LOS ANGELES - Drawing a direct analogy between Iran and Nazi Germany, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu asserted Monday that the Iranian nuclear program posed a threat not only to Israel, but to the entire western world. There was "still time," however, to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, he said.
"It's 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bombs," Netanyahu told delegates to the annual United Jewish Communities General Assembly, repeating the line several times, like a chorus, during his address. "Believe him and stop him," the opposition leader said of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "This is what we must do. Everything else pales before this."
While the Iranian president "denies the Holocaust," Netanyahu said, "he is preparing another Holocaust for the Jewish state."
Speaking on Army Radio on Tuesday, Netanyahu hinted that Israel possesses the military capabilities necessary for curbing by itself the Iranian nuclear threat, declining to specify what these entail.
The Likud chairman said "I don't want to analyze the capability required to eliminate [the Iranian] threat, but this capability exists," when told by host Razi Barkai that Israel lacks the ability to eliminate Tehran's nuclear program by military means.
"This capability is eroded over time, and if we wait years then obviously this capability would not exist anymore ... but right now I disagree with the claim that nothing can be done against Iran," he added.
When asked if Bush could afford embarking on another "military adventure" after Iraq, Netanyahu said acting on the Iranian nuclear program would not be adventurous but necessary.
"... Israel would certainly be the first stop on Iran's tour of destruction, but at the planned production rate of 25 nuclear bombs a year ... [the arsenal] will be directed against 'the big Satan,' the U.S., and the 'moderate Satan,' Europe," Netanyahu said.
"Iran is developing ballistic missiles that would reach America, and now they prepare missiles with an adequate range to cover the whole of Europe," he added.
"No one cared"
Criticizing the international community in his GA speech for not acting more forcefully in trying to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power - "No one cared then and no one seems to care now," he said, again drawing on the Nazi parallel - Netanyahu warned that Tehran's nuclear and missile program "goes way beyond the destruction of Israel - it is directed to achieve world-wide range. It's a global program in the service of a mad ideology."
Large sections of the international community, he said, also misunderstood the nature of radical Islam and its role in the Mideast conflict. "What happens in Iran affects what happens in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not the other way round," he said.
Netanyahu said he believed that Iran could still be stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons. "There is still time. All ways must be considered. We can't let this thing happen," he said, but did not outline specific measures he thought should be taken.
Referring to Israel's preemptive strike in the 1967 War, he did say that stopping Iran required "preemptive leadership. Preemption requires will and vision."
"Noone will defend the Jews if the Jews don't defend themselves," he said to loud applause. "Iran's nuclear ambitions have to be stopped."