In a highly anticipated address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed a range of topics, including the potential for peace with Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian issue, and mounting tensions with Iran. Simultaneously, outside the UN building, hundreds of protesters gathered to voice their discontent with the government.
Netanyahu began his speech by emphasizing his desire for peace with the Palestinians, asserting, "I want peace with the Palestinians, but the Palestinians must not be given a veto on peace between Israel and the Arab countries. The Palestinians should be part of the process. They can benefit from it. But they must not veto it."
He went on to express optimism about an impending breakthrough in relations with Saudi Arabia, believing that such an agreement could mark the end of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Netanyahu presented a map illustrating the potential regional gains from peace with Saudi Arabia.
Addressing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu called for an end to the spread of what he referred to as "anti-Semitic lies" and urged Palestinians to recognize the right of Jews to their own national home in Israel.
"I long for this kind of peace. I am committed to doing everything I can to overcome the obstacles so that there will be a better future for all the peoples in the region," Netanyahu declared.
The Israeli Prime Minister also mentioned his discussions with US President Biden, expressing optimism about achieving peace with Saudi Arabia under President Biden's leadership. He praised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in this process and stressed the crucial role of the US in regional peace efforts.
Turning to Iran, Netanyahu called for the reinstatement of UN Security Council sanctions on the country and emphasized the need for a credible military threat against Iran. He even claimed that Iran had attempted to eliminate the American Secretary of State, highlighting the ongoing tensions with the Iranian regime.
In response to Netanyahu's speech, reactions within the Israeli political landscape were mixed. His ministers praised his words, while opposition leader Yair Lapid criticized the Prime Minister for various reasons, including his stance on Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian issue, and what Lapid perceived as a failure to unite the country.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, on the other hand, thanked Netanyahu for his speech and expressed support for achieving peace in exchange for peace while maintaining Israel's security.
However, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir expressed concerns about the practical implications of Netanyahu's speech, especially if it leads to concessions or a compromise on Israeli sovereignty. He pledged that his party, Otzma Yehudit, would not allow such compromises.
President Yitzhak Herzog welcomed Netanyahu's vision of regional peace with Saudi Arabia, seeing it as a historic alternative to the Iranian terror threat in the Middle East.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Yariv Levin commended the Prime Minister's speech and highlighted Israel's efforts to lead in technology and artificial intelligence on the global stage.
Despite the varied responses to Netanyahu's address, it remains clear that the path to peace in the Middle East is still fraught with complex challenges and differing viewpoints both domestically and internationally.