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FULL TEXT: Speech by Israel’s New UN Ambassador on eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Amb. Erdan warns “there is no greater force endangering and destabilizing the Middle East and there is no bigger threat to peace and security around the world” than Iran

Israeli Ambassador to US and to the UN Gilad Erdan (Photo credit: Shahar Azran)

Security Council Speech – January 26th, 2021

As Delivered


Thank you Mr. President,

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the new council members and coordinator Wennesland and wish you luck in your respective positions.

It is my hope that your arrival will help rid this council of its old habits and bias against Israel and instead, focus on the real threat to peace and security: the tyrannical regime in Tehran. 

Tomorrow, here at the UN and around the world, we will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and mourn the unfathomable murder of 6 million Jews. 76 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, where three of my grandparents and millions of others endured the worst hell on earth, there is another genocidal regime epitomizing the very words and actions of the Nazis.

Iran does not try to hide its intention of destroying the world’s only Jewish state. Spreading antisemitism, denying the Holocaust and even proposing legislation calling for Israel’s destruction by the year 2041. How is it possible that the Iranian Parliament proposing to annihilate a member state is not at the top of this council's agenda? Especially on the eve of such an important day when we commemorate the Holocaust and no doubt you will all pledge “Never Again”?

Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel astutely said, “I learned to trust the threats of enemies before the promises of friends.” I hope that you will disprove Wiesel’s warning.

Members of the Security Council, Iran should be the focus of your remarks today, for there is no greater force endangering and destabilizing the Middle East and there is no bigger threat to peace and security around the world.

The regime doesn’t stop at threatening Israel. It has spent the time since signing the JCPOA developing its nuclear capabilities and deepening its knowledge in a way that makes clear it has not abandoned its intention of becoming a nuclear power. 

As a recent IAEA report indicate, Iran continues with its clandestine activities, including nuclear contaminated sites, and lately even creating the infrastructure needed for producing uranium metal, a sensitive material that could be used in a nuclear warhead.

These are just the latest in a long list of violations that leave no doubt of Iran’s intentions. And we cannot allow the most dangerous regime in the world to possess the most dangerous weapon of all.

And yet, this will not be the focus of the debate on the Middle East by an institution entrusted with promoting peace and security. Absurd! 

I would like to be clear, Israel has no grievances with the Iranian people. They, too, are victims of the regime’s extremist ideology. President Rouhani and Minister Zarif are responsible for thousands of executions and grave human rights violations of their own citizens. 

Indeed, it is impossible for anyone to remain unmoved by the brutal murder of Rouhallah Zam. 

Rouhallah was a 47-year-old husband, father of two, and journalist. He was forced to flee his home after expressing opposition to the Iranian regime. Rouhallah continued to share the truth about Iran from France, where he lived as a refugee. He was lured back to the Middle East where he was abducted. Pictures later released by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard showed him blindfolded. Back in Iran, he faced a sham trial and was found guilty of the nonsensical crime: “corruption on earth.” He was, as you expected, sentenced to death.

Despite a global campaign, Rouhallah was executed and in the face of criticism, President Rouhani defended this barbaric murder as “lawful.” 

Thousands of Iranians are paying the price for the international community's complacency when it comes to the regime’s grave violations of human rights and its inhumane behavior.

The way the Ayatollah regime operates is reminiscent of the darkest period in history. We should all remember this tomorrow when we commemorate the Holocaust.

Mr. President, 

The reality in 2021 is not the reality of 2015. What we all know today about Iran is not what the international community knew when it signed the nuclear deal with Iran. 

Now we know, in contrary to the signatories premise, Iran did not use the removal of sanctions to improve the lives of its citizens but doubled down instead on its malign activities. Rather than using the dividends of the nuclear agreement to build schools and hospitals, it built an arsenal of missiles. Rather than using its resources to fight COVID-19, it wasted them on funding terrorist proxies and undermining peace and security.

Iran has a long history of lying to the international community. It must not be trusted. As the secret Iranian archive that Israel revealed proves, Iran lied to the international community when it signed the agreement. It failed to disclose its massive nuclear weapons program, trying to keep it hidden so that it could be used once the deal sunsets have expired. 

Iran deceived the world when it signed the agreement and it continues to deceive the world today.

The regime believes that its recent violations and rogue behavior will force the international community to lift the sanctions and return to the JCPOA. The council must not give in to this nuclear extortion and must not remove sanctions. 

