Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed for New York on Thursday, to address the United Nations General Assembly, promising to deliver a tough response to the latest verbal attacks on Israel by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.
Before boarding the plane at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, Netanyahu said that he will represent the Jewish people who had overcome any threats.
“I want to tell you that when I stand there in front of the nations of the world, I represent the whole people of Israel. This is a people who had overcome any obstacle and any tyrant and so it will be this time around. We are united in our aspiration for peace and we are united in our aspiration to ensure security to our people and to our state. With God's help we will succeed,” Netanyahu said.
Shortly before his trip, Netanyahu issued an open letter to Israelis marking the end of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the most sacred holiday in the Jewish calendar, where he vowed to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu added that he will act in any way possible in order to make sure that ‘the tyrannical regime of Iran which seeks at every opportunity to sentence us to death’ will not have nuclear weapons.
He has said that Iran could have enough low-enriched uranium by early 2013 to refine to a high level of fissile purity for a first nuclear device. Israel worries that this final step, if taken, could happen too quickly or quietly to be prevented.
Iran has said it has no plans to enrich uranium beyond the 20 percent purity required to run a reactor producing medical isotopes. That level, however, brings raw uranium exponentially closer to the 90 percent enrichment required for a bomb.
Though reputed to have the Middle East’s sole nuclear arsenal, Israel’s forces would be hard-put to deliver lasting damage to Iran’s remote facilities and handle a multi-front war.
The Israeli leader did not name any U.N. member state in particular. The United States delegation chose not to attend Ahmadinejad's General Assembly speech, while other allies of Israel walked out.
Jews believe that between Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur, God decides who will be inscribed in the Book of Life, meaning who will not die in the coming year.
Ahmadinejad’s speeches in the U.N. forum included a prediction that Israel would be “eliminated”.
On Wednesday, as Israelis observed Yom Kippur, the Iranian leader told the assembly that Iran was under a “continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation”.
Iran denies working in secret to develop nuclear weapons, saying that it is building a peaceful atomic power capability. Israel and its main ally the United States have repeatedly said they will not permit Tehran to build the bomb.
Netanyahu’s senior advisers privately shrug off Ahmadinejad’s incendiary rhetoric, saying he has no policy-making role in Iran's nuclear development program.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama told the U.N. Assembly that time was running out to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. “The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said.
That statement went no further than his previously stated position, appearing to ignore calls from Netanyahu urging that Washington must now set clear red lines for Iran, beyond which military action would be taken.
Relations between the men are strained. Netanyahu’s office said Obama had declined a request to meet this week, but the two leaders were expected to speak by telephone.