by Mati Tuchfeld, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Addressing U.N. General Assembly, prime minister urges tougher action against Iran, says European leaders must join U.S. efforts to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions
PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the U.N. Assembly, Thursday
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday described what he said was a secret atomic warehouse in Iran and accused Europe of appeasing Iran.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu showed an aerial photograph of the Iranian capital marked with a red arrow and pointed to what he said was a previously secret warehouse holding nuclear-related material.
In May, Netanyahu revealed that Israel had obtained incriminating evidence from an Iranian archive, proving Tehran has lied to world powers during and after the signing of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
The evidence – over 100,000 pages and 183 CDs – was obtained in a secret operation by the Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency.
Addressing world leaders on Thursday, Netanyahu accused Iran of hiding a clandestine nuclear warehouse in a rug-cleaning plant in Tehran, arguing that this showed Iran still sought to obtain nuclear weapons despite ostensibly agreeing to relinquish this aspiration.
Netanyahu said the site in question contained some 33 pounds of radioactive material that has since been moved, and called on the U.N. atomic agency to inspect the location immediately.
Criticizing the IAEA he said, "In May, I presented a short summary of what we obtained to the international media. I provided hard evidence of Iran's plans to build nuclear weapons and its plans to deceive the international community. Israel shared this information and even more damning evidence that we found with members of the P5+1, and with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"Months have passed. The IAEA has still not taken any action. It has not posed a single question to Iran. It has not demanded to inspect a single new site discovered in that secret archive.
"So, given this inaction, I decided to reveal today something else that we have shared with the IAEA and with a few intelligence agencies. Today, I am disclosing for the first time that Iran has another secret facility in Tehran – a secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran's secret nuclear weapons program."
Holding up the image of the facility, he said, "Here it is. You see, like the atomic archive, it's another innocent looking compound."
Netanyahu noted that Iran was aware that the site had been discovered and was working to clean it out, to further deceive the IAEA.
"You have to ask yourself a question. Why did Iran keep a secret atomic archive and a secret atomic warehouse? … The answer to the question is simple. The reason Iran didn't destroy its atomic archive and its atomic warehouse is because it hasn't abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons. In fact, it planned to use both of these sites in a few years when the time would be right to break out to the atom bomb.
"But, ladies and gentlemen, rest assured, that won't happen. It won't happen because what Iran hides, Israel will find," he asserted.
Netanyahu urged IAEA head Yukiya Amano to "do the right thing. Go inspect this atomic warehouse, immediately, before the Iranians finish clearing it out."
Taking aim at the ayatollahs' regime, Netanyahu said, "I also have a message today for the tyrants of Tehran: Israel knows what you're doing, and Israel knows where you're doing it. Israel will never let a regime that calls for our destruction to develop nuclear weapons. Not now, not in 10 years, not ever.
"Israel will do whatever it must do to defend itself against Iran's aggression. We will continue to act against you in Syria. We will act against you in Lebanon. We will act against you in Iraq. We will act against you whenever and wherever we must act to defend our state and defend our people."
Warning that Iran's hegemony aspirations would never be confined to the Middle East, Netanyahu criticized the fact that "while the United States is confronting Iran with new sanctions, Europe and others are appeasing Iran by trying to help it bypass those sanctions.
"I'm a historian's son, I have to ask. I ask not merely as an historian's son, I ask it as a Jew, as a citizen of the world, as someone who's lived through the 20th century: Have these European leaders learned nothing from history? Will they ever wake up?
Well, we in Israel, we don't need a wakeup call, because Iran threatens us every day. Because despite the best of hope, and there were many hopes around the nuclear deal, this deal did not push war further away. It brought war ever closer to our borders," the prime minister said.
He lambasted Iran for its involvement in the Syrian civil war and its attempt to establish permanent military bases there from which to attack Israel, as well as for its funding and arming of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group.
He then presented evidence that the latter was using Iranian funding to build weapon production facilities in the heart of Lebanese capital, including near the Beirut's international airport.
