Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu compared inaction on Iran’s nuclear program to not attacking Nazi concentration camps, laying out the dangers posed to his own country and the United States.
And Netanyahu made clear that Israel was prepared to protect itself even without American involvement, though he praised President Barack Obama for recent displays of support.
“Israel must always have the ability to defend itself – by itself – against any threats,” Netanyahu said Monday in a late night speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference in Washington. “My friends, we deeply appreciate the great alliance between our two countries, but when it comes to Israel’s survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate.”
Invoking the motto of Holocaust remembrance, Netanyahu said, “Never again will … the Jewish people be powerless and supplicants for our fate and our very survival. Never again.”
The prime minister read from a 1944 letter from the U.S. Department of War turning down the request of the World Jewish Congress for the United States to bomb Auschwitz. But he said he expected the support of the American government now.
“My friends, 2012 is not 1944,” Netanyahu said. “The American government today is different. You heard that in President Obama’s speech yesterday.”
In his speech to AIPAC on Sunday and in the Oval Office ahead of a meeting with Netanyahu on Monday, Obama stressed that he hopes to find a diplomatic resolution and to pressure Iran by continuing tough sanctions. But while denouncing “loose talk of war” that could speed up Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, the president made clear that he does not discount any option to deal with the threat.
Though Iran insists that its nuclear program is targeted toward developing medical treatments, Netanyahu said he doesn’t believe Tehran’s denials.
“If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then what is it? Yeah, that’s right, it’s a duck. But this is a nuclear duck,” he said to applause and laughter from a crowd of more than 13,000 conference attendees as well as more than half the members of Congress.
Security getting into the Walter E. Washington Convention Center was tight before Netanyahu’s speech and, as he spoke, guards dressed in black stood several feet behind him. Afterward, a roster of hundreds of names of dignitaries in attendance for Monday night’s gala was read.
Netanyahu said he has been patient, hoping that diplomacy or sanctions would stir Iran to end its nuclear program “but, unfortunately, Iran’s nuclear program has marched forward” despite outside pressure. After waiting years, “none of us can afford to wait much longer. As prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”
“For the sake of our prosperity, for the sake of our security, for the sake of our children, Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons,” he said.