UNITED NATIONS — Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Donald Trump’s first address to the UN General Assembly Tuesday as a “bold and courageous” speech while, like Trump, throwing barbs at an adversary and threatening to meet its provocations with maximum force.
Netanyahu departed from his usual topic of the long-standing Palestinian-Israeli conflict and declared that, partly because of U.S. efforts on its behalf at the “anti-Israel” UN and its citizens’ own innovation, Israel is joining the company of the world’s most powerful nations.
“After 70 years, the world is embracing Israel and Israel is embracing the world,” he said, calling Israel “the innovation nation” for its inventions in medicine, agriculture and its philanthropy to nations beset by disasters and crucial intelligence for nations battling terrorism.
The address came several hours after UN Secretary-General António Guterres advised Israeli and Palestinian leaders that the “two-state solution” that has eluded brokers for peace for decades is still the only viable end to the conflict.
Netanyahu devoted a significant portion of his 20-minute speech to singling out Trump’s words, delivered earlier in the day, and labeling the U.S. president’s maiden speech as the boldest and most courageous speech he had ever heard in 30 years at the UN, an address marked by Trump’s condemnation for leaders of Iran, North Korea and Syria.
“Thank you, President Trump. Thank you for supporting Israel at the UN, and thank you for your support, Ambassador Nikki Haley,” he said, referring to the U.S. envoy to the UN, who has been a staunch supporter of Israel. “Thank you for speaking the truth about Israel.”
“For too long the epicenter of global anti-Semitism has been right here at the United Nations,” he said. Netanyahu recalled a vote in December in the UN Security Council that condemned Israeli settlements, and the United States — then under President Barack Obama’s administration — abstained from voting. The abstention was a departure from U.S. actions of the past, which routinely defended Israel at the Security Council.
Netanyahu all but echoed Trump’s fiery threat to destroy North Korea if it attacks the United States or an ally, saying Iran would suffer a similar fate if it attacks Israel.
“Here at the UN we must also speak the truth about Iran, as President Trump did so powerfully this morning,” he said, decrying the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an agreement brokered in 2015 under the Obama administration that curbs Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“President Trump rightly called the nuclear deal with Iran an embarrassment,” Netanyahu said, adding that Iran “vows to destroy my country every day.”
Netanyahu said the pact, which halts Iran’s enrichment of uranium for 10 years, allows it to pursue nuclear energy for military purposes once that term expires and he called for a renegotiation of the deal, saying “fix it or nix it.”
And he spoke directly to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of Iran, saying, “The light of Israel will never be extinguished.”
He added: “Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril. Israel will defend itself with the full force of our arms . . . As long as Iran seeks the destruction of Israel, Iran will face no fiercer enemy than Israel.”