In his speech to the AIPAC conference Monday night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved closer than ever to the point of no return en route to war with Iran.
Netanyahu compared Iran to Nazi Germany, its nuclear facilities to death camps, and his current trip to the White House to a desperate plea to former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt by the Jewish-American community to bomb Auschwitz.
The request to Roosevelt, as Netanyahu reminded a sympathetic AIPAC crowd, was denied, using justifications similar to those used today by those who object to a military strike against Iran. "Israel has patiently waited for the international community to resolve this issue. We've waited for diplomacy to work, we've waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer," Netanyahu warned, adding that, as Israeli premier, he would "never let Israel live under the shadow of annihilation."
It was the same reason that former Prime Minister Menachem Begin used to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 - preventing the possibility that Jewish children would face the peril of another Holocaust. Now it is the turn of his successor, Netanyahu, to remove the danger hovering over the heads of Jewish children.
Netanyahu was in the habit of comparing the Iranian nuclear threat to the Holocaust back when he was opposition leader, claiming that Western powers were not doing enough to thwart it. But, since coming back to power three years ago, he has refrained from making these kinds of statements, opting instead for a more vague rhetoric and asking his ministers to keep the fervor down.
That vagueness dissipated on Monday. In his speech to AIPAC, coming mere hours after his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House, Netanyahu escalated the tone, both in his reference to a clock that was running out of time, and in his expressed disappointment with U.S.-led diplomatic sanctions.
The Holocaust talk has but one meaning - forcing Israel to go to war and strike the Iranians. Arguments against an attack, weighty as they may be, turn to smoke when put up against the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz and Treblinka. No amount of missiles falling on Tel Aviv, rising oil prices and economic crises matter when compared to genocide. If that's the situation, the option of sitting quietly, expecting the "world" to neutralize Iran, or waiting for the creation of a stable balance of terror, becomes nonexistent.
If Netanyahu doesn't act and Iran achieves nuclear weapons capabilities, he'll go down in history as a pathetic loudmouth. As a poor man's Churchill.
But Netanyahu booby-trapped himself back while he was still making his way to Washington, when he presented Iran with a public demand: Dismantle the underground enrichment facility near Qom, cease all enrichment activity, and remove the medium-grade uranium from Iranian territory. He realizes that the Iranian government will never agree to these terms, which seem more like setting up a casus belli than a reasonable diplomatic demand. But Netanyahu's Holocaust speech at the AIPAC conference went much further than that.
Obama asked Netanyahu to avoid making inflammatory statements in regard to Iran so as to keep gasoline prices down in America's gas stations. It is an important issue when trying to rebuild the American economy as well as, of course, Obama's reelection bid. And while Obama's thinking may seem reasonable, he is living in an entirely different world than that of Israel's prime minister. From the White House, Iran looks like a strategic problem, not like a Holocaust. Thus, time is not of the essence, and diplomacy and sanctions should still be given a chance. Netanyahu is motivated by other factors.
Enough loopholes can be detected that would allow Netanyahu to escape an imminent decision to go to war. He has a political interest in aiding his Republican friends against Obama, so his statement that "there wasn't a decision to attack" seems more like an attempt to stir things up ahead of the U.S. presidential elections than a command to Israel Air Force units. There are those who believe he's just a second-guessing coward who would never take it upon himself to initiate a war. It could be that all these interpretations are true. Nevertheless, Netanyahu took on a public obligation on Monday that would make it very hard for him to back away from the path of war with Iran.
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