As the regime’s behavior proves, the sanctions have taken a toll on the Iranian economy. This must be leveraged to assure that Iran has a reason to change its destructive behavior and abandon its nuclear ambitions. Prior to the deal, we all saw that Iran only agreed to come to the negotiating table when it faced the essential combination of crippling sanctions and a credible military threat. 

Returning to the JCPOA and giving up that leverage, even if intended to lay the ground work for a future agreement, would be a mistake. It will rule out any possibility of a long-term settlement that has real, effective enforcement mechanisms and that will secure peace in the region. 

We appreciate the commitment of the international community to blocking Iran's pathway to nuclear weapons, but we believe that once sanctions are lifted and Iran’s economy begins to improve, it will have no reason to negotiate. Once back in the JCPOA, all Iran has to do is wait for the restrictions to expire automatically in less than a decade.

It is indisputable that the JCPOA does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities. It merely delays it by a few years. Unfortunately, it gives international legitimacy for a tyrannical, genocidal, rogue regime to become a nuclear power once it expires. The striking speed and efficiency in which the regime manages to restore its uranium production capabilities is clear proof of the deal's flaws. 

Again, the Security Council must not allow the world’s most dangerous regime to possess the world’s most dangerous weapon.

Israel knows how to protect its citizens and we will never allow Iran to become a nuclear power or become a nuclear threshold country.

In this regard, we appreciate President Biden and his administration’s commitment to assuring this will never happen. We will work together to achieve this important goal.

Mr. President,

As new member states enter this council, I hope the approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will change. I suggest the council discuss the real obstacles to peace: Palestinian incitement and culture of hate.

For years, Palestinian incitement against Israel prevented any chance for reconciliation and this has brought terrible consequences. Even in 2020, as we all fought the pandemic, there were hundreds of attempted Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis. Just a few weeks ago, an Israeli woman, Esther Horgan, a mother of six, was brutally murdered when she went out for a run.

Israel has expressed, time and again, its willingness to negotiate and find a viable solution to the conflict. We are a people dedicated to peace. We pray for peace. We educate our children on the importance of peace. 

Israel has repeatedly demonstrated that it will make peace when there is a willing partner. This was true decades ago when we made peace with Egypt and Jordan and it is true today as we expand the number of peace agreements. 

This council must encourage the Palestinians to join the circle of peace as well. The only way to achieve peace is through direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions.

If President Abbas was truly serious about peace he would stop inciting violence. He would not be bending over backwards to find new ways to continue his pay for slay policy, including by trying to establish a new bank to transfer funds to terrorists. He would come to the negotiating table without making outrageous demands and not call for another pointless international conference.

Any call for such a conference is just a distraction, it is just another form of the Palestinian rejectionism. 

Abbas has suddenly remembered he cares about democratic values. After 15 years of avoiding elections, it is no coincidence that he chooses to announce his intention of holding elections as the new administration enters office.

Mr. President,

The Middle East of today isn’t the same old Middle East. It is no longer held hostage by the Palestinians. Thanks to the Abraham Accords, things have changed for the good.

The Accords have brought incredible opportunities to all those who have embraced them. These opportunities are even greater than the economic and cultural cooperation already taking place. They bring stability and new hope for the future of the region. 

The Palestinians are telling you they want peace, so let them explain why they called the peace agreements a “betrayal” and a “stab in the back.” Let them explain why they joined Iran in opposing the agreements.

Finally, Mr. President, I would like to shatter the latest blood libel being spread by the Palestinians – false and grotesque accusations about Israel’s campaign to vaccinate its people. 

Thanks to the winning combination of essential early steps taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel’s national health care system and our people’s resilience and experience with emergencies, Israel is leading a successful vaccination campaign that includes all parts of Israeli society. We are also sharing what we have learnt with other countries.

Israel is known for lending a helping hand whenever and wherever it can. COVID-19 is no exception. For us, human life is above all else. Over the past 6 months, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided millions of dollars’ worth of aid to assist countries in their struggle against the pandemic. 

Additionally, since the outset of the pandemic, Israel has worked closely with UN bodies to assist the Palestinians, training medical staff and supplying them with essential equipment. These efforts were praised by previous UN coordinator Mr. Mladenov.

According to the international agreements, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the healthcare of its own population. Just as it is responsible for their education system. They informed Israel they intend to purchase vaccines from the Russian government and Israel has announced it will facilitate their transfer. These are the facts.

Anyone who joins the Palestinian campaign of lies either doesn’t know the facts or is motivated by politics or antisemitism. 

There is a long history of using every crisis to spread antisemitism and blame the Jews. I hope that on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the members of this council will check the facts and not allow this bigoted tradition to continue.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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