Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday attacked “absurdities” in U.N. agencies’ treatment of Israel, invoking tennis legend John McEnroe, the Bible – and penguins – in a speech that was in turn deadly serious about Iran, upbeat about Israeli diplomatic breakthroughs, and thankful to the Trump administration for its outspoken support.
Israeli leaders do not typically receive a warm reception at the annual U.N. General Assembly high-level session, but Netanyahu did generate some laughter when he suggested penguins are pro-Israel because they “have no difficulty recognizing that some things are black and white, are right and wrong.”
“Unfortunately, when it comes to U.N. decisions about Israel, that simple recognition is too often absent,” he continued.
Netanyahu highlighted several decisions over the past year, including a World Health Organization resolution – sponsored by the Assad regime – criticizing Israel for health conditions on the Golan Heights.
“As the great John McEnroe would say, ‘You cannot be serious.’ I mean, this is preposterous,” he said.
“Syria has barrel-bombed, starved, gassed and murdered hundreds of thousands of its own citizens and wounded millions more, while Israel has provided life-saving medical care to thousands of Syrian victims of that very same carnage. Yet who does the World Health Organization criticize? Israel.”
He then turned to a decision by the U.N. Education Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declaring Hebron – the traditional burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as Abraham’s wife Sarah, Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, and Jacob’s first wife, Leah – to be a Palestinian heritage site.
“That’s worse than fake news; that’s fake history,” Netanyahu said. “Mind you, it’s true that Abraham, the father of both Ishmael and Isaac, is buried there, but so too are Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca – Sarah’s a Jewish name, by the way – Sarah, Rebecca and Leah, who just happened to be patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people.”
“Well, you won’t read about that in the latest UNESCO report. But if you want to, you can read about it in a somewhat weightier publication. It’s called the Bible,” he said. “I highly recommend it. I hear it even got four-and-a-half out of five stars on Amazon. And it’s a great read. I read it every week.”
‘None were bolder’
Netanyahu expressed optimism about Israel’s improving international relations, noting he has hosted many world leaders and visited six continents over the past year.
Although it might take time, he said, “I’m absolutely confident that the revolution in Israel’s ties with individual nations will ultimately be reflected here, in this hall of nations.”
He attributed positive changes to President Trump’s “unequivocal support for Israel” at the U.N., thanking him and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley for “speaking the truth about Israel.”
Netanyahu later spoke glowingly about Trump’s speech to the General Assembly earlier in the day, referring especially to his strong condemnation of the Iranian regime.
“I’ve been ambassador to the U.N. and I’m a long-serving Israeli prime minister so I’ve listened to countless speeches in this hall,” he said. “But I can say this: None were bolder, none were more courageous and forthright than the one delivered by President Trump today.”
Netanyahu pointed to the threat posed by North Korea, and recalled that those who concluded nuclear agreements with Pyongyang in the past also claimed – and proponents do about the Iran nuclear deal – that they would end its nuclear weapons ambitions.
“I know there are those who still defend the dangerous deal with Iran, arguing that it will block Iran’s path to the bomb,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s exactly what they said about the nuclear deal with North Korea. And we all know how that turned out.”
Later on Tuesday, Iranian representative Hossein Maleki asked for the floor for a “right of reply,” and slammed Netanyahu’s speech.
He declared that Israel possesses “another type of WMD … Weapons of Mass Deception,” but said that in the information age, “this weapon is becoming more useless day by day.”
Speaking for almost eight minutes, Maleki accused Israel of a long string of offenses, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and massacres.