its enrichment. Iran's nuclear weapon program is at a critical point. All red lines have been crossed. Inspections – ignored. All wishful thinking proven false. Iran is violating the IAEAs safeguard agreements and getting away with it. They harass inspectors and sabotage their investigations – and they’re getting away with it.
They enrich uranium to the level of 60% which is one step short of weapons-grade material – and they’re getting away with it. Evidence which clearly proves Iran's intentions for nuclear weapons in secret sites in Toorkooz-abad, Teheran & Marivan is ignored. Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment – and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning.
There are those in the world who seem to view Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons as an inevitable reality, or they've just become tired of hearing about it. Israel doesn't have that privilege. We will not tire. We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. I want to tell you something: Iran is much weaker, much more vulnerable than it seems.
Its economy is sinking, its regime is rotten and divorced from the younger generation, its corrupt government fails to even bring water to large parts of the country. The weaker they are, the more extreme they go. If we put our heads to it, if we're serious about stopping it, if we use all our resourcefulness, we can prevail. And that's what we're going to do.
Statement from Iran’s U.N. Mission
I have taken the floor to respond to the baseless allegations made today by the Prime Minister of the Israeli regime.
Like his notorious predecessor, in his statement, he tried his best to disseminate as much disinformation and make as many unfounded allegations against my country as he could.
He played the victim and desperately tried to portray the Israeli regime as innocent.
It is not surprising at all. Deception has always been part of their agenda.
His mischievous objective is crystal clear: to cover up all expansionist and destabilizing policies and criminal practices of the Zionist regime in the region over the past seven decades.
Instead of such fabrications and accusations, he must have said that as the only occupying power in the region, it has waged over 15 wars, invaded not only all its neighbors without exception but even countries beyond the region, continued to occupy some territories, and committed all four core international crimes, not once but repeatedly and sometimes simultaneously. And this long dark record goes on and on.
He did not even refer once to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people who continue to live for well over seven decades under occupation and brutal rule of the Israeli regime.
He did not also make any reference to unlawful and inhumane blockade it has imposed to the Gaza Strip, changing it to the world’s largest open-air prison.
He also deceptively tried to portray his regime as the only democracy in the region, without mentioning that its rulers have always been engaged in terrorist activities, and some of them are well-known for being the butchers of innocent Palestinian civilians.
For example, only in its 11-day brutal and all-out war on Gaza in May 2021, Israeli forces killed 256 Palestinians, including 66 children and 40 women. This included 13 members of an extended family who were killed and buried in the rubble of their own home -- many of whom were children, one as young as six months. Thus, the best designation for the rulers of the Israeli regime is the child-killer terrorists.
He must have also explained that why it still continues confiscation and demolition of Palestinian homes, forced displacement of their inhabitants, and killing peaceful Palestinian protestors.
All policies and practices of this brutal regime have been and continue to be in flagrant violation of the basic principles of morality and humanity and rules of international law, particularly international humanitarian law.
This regime cannot deflect attention from its long-standing malign and destabilizing activities in the region by waging a widespread systematic Iranophobic campaign, like what he said regarding our peaceful nuclear program.
Possessing all types of weapons of mass destruction, as well as the most sophisticated conventional weapons, the Israeli regime continues to endanger peace and security in the region and beyond.
It also brazenly defies constant strong international calls to join international legally binding instruments banning weapons of mass destruction.
As such, it continues seriously hampering the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East – proposed by Iran in 1974.
Yet, it desperately attempts to portray Iran’s conventional weapon capabilities or its exclusively peaceful nuclear program, which is under the most robust verification of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as a challenge to regional stability.
This is but a hypocritical move to distract attention from the real danger posed to regional peace and security by this regime, particularly its nuclear-weapon arsenals and clandestine and unsafeguarded nuclear installations and activities.
Rejecting all principles governing this Organization, including this august Assembly, he used once again threatening language against my country in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter.
He should have no illusion about our ability and determination to defend our security and interests. His regime must avoid any miscalculation and adventuristic move in the region. We have demonstrated that we do not hesitate to exercise our inherent right to defend ourselves against any threat and at any time.
My delegation categorically rejects all baseless allegations made by the Israeli regime against my country, including our President.