Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the official ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday to warn about the Iranian threat. "The world gradually accepts Iran's statements of destruction against Israel and we still do not see the necessary international determination to stop Iran from arming," Netanyahu said, calling on "all enlightened countries" to strongly condemn Iran and act with "genuine determination" to prevent it from building nuclear weapons.
This is not the first time Netanyahu has equated the Iranian threat with the Jewish Holocaust in Europe. The comparison is mistaken and damaging. Independent and sovereign Israel is not weak like the Jewish communities in Poland, Hungary or Germany, which could not defend themselves against the murderous Nazis and their collaborators. Israel can protect itself against those who threaten its existence and security, as it has done in the past when the international community played down the severity of a threat.
In his warnings about a pending Holocaust, Netanyahu is sending out a problematic message to young Israelis considering building their future in their country. Most Jews who were saved from the Holocaust left Europe before World War II and found a safe haven in America or Mandatory Palestine. Is Netanyahu suggesting that Israelis do the same - escape Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats by fleeing overseas?
The prime minister's declarations will tie his hands when it's time to decide on which policy to pursue against Iran and its threats. If Israel is facing a Holocaust, it must act in every way possible to prevent it and even go to war if the international community disappoints us in its efforts to use diplomacy to stop Iran's nuclear program. Maybe Netanyahu believes that his warnings will push Western countries to act, but the political logic behind this is dubious.
If Netanyahu wanted to encourage world leaders to act against Iran, he should have taken part in the nuclear conference in Washington this week and voiced his poignant warnings directly to his counterparts. But Netanyahu was concerned about criticism of Israel's nuclear capability, so he opted to stay home and speak from Yad Vashem's safe podium. He thus missed out on a chance to join the international effort, which only highlights Israel's growing isolation.
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