Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened an exhibition on Jerusalem Thursday to reinforce Israel's claim to the historic city as the Jewish people's "eternal capital" — and rebuke over 125 countries that support Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Netanyahu's U.N. visit follows President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December. The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly soon afterward, denouncing the U.S. announcement and declaring Trump's action "null and void."
The Israeli-sponsored exhibition traces Jews in Jerusalem back centuries before the Christian era, and Netanyahu said it clearly shows the city's long history "cherished" by Israelis and friends of the Jewish people and "friends of truth."
This "is being denied by those seeking to erase the history of our people, our connection to our lands, and our connection to our eternal capital Jerusalem," he said.
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The Israeli leader noted a disclaimer sign at the entrance to the exhibition that says: "The content of this exhibit is solely the responsibility of the sponsors. The holding of the exhibit in U.N. premises does not imply endorsement by the United Nations. Please direct any queries to the organizers."
Hitting back at the U.N., Netanyahu responded: "Of course it doesn't represent the United Nations. It represents the truth, and we'll continue to tell the truth and speak the truth everywhere, including the United Nations."
"This exhibit would not have been possible 10 years ago," he added. "And this exhibit will be unnecessary 10 years from now. We are changing the world. We are changing Israel's position in the world, and above all we are making it clear that we fight for the truth and for our rights. We also fight for security."
The photos and replicas at the exhibit, titled "3000 Years of Jews in Jerusalem," include ones of the Tel Dan Stela from 8-9th century BC, which has the first known historical evidence of King David from the Bible, and a seal with the Hebrew inscription "To Netanyahu son of Yaush" from the 7th century BC.
Netanyahu met with U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley before viewing the exhibition and praised her strong support for Israel at the U.N., saying: "We call her hurricane Haley."
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Israeli prime minister did not ask to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
"Sometimes leaders come in for a very quick visit," Dujarric said. "The secretary-general and his senior officials are often in contact with the Israeli government. There's nothing to read into it."
Netanyahu came to New York after meeting in Washington with Trump and leaders of Congress. He said most of his week in the U.S. capital was devoted to Iran, which he said wants "to extinguish our history" and "our presence."
A strong opponent of the nuclear agreement between Iran and six major powers, Netanyahu said, "The best way to prevent the nuclearization of the Middle East is to either fully fix the Iran deal or fully nix it."
He added, "There is a newfound alliance in the Middle East between all those who recognize that the greatest threat we face is a nuclear Iran and an aggressive Iran."
As for the Palestinians, who are furious at Trump for overturning decades of U.S. policy and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Netanyahu said: "We have not walked away from peace negotiations. The Palestinians have."