Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday garnered mixed responses, including harsh criticism from the New York Times, which said in Wednesday's editorial that Netanyahu seemed "eager for a fight" with Iran.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, however, endorsed the speech as an "accurate" depiction of Iran's recent overtures to the United States. "Iran is currently behind terror activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and is funding, arming and training Hezbollah in Lebanon. All the while, the centrifuges keep spinning. For this reason, we must be careful not to be tempted and ease the sanctions before it is certain this unconventional regime fully intends to drop its [nuclear program]."
Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan backed Netanyahu as well, rejecting criticism in the Israeli media indicating that the prime minister had softened his stance pertaining to the "red line" Iran must not cross. "The prime minister certainly did not draw a line saying that only when Iran gets the bomb or reaches another line would there be an Israeli attack," Erdan said, "even if Israel is forced to do the work of preventing a nuclear Iran on its own."
The New York Times used its editorial the day after the speech to say that while Netanyahu had good reason to be wary of Iran, he should give diplomacy a chance, taking the Israeli prime minister to task for his "combative words" on Iranian President Hassan Rohani.
"Mr. Netanyahu has legitimate reasons to be wary of any Iranian overtures, as do the United States and the four other major powers involved in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program," said the editorial.
"But it could be disastrous if Mr. Netanyahu and his supporters in Congress were so blinded by distrust of Iran that they exaggerate the threat, block President Obama from taking advantage of new diplomatic openings and sabotage the best chance to establish a new relationship since the 1979 Iranian revolution sent American-Iranian relations into the deep freeze," The New York Times added.
The editorial also warned that in this speech as in past, Netanyahu has "hinted so often of taking military action to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon that he seems eager for a fight."
Opposition voices in the Israeli government also criticized Netanyahu's speech, accusing the prime minister of endangering Israel's stance in the international world with his threats to Iran.
"The international community must not believe that the Iranian problem is exclusively Israel's problem," opposition leader and Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich said. "It is a mistake to present a nightmarish vision of an existential threat to Israel. Such things only serve to deteriorate our position."
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said Netanyahu has resorted to his old rhetoric of issuing threats. "In his speech, Netanyahu just rehashed what the UN and the United States are already doing."
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