Through Holocaust, Netanyahu puts Israel at forefront of Iran challenge

On this Holocaust Memorial Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “it is the duty of the world to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but above all it is our duty [Israel’s] to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu’s full speech

On this day, when our entire nation gathers together to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and the six million Jews who were murdered, we must fulfill our most sacred obligation. This obligation is not merely an obligation to remember the past. It is an obligation to learn its lessons, and, most importantly, to apply them to the present in order to secure the future of our people. We must remember the past and secure the future by applying the lessons of the past. This is especially true for this generation – a generation that once again is faced with calls to annihilate the Jewish State.

Netanyahu said that the Holocaust must be a lesson to the scarred Jewish nation to be on guard and defend itself against those who wish to destroy it. By invoking the lessons of the Holocaust, Netanyahu put the world on notice, once again, that Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, will not allow Iran to obtain a military nuclear capability, a capability which they could use to destroy the Jews.

The two previous prime ministers, Sharon and Olmert, took the position that Iran is first and foremost the world’s problem, and that Israel must not put itself at the forefront of the Iranian challenge. As we enter the third year of Benjamin Netanyahu’s term as prime minister, and as Iran’s nuclear program develops, we have rapidly moved from a position of ‘Iran is the world’s problem’ to ‘Iran is first and foremost Israel’s problem.’

Netanyahu has moved away from Sharon and Olmert’s position, largely due to his assessment that the previous stance simply hasn’t worked. Netanyahu believes that in all the time that Israel let the world take the lead on the Iranian problem, Supreme Leader Khomeini has patiently and diligently been building a nuclear breakout capability that will let him produce a bomb within a relatively short period of time. From decision to bomb could take as little as one year, Netanyahu has said. The current PM reserves a special place in hell for former IAEA head Mohammed El Baradei, who he accuses of providing the Iranians with complete cover throughout his term as head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency. Netanyahu says El Baradei skewed the information about Iran’s military nuclear program presented to the IAEA. It is no wonder then that things started to move once El Baradei made way for Amano. But despite all the sanctions, Iran’s drive for a nuclear weapon continues, and soon they will be able to withstand any Israeli strike by placing their nuclear enrichment facilities deep underground.

Is Netanyahu right to place Israel at the forefront of the struggle against Iran? Is his urgency justified enough to place all the weight onto the shoulders of the IDF and the Israeli public?

There are pros and cons to this. Ideally the world would handle Iran; the international community, led by the US, has a lot to lose if Iran goes nuclear, and the world has more firepower than Israel does. But can Israel leave it entirely up to the world, Netanyahu says. The same world that didn’t stop the Holocaust? The same America that didn’t bomb Auschwitz? We can’t take the risk that in the end Iran gets the bomb.

This is how Netanyahu, the son of a historian, frames the issue. Is he right to do so? Many think he is. Others think he’s wrong, including Eli Wiesel himself. We’re not the same Jewish nation as we were then. We have a state now, we have an army now, and we can defend ourselves. Netanyahu says this himself. But this can be interpreted both ways. If we are being threatened with annihilation then we have the duty to protect ourselves. But if we have a state and a strong army, then perhaps Iran cannot really annihilate us; in which case we should let the world handle them.

What a dilemma. Leave it up to the world, who may or may not solve the problem, who may or may not stop another Holocaust from happening; or do it ourselves, and face the consequences on our own too.

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