NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) –– Fireworks erupted at the United Nations on Monday, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly Monday afternoon and charged that ISIS and Hamas are “branches of the same poisonous tree.”
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Netanyahu also said those who question the morality of Israeli soldiers in the Gaza War are guilty of a new anti-Semitism.
In a United Nations often noted for a pro-Arab, anti-Israel bias, Netanyahu got a surprise round of applause for some of his remarks – particularly as he called Iran to task over terrorism.
“ISIS must be defeated, but to defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power, is to win the battle and lose the war,” Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly.
As he has for years, Netanyahu made an impassioned plea to stop Iran from getting the bomb. He used now-retired Yankees Captain Derek Jeter in his speech to illustrate his point.
“To say Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees,” Netanyahu said.
“The Middle East is in chaos,” Netanyahu continued. “States are disintegrating. And militant Islamists are filling the void. Israel cannot have territories from which it withdraws, taken over by Islamic militants yet again as happened in Gaza and Lebanon. That would place the likes of ISIS within mortar range — a few miles of 80 percent of our population. Now think about that: The distance between the 1967 lines and the suburbs of Tel Aviv is like the distance between the UN building here and Times Square.”
Netanyahu noted that in the recent 50-day war in Gaza, Iran supplied many of the missiles fired by Hamas.
“No other country, and no other army in history, have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemies,” he said.
Netanyahu denied charges from Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas that Israel practiced genocide of the Palestinian people because many civilians were killed.
“This last war against Gaza constituted a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment,” Abbas said Friday.
Despite his claims of a “war of genocide” in Gaza, Abbas stopped short of saying he would pursue war crimes charges against Israel. He said he would ask the U.N. Security Council to dictate the ground rules for any talks with Israel, including setting a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian lands.
With memories of the Nazi Holocaust still fresh in Israel, use of the word “genocide” is regarded as particularly provocative both to Netanyahu and Israelis in general.
And in response to Abbas’ comments, Netanyahu held up a picture of two Palestinian rocket launchers with kids playing behind them.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a war crime,” he said.
During the 50-day war, which ended Aug. 26, Israel launched thousands of airstrikes against what it said were Hamas-linked targets in the densely populated coastal territory, while Gaza militants fired several thousand rockets at Israel. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, the vast majority civilians, and some 18,000 homes were destroyed, according to U.N. figures. Sixty-six soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side.
The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s largest bloc of Islamic countries, has been lobbying Abbas to seek membership in international agencies, including the ICC. That would open the door to war crimes charges against Israel for its military actions in Gaza and Jewish settlement construction on West Bank land the Palestinians want for a future state.
Netanyahu’s remarks came as President Barack Obama admitted in an exclusive “60 Minutes” interview that U.S. intelligence underestimated the threat from ISIS.
“Over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war — where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned — they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos and attract foreign fighters,” Obama said.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) disagreed with Obama’s assertion that the war against ISIS will not require American troops on the ground.
“These are barbarians. They intend to kill us,” Boehner said, “and if we don’t destroy them first, we’re going to pay the price.”
In addressing the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu also charged that the United Nations Human Rights Council is against Israel because it condoned the use of human shields by Hamas in the Gaza War. He said, yet again, that Israel is being subjected to one of the world’s oldest prejudices – anti-Semitism.
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