Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the United Nations on Monday in a speech that emphasized the Iranian military entrenchment in the Middle East and urged action against the Islamic Republic's apparent efforts to acquire a nuclear bomb.
The speech at the General Assembly would be Bennett's first as prime minister and the Israeli leader's spokesperson said ahead of the event that it would be "different" than speeches given by his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu. “There will not be visual aids, poster boards, drawings.”
Bennett began his speech by calling Israel a “lighthouse in a stormy sea, a beacon of democracy".
“For way too long, Israel was defined by wars with our neighbors. But this is not what Israel is about. This is not what the people of Israel are about. Israelis don’t wake up in the morning thinking about the conflict.
“Israelis want to lead a good life, take care of our families and build a better world for our children. Which means that from time to time, we might need to leave our jobs, say goodbye to our families and rush to the battlefield to defend our country."
He then went on to praise his coalition as being "the most diverse in history".
“About a hundred days ago, my partners and I formed a new government in Israel. What started as a political accident, can now turn into a purpose. And that purpose is unity. Today we sit together, around one table… What we have proven is that even in the age of social media, we can debate without hate.”
The prime minister added that Israel "pioneered" the COVID vaccine booster shot as most of the world still grapples with the pandemic.
“We faced a choice to either drag Israel into yet another set of lockdowns [and] further harm our economy and society, or to double-down on vaccines. We chose the latter. “Two months in I can report that it works: With a third dose, you’re seven times more protected than with two doses, and 40 times more protected than without any vaccine."
During his speech Bennett also called for action against Tehran's atomic activities to ensure that it does not produce weapons and warned about its entrenchment in the Middle East.
“Iran’s great goal is crystal clear to anybody who cares to open their eyes: Iran seeks to dominate the region - and seeks to do so under a nuclear umbrella.”
“Just this year, Iran made operational a new deadly terror unit — swarms of killer UAVs armed with lethal weapons that can attack any place any time. They plan to blanket the skies of the Middle East with this lethal force.
“Iran plans to arm its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with hundreds and then thousands of these deadly drones.”
He added some world leaders view Iran's potential acquisition of nuclear weapons as "inevitable" but Israel "does not have that privilege".
“Evidence which clearly proves Iran’s intentions for nuclear weapons in secret sites in Toorkooz-abad, Teheran and Marivan - is ignored.
"Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning ... We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon."
The prime minister finished his speech by touting the Abraham Accords, thanked the U.S. for approving additional funding for the Iron Dome air defense system and slammed those who single out Israel for its alleged violations.
"Attacking Israel doesn’t make you morally superior, fighting the only democracy in the Middle East doesn’t make you ‘woke,’ adopting clichés about Israel without bothering to learn the basic facts, well… that’s just plain lazy.”
The Likud Party denounced Bennett's UN General Assembly address as "empty platitudes" and made a comparison between the leader and his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Netanyahu's speeches at the UN sent shock waves through the world and pushed Israel's interests to the international forefront," a statement read.
"Unlike him, Bennett gave an empty speech in front of an empty hall and wasted empty platitudes instead of taking advantage of an important international stage."
The current opposition leader, a conservative strongman and himself an Iran hawk, is famed for his fiery, attention-grabbing speeches in front of the annual international forum.
His speech at the 2012 edition of the UN General Assembly is mostly remembered for a diagram he presented that featured a cartoonish drawing of a bomb he used as a prop to illustrate what he sees as Iran's drive for an atomic weapon.
Netanyahu then took out a marker and dramatically drew a red line just below a label reading "final stage" to a bomb, in which Iran would be 90% along the path to having sufficient weapons-grade material.