Israeli leader focuses on Iran’s ‘aggression’ while Palestinian leader accuses Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’

“It’s not a question of whether Iran will get the bomb. The question is at what stage can we stop Iran from getting the bomb,” Netanyahu said.

By Michael Martinez, CNN

 

(CNN) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday for nonmember observer status, one step up from the authority’s current position as a permanent observer.

Abbas was later followed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who criticized Abbas’ speech but focused more on excoriating Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, speaks during the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, September 27, at U.N. headquarters in New York. The event unites more than 100 heads of state and government for high-level meetings on nuclear safety, regional conflicts, health and nutrition and environment issues.

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, speaks during the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, September 27, at U.N. headquarters in New York. The event unites more than 100 heads of state and government for high-level meetings on nuclear safety, regional conflicts, health and nutrition and environment issues. – Photo: AFF Getty Images

Referring to Abbas’ remarks, Netanyahu told the assembly: “We won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the U.N. That’s not the way to solve them. We won’t solve our differences with a unilateral declaration of statehood.

“We have to sit together and negotiate together in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish state,” Israel’s leader said.

Netanyahu then accused Iran of aggression.

“I ask, given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told the assembly. “Who among you would feel safe in the Middle East? Who would be safe in Europe? Who would be safe in America? Who would be safe anywhere?”

Netanyahu told the U.N. that “a clear red line” had to be drawn to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He held up a drawing of a cylindrical bomb with a red line drawn below the fuse.

“It’s not a question of whether Iran will get the bomb. The question is at what stage can we stop Iran from getting the bomb,” Netanyahu said.

In Abbas’ earlier remarks, he said that Palestinians will continue to seek full membership status, but they have begun “intensive consultations” with member states about having the Palestinian Authority become a nonmember state, Abbas told the assembly.

“We are confident that the vast majority of the countries of the world support our endeavor aimed at salvaging the chances for a just peace,” Abbas said. “In our endeavor, we do not seek to delegitimize an existing state — that is Israel — but rather to assert the state that must be realized — that is Palestine,” Abbas said.

Then, departing from his prepared speech, Abbas added, to applause: “We are not attempting to delegitimize them, they are trying to delegitimize us.”

Last year, the Palestinian Authority failed in its bid to win U.N. recognition as an independent state.

In their latest initiative to seek nonmember observer status, the Palestinians are likely to submit the new resolution after the U.S. presidential election on November 6 in an effort to prevent the issue from becoming political fodder. They have expressed concern about pessimistic comments by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney about the chances for peace in the region.

In his speech Thursday, Abbas criticized Israel and said Palestinians were facing “a campaign of ethnic cleansing” in which they are being denied full access to houses of worship, schools, hospitals and housing.

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“The occupying power is also continuing its construction and expansion of settlements in different areas throughout the West Bank,” he told the assembly.

Israel rejects a Palestinian state and refuses to end its occupation, Abbas said.

“I speak on behalf of an angry people,” he said. “Israel continues to enjoy impunity.”

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For Israel, the issue of how to respond to Iran’s nuclear program has put a strain on relations between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. Tehran insists its atomic program is for peaceful purposes, but Western leaders say they believe it is aimed at building a weapon.

Netanyahu has been pushing the United States to establish a clear “red line” that Iran cannot cross if it wants to avoid war.

Israel seeks international urgency, as negotiations aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions have failed to produce an agreement and the effectiveness of sanctions on Tehran remains unclear.

 

View original CNN publication at: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/27/world/new-york-unga/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

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