JERUSALEM/NEW YORK (EJP)--- “As the Prime Minister of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, I am working in every way so that Iran will not have nuclear weapons,” Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in an unusual letter to the Israeli public before leaving for New York, to address the UN General Assembly hours after Yom Kippur.
Netanyahu pledged to give a « fitting response » to Iran’s desire to “sentence us to death, » noting that on the day before Yom Kippur, Ahmadinejad – in comments to the US media – said Israel would be eliminated.
In his letter, the Israeli Prime Minister wrote that history showed that those who desired to wipe the Jewish people “off the map” failed, while the Jewish people persevered and overcame all obstacles.
"Israel is a modern and strong state thanks to the strength and talents of its citizens and to our faith in the justice of our cause," he added.
« While we prayed to be inscribed in the Book of Life, a platform was given to a dictatorial regime in Iran that strives, at every opportunity, to sentence us to death, » Netanyahu said.
“This is a bad day for those who chose to stay in the hall and listen to these words of slander,” he added.
Delegations from Israel, Canada and the US were absent during Ahmadinejad’s speech. Israel’s delegation was not present in any event at the UN meeting Wednesday because of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
Diplomats from Britain, France and Germany sat through Ahmadinejad's address, but found nothing in his theological lecture to justify a repeat of the walkouts of previous years.
Netanyahu is due to address the General Assembly on Thursday afternoon. His speech will focus on Iran as he is expected to go further than he has in the past in spelling out dangers posed by Tehran and what needs to be done to stop the Islamic Republic, including stepping up sanctions and drawing red lines.
He is also expected to express “outrage over the lack of outrage” when countries listen quietly and politely to Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic rants.
Netanyahu, who will be accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, will leave New York immediately after Shabbat on Saturday night to get back to Israel in time for the festival of Succot, which begins on Sunday evening.
During his stay, he is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and give several television interviews to US networks.
Protests against Ahmadinejad's stay in New York
In his speech on Wednesday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the West and Israel of nuclear "intimidation", after US President Barack Obama vowed to halt Tehran's alleged weapons program.
"Arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction by the hegemonic powers have become prevalent," Ahmadinejad declared in a 35-minute speech that ended with a smattering of applause.
"Continued threats by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation are a clear example of this bitter reality," he added, in his only reference to Israel.
On Tuesday, in his UN speech, US President Barack Obama reiterated the United States' stance in robust terms, declaring that America will "do what we must" to prevent Iran from passing the nuclear threshold.
He said that “containment” of a nuclear Iran is not an option and it would pose an existential threat to Israel.
“Make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
According to observers, the US President has explicitly rejected containment of a nuclear Iran for months, but attaching its prospect to an existential threat to Israel is the starkest warning he has made and reflects increased anxiety in Israel about suspicions that Iran is accelerating a nuclear weapons program.
Foreign ministers from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany will meet in New York on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations to discuss the increasingly tense nuclear showdown.
French President Francois Hollande earlier in the day told the UN General Assembly that the European Union was ready to impose a new set of sanctions to increase pressure on Iran and force it back to the negotiating table.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the next round of EU sanctions would focus on the financial industry and trade.
Ahmadinejad's last stay in New York as president has been marked as usual by new condemnation of Israel, which he refuses to mention by name, using the "uncultured Zionists" or a "fake regime" instead
"We've seen Mr. Ahmadinejad once again use his trip to the UN not to address the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people but to instead spout paranoid theories and repulsive slurs against Israel," said US spokeswoman Erin Pelton.
Outside the UN headquarters, demonstrators protesting at Ahmadinejad's presence set up a hangman's gallows to symbolize Iran's widespread executions.