Seattleite images of Iranian-funded Hezbollah facilities in Beirut IDF Spokesman's Unit
"I also have a message for Hezbollah today: Israel knows, Israel also knows what you're doing. Israel knows where you're doing it. And Israel will not let you get away with it," Netanyahu declared.
He lauded U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 deal and impose new sanctions on the Islamic republic, saying, "Israel is deeply grateful to President Trump for his bold decision to withdraw from the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran. Many, many of our Arab neighbors are also grateful. And everyone who cares about the peace and security of the world should also be grateful."
Netanyahu urged European leaders to do the same.
"Instead of coddling Iran's dictators, join the U.S. and Israel and most of the Arab world in supporting new sanctions against a regime that endangers all of us and all of the world," he said.
The prime minister also hailed Arab states that have been pursuing stronger ties with Israel following the nuclear deal, saying the Iranian threat has, in fact, "brought Israel and many Arab states closer together than ever before, closer together than ever before, in an intimacy and friendship that I've not seen in my lifetime and would have been unimaginable a few years ago.
"Israel deeply values these new friendships, and I hope the day will soon arrive when Israel will be able to expand peace, a formal peace, beyond Egypt and Jordan to other Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians. I look forward to working with President Trump and his peace team to achieve that goal."
After thanking Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley "for the unwavering support they have provided Israel at the United Nations," the prime minister lauded the U.S. for deciding to halt its funding of UNRWA, the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees.
UNRWA claims it serves 5 million Palestinian refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but Washington and Jerusalem dispute this figure, saying that UNRWA policies only perpetuate the Palestinian notion of refugeehood thus undermining the chances for peace.
Criticizing the U.N. for its clear anti-Israel bias, Netanyahu said, "Day after day, the Trump administration has stood up to what has long been a specialty here at the UN – slandering Israel. Even though the shameful resolution comparing Zionism to racism was repealed 25 years ago, I'm sorry to say that its foul stench still clings to these halls.
"Here at the U.N. Israel is absurdly accused of racism … apartheid … and ethnic cleansing. Ladies and gentlemen, you know what this is? It's the same old antisemitism with a brand new face. That's all it is," he said, adding, "What is unique about the Jewish people is not that we have a nation-state. What is unique is that many still oppose us having a nation state."
'This is not how you achieve peace'
Turning his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu blasted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who spoke shortly before him, for rejecting all efforts to promote the regional peace process.
"Moments ago, President Abbas outrageously said that Israel's Nation-State Law proves that Israel is a racist, apartheid state.
"President Abbas, you should know better," Netanyahu exclaimed. "You wrote a dissertation denying the Holocaust. Your Palestinian Authority imposes death sentences on Palestinians for selling land to Jews. Did you hear that? If a Jew buys an apartment, a piece of land anywhere in the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian who sold him that land is executed. That's what the law says.
"President Abbas, you proudly pay Palestinian terrorists who murder Jews. In fact, the more they slay, the more you pay. That's in their law too. And you condemn Israel's morality? You call Israel racist?
"This is not the way to peace. This is not the way to achieve the peace we all want and need and to which Israel remains committed. This body should not be applauding the head of a regime that pays terrorists. The U.N. should condemn such a despicable policy."
Lauding Israel's achievements, Netanyahu said, "The nation-state of Israel is the only place where the Jewish people proudly exercise our collective right of self-determination. That right was recognized nearly a century ago by the League of Nations and over 70 years ago by the United Nations when it voted to support the establishment of a Jewish state. That's what it said, that resolution – a Jewish state.
"At the same time, Israel is a vibrant democracy, where all its citizens –Jews and non-Jews alike – enjoy equal individual rights, and these rights are guaranteed by law.
"In the Middle East, that's not obvious, now that's an understatement, In the Middle East, where women are often treated as property, minorities are persecuted, gays are hanged, Israel stands out as a shining example of freedom and progress. I could not be more proud to represent my country, Israel," he said.
Mati Tuchfeld, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Follow Middle East and Terrorism on Twitter