Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Moti Milrod
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It’s no wonder that the main issue now preoccupying the Israeli public is the flight of young people and the brain drain to the wealthy countries of North America, Western Europe and Australia. The state’s leaders aren’t offering any hope to the younger generation. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outdoes them all by warning that a new Holocaust threatens the Jews of Israel.

Netanyahu returned to Bar-Ilan University this week to update the speech he gave there four and a half years ago, in which he for the first time voiced support for a Palestinian state. This time, he presented not only Iran, but also the Palestinians as Nazis.

Netanyahu cited the Nazi criminal Dieter Wisliceny, Adolf Eichmann’s aide, to cast the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini as a party to the Holocaust – and to rebuke the Palestinian Authority, which still memorializes him today. The lesson is clear: With a nation of heirs to those who helped the Nazis, and who have been subjected to “years of incitement,” in Netanyahu’s words, there’s nothing to talk about, and an agreement will be possible only in return for demands unacceptable to the Palestinians – recognizing Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people” and far-reaching security arrangements.

The day after this speech, Netanyahu hosted Czech President Milos Zeman in Jerusalem and implicitly compared Israel’s current situation to that of Czechoslovakia in 1938. The message was that the West is willing to leave Israel open to destruction in its effort to effect a rapprochement with Iran – just as Czechoslovakia was sacrificed when Britain was trying to appease Hitler.

One can understand Netanyahu’s political motives. His support, with reservations, for a Palestinian state stemmed at the time from his desire to please U.S. President Barack Obama, and it was presented as a down payment on a future American operation against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Now that Netanyahu has understood Obama isn’t going to act against Iran, he is repaying him by retreating from the two-state solution. He is destroying the basis for negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and painting Tzipi Livni, the minister in charge of the talks, as someone who is stubbornly insisting on remaining in the government and conducting pointless negotiations.

But the gravity of Netanyahu’s message goes beyond the bounds of the negotiating room; it affects every citizen of Israel: If the country is headed for destruction and ruin, or at least for perpetual war with the heirs of the Nazis, one can understand why young people are seeking their future elsewhere.

Netanyahu is ignoring the economic concerns of the middle class and hunkering down behind Holocaust speeches, while his government is advancing the same priorities the Likud party has espoused ever since 1977: annexing the West Bank and nurturing an ultra-Orthodox society of full-time yeshiva students who are exempt from both army service and work. The hollow promises of “sharing the burden” made by his coalition partners have long since expired. All that remains is their wretched rebuke of those who have internalized Netanyahu’s message and opted for a more secure future overseas.