Before he took to the podium to make his speech at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first met with a group of students, where one Israeli student received a special surprise.
Dan Folk (21), an Israeli who was invited to the event in which over 100 students took part, ended up getting a business card and memento from Ahmadinejad.
"It was at his hotel in Manhattan, we got there and had to wait in the security check line for nearly an hour," said the student, adding, "we gave them our cell phones and any kind of camera we were carrying. During the security check I showed them my Israeli driver's license and the Iranian security officer smiled at me."
Folk said he had mixed feelings over the question of whether to meet with the Iranian president. "When I heard about the possibility of meeting with the Iranian president, I had mixed feelings. How can I, an Israeli citizen, sit down and listen to a person who wants to wipe me and my family off the map.
Anti-Iranian regime protestors in NYC (Photo: AFP)
"When I thought about it a bit more I realized that this could be a great opportunity to tell him what I think. When he spoke about Israel I felt proud to be an Israeli because I knew my presence there, listening to him, presenting him with tough questions, puts me in a position of power."
According to Folk, other than Ahmadinejad, the Iranian foreign minister and UN envoy were also present at the event.
During his opening speech he explained that every country should have the freedom to handle its interests independently and stressed that his country held free and open elections, a remark which caused some members of the audience to snigger.
As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ahmadinejad explained that the Holocaust was an excuse for the foundation of the State of Israel even though "there is no connection whatsoever between the European holocaust and Palestine."
The Iranian president compared the conflict to a situation where a thief (Israel) breaks into a home, takes the family hostage (the Palestinians) and asks for rights over the house. When the police (US) arrive to intervene they rule in favor of the thief, give most of the house to the thief and leave the family with one little room in the house.
He added that it was in the US' interest to "free Palestine" since they were the ones who had established it and now it was causing them nothing but trouble.
When asked about Tehran's controversial nuclear plan he quickly and condescendingly explained that "the Iranian people didn't need an atom bomb. In the world we live in today, the use of nuclear weapons would not help to solve any conflict." He believes that "the murder of 150,000 people in a second is an inhuman act."
He then stressed once again that should Iran have chosen to develop nuclear weapons "we would say so openly, because we are not afraid of anyone," he then added that the Iranian nuclear program was meant for medical purposes.
Snickering was once again heard in the audience in response to Ahmadinejad's answer to a question about Iran's next elections, since according to the Iranian constitution, the president will not be able to stand for reelection.
He answered: "I am a supporter of free and open elections in Iran and will accept any decision made by the Iranian people."
Summing up the event Folk said that it was "a little disappointing that none of the universities attacked him or tried to ask difficult questions." He added that each participant received the Iranian leader's business card and a gift from the Iranian delegation, a silver cup with decorations depicting Iranian scenery.