UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran Tuesday that as long as it seeks Israel's destruction it will face no fiercer enemy than the Jewish state and he vowed to prevent Tehran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria and from producing weapons in Syria or Lebanon.
The Israeli leader said he had a message for Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: "The light of Israel will never be extinguished. ... Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril."
He again called for the "dangerous" nuclear deal with Iran to be scrapped or fixed, warning world leaders gathered at the U.N. General Assembly that if nothing changes Tehran will follow North Korea and produce hundreds of nuclear weapons.
"Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability," Netanyahu said. "Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is suspect, and penalizing Iran for every violation."
Netanyahu called for the deal to be reworked to eliminate its expiration dates on certain provisions that limit Iran's nuclear activity. In reality, Iran has little incentive to negotiate such concessions.
The Israeli leader also accused Iran of "conducting a campaign of conquest across the Middle East," spreading a "curtain of tyranny and terror over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere." And he said it is developing ballistic missiles "to threaten the entire world."
But Netanyahu said he also had a simple message for the Iranian people: "You are not our enemy, you are our friends." And he repeated "you are our friends" in Farsi, one of Iran's main languages.
"One day, my Iranian friends, you will be free from the evil regime that terrorizes you ... and when that day of liberation finally comes, the friendship between our two ancient peoples will surely flourish once again," he said.
Netanyahu started his speech on a positive note, saying Israel is in the midst of "a great revolution — a revolution in Israel's standing among nations."
He said this is happening because "so many nations have woken up to what Israel can do for them" as a leader in innovation, technology, and in recognizing its "exceptional capabilities in fighting terrorism."
As for the United Nations, Netanyahu said for too long it has been "the epicenter of global anti-Semitism."
"And while it may take many years, I am absolutely confident that the revolution in Israel's ties with individual nations will ultimately be reflected in this hall of nations," he said.
Netanyanu said he made that statement because of the "marked change" in the U.S. government's position.
"Thanks to President (Donald) Trump's unequivocal support for Israel in this body, that positive change is gathering force," he said.