Israel’s prime minister has warned the United Nations that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a far greater threat than the armed group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which he compared to the Palestinian group Hamas.
Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu described Iran, ISIL and Hamas as part of a single team, and compared them all to Germany’s Nazis in World War II.
“The Nazis believed in a master race, the militant Islamists believe in a master faith,” Netanyahu said. “They just disagree who among them will be the master of the master faith.”
“Make no mistake, [ISIL] must be defeated,” Netanyahu added. “But to defeat [ISIL] and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.”
He also said that ISIL and Hamas are “branches of the same poisonous tree” and likened Israel’s deadly bombings of Gaza to US-led airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
Iran, which is negotiating with Western powers to end economic sanctions, has rejected allegations that it is developing the capability to produce atomic weapons, and wants those sanctions lifted as part of any nuclear deal.
Netanyahu is expected to raise the same concerns when he meets with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
‘Dismantle nuclear capabilities’
In his speech, Netanyahu said “Iran’s nuclear military capabilities must be fully dismantled” adding that the goal of a charm offensive by Iran’s “smooth talking president and foreign minister” was to get international sanctions lifted “and remove the obstacles to Iran’s path to the bomb”.
He twice referred to the “Islamic State of Iran,” which would appear to be a deliberate play on the country’s official name – the Islamic Republic of Iran – and Islamic State, which is often referred to as ISIL or ISIS.
Netanyahu referred mockingly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech to the 193-nation General Assembly last week, in which he accused the West and its allies of nurturing ISIL.
Rouhani said he supported efforts to combat ISIL, a Sunni armed group that views predominantly Shia Iran as heretical, though he said it should be handled by the region, not countries outside the Middle East.
On the topic of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Netanyahu said he supports a “historic compromise” with the Palestinians that would bring peace and stability for the Israeli people and the region, but offered no new details of what such a compromise would envisage.
An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in late August ended a 50-day war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas that controls Gaza.
Israel began an offensive on July 8 with the stated aim of halting cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and armed groups, killing more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Riyad Mansour, Palestinian Authority ambassador to the UN, said the Israeli leader, “came to the General Assembly with a bunch of lies”.
Mansour said that Netanyahu is trying to brand Hamas as “terrorist organisation” to prevent a unity government between Hamas and Fatah, and stop the creation of an independent Palestinian state.