In one of the more inflammatory speeches to the United Nations General Assembly in recent memory, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the international community not to be taken in by the smiles of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani. "It's a ruse; it's a ploy," he said.
Despite Mr. Rouhani's declarations last week that his country's nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, Iran is determined to develop a nuclear bomb, Mr. Netanyahu insisted Tuesday, and Israel will not let that happen.
"Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us off the map," he declared. "Against such a threat, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself."
"I want there to be no confusion on this point," Mr. Netanyahu emphasized: "Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons."
The grim warning drew a speedy response from Iran's representative. "The Israeli Prime Minister had better not even think about attacking Iran, let alone planning for that," Khodadad Seifi, a deputy ambassador at Iran's UN mission, told the UN General Assembly.
"Iran's centuries-old policy of nonaggression should not be interpreted as an inability to defend itself," he said.
The Israeli leader's blunt address stood in marked contrast to his pleasant exchange with U.S. President Barack Obama a day earlier when the President said the two men agreed on how to deal with Iran.
"These are the things he couldn't say to Obama on Monday," said Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Centre in Israel. "Israel really doesn't like Obama's Iran policy, but doesn't want to criticize our ally directly.
"This speech says he thinks Obama is naive and is being taken in by the slick Iranians."
"Rouhani doesn't sound like Ahmadinejad," Mr. Netanyahu acknowledged Tuesday, referring to Mr. Rouhani's hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "But when it comes to Iran's nuclear-weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf's clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing," he said.
"I wish I could believe Rouhani," said Mr. Netanyahu, but "Iran's savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani's soothing
The Israeli noted that the new Iranian President had headed Iran's National Security Council from 1989 to 2003. During that time, he said, "Iran's henchmen gunned down opposition leaders in a Berlin restaurant. They murdered 85 people at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. They killed 19 American soldiers by blowing up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia."
"Are we to believe that Rouhani, the national security adviser of Iran at the time, knew nothing about these attacks?" Mr. Netanyahu asked.
Mr. Rouhani now wants people to believe that Iran's nuclear aims are purely to develop energy, said Mr. Netanyahu. "Why would a country with vast natural energy reserves invest billions in developing nuclear energy?"
Why would it "build hidden underground enrichment facilities? Why would a country intent on merely civilian nuclear programs continue to defy multiple Security Council resolutions and incur the costs of crippling sanctions on its economy?" he continued.
"Last year when I spoke here at the UN, I drew a red line," said Mr. Netanyahu, referring to a drawing he had held aloft that marked the point at which Iran would have nuclear-weapon breakout capacity. "Iran has been very careful not to cross that line," the Israeli leader said. "But Iran is positioning itself to race across that line in the future at a time of its choosing … to build nuclear bombs before the international community can detect it, much less prevent it."
The only diplomatic way to stop Iran, Mr. Netanyahu said, is an agreement "that fully dismantles Iran's nuclear weapons program and prevents it from having one in the future."
"President Ronald Reagan famously advised: Trust, but verify," noted Mr. Netanyahu, referring to U.S.-Soviet disarmament in the 1980s. "When it comes to Iran's nuclear-weapons program, here's my advice: Distrust, dismantle and verify.
"The international community has Iran on the ropes," he said. "If you want to knock out Iran's nuclear-weapons program peacefully, don't let up the pressure. Keep it up."