Comparisons between contemporary Iran and Nazi Germany are not only appropriate, but pertinent and true, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said while on a visit to Hungary on the morning of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.


Speaking to Israel Radio on Wednesday, the foreign minister stated that while the victims of the Holocaust must be remembered and commemorated, the Jewish people and the international community must also take heed of the lessons of the tragedy and prevent such an event from ever recurring. “It is enough to take a look at the report which appeared in this week's Der Spiegel,” Lieberman said, referring to intelligence acquired by the German BND which gives credence to suspicions that Iran may be developing two separate nuclear programs – a civilian energy endeavor and a clandestine military one which is directly answerable to the country's defense ministry.


“This is the first time that the leader of a UN member state declares there was no Holocaust,” the foreign minister stressed, in an allusion to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Iran was responsible for the bombings in Buenos Aires, both against the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community building (AMIA). [Ahmad Vahidi], who was responsible for two terror attacks - and the government of Argentina, not the government of Israel, issued an international arrest warrant against him - currently serves as defense minister of Iran. Such a defense minister, with a nuclear arsenal at his fingertips – that is not something to be ignored or trivialized.”


Lieberman clarified that no comparison between Iran and Nazi Germany could be considered an exploitation of the genocide. “Anyone who remembers the rise of the Nazis even before 1938, after the Weimar Republic, anyone who understands history and remembers the reaction of the international community – how they tried to placate [the Nazis], to negotiate, to yield to them – must only think of the annexation of what was then Czechoslovakia.”


While the foreign minister acceded to the fact that the mullah-led Iranian regime was not targeting Jews, he stated that Jews were nonetheless being arrested and tried in the Islamic republic. “I certainly don't envy the Jewish community in Iran. The president of Iran himself keeps calling for a world without Zionism. He is replacing Judaism with Zionism. 'There is no place for Jews in the Middle East,' he says. He tells them to go back to Europe. It is fortunate that he (Ahmadinejad) has yet to acquire the kind of power he aspires to.”


During the interview, Lieberman also touched on the controversial treatment of Turkish Ambassador Oguz Celikkol by the foreign minister's deputy, Danny Ayalon. “It's not just the television show [portraying Mossad agents as baby-snatchers],” he said. “The day after it aired, Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] held a joint press conference with [Lebanese Prime Minister] Sa'ad Hariri in which they both defined Israel as 'the greatest threat to the security of the international community,' and I won't even repeat all the other expressions [Erdogan] used.”


Asked if he believed the current tension between Israel and Turkey stemmed from the policies of a government led by Erdogan, Lieberman replied that not much could be expected from a prime minister who called Ahmadinejad a “close friend” and stated he would prefer to meet with the “criminal president of Sudan,” Omar Al-Bashir, rather than with President Shimon Peres. He cited a recent EU report which brought to light discrepancies in Turkey's legal system, its use of torture and its refusal to address tensions between Turkish and Greek Cyprus. “We must look outside our little swamp. Change in Turkey is not a change in its stance toward Israel,” Lieberman said. “We have no interest in a deterioration in relations with Turkey. We approach Turkey with respect and appreciation and expect the same.”


On the impasse in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Lieberman was adamant that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government would “clearly” not make any more gestures in order to renew negotiations. “We brought [former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser] Arafat in from Tunis, we gave him land and weapons, we transferred 10,000 Jews from Gush Katif,” the foreign minister said.


“[Former prime minister Ehud] Olmert, [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and [former US president George W.] Bush sat in Annapolis and we watched Olmert explain that he is ready to return to the '67 borders, to divide Jerusalem, to address the issue of refugees. The [Palestinians] said – 'no, nyet.' If they did not accept these groundbreaking concessions, how will any gestures help?”



Lieberman assessed that since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, barely any progress had been made in peace negotiations. “I don't think the administration of [US President Barack] Obama is naïve, only that the international community has a false perception that peace can be forced,” he told his interviewer. “Peace is achieved through many years of hard work. Security and a [stable] economy must first be ensured. It isn't a question of good will.”


Praising efforts in the international arena by European leaders such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his own host country, Hungary, Lieberman concluded that Israel “must not underestimate its friends.”

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