(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert used the cabinet discussion Sunday on anti-Semitism to warn against the threat to Israel emanating from Iran.
"At the head of Iran, a nation of 70 million people with an impressive history and tradition, stands a man who says - not hints, but rather plainly says - that the policy of his government is to wipe the Zionist entity off the map," Olmert told the cabinet.
Olmert said that Israel must take the moral lead in warning about Iran's nuclear threat.
"Israel will not allow the world to evade a confrontation with a state that preaches the destruction of a state in a way that brings back memories of the worst days of humanity," Olmert said. "We will not let the world sink for a second time into apathy and silence that gives the moral authority to speak in this way about the existence of the Jewish people."
The cabinet discussion on anti-Semitism came as the world was marking Holocaust Awareness Day, established by the UN last year to fall on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Prior to the cabinet discussion, Olmert viewed an exhibition of anti-Semitic political cartoons and acts of anti-Semitic vandalism that was set up in the Prime Minister's Office by the Jewish Agency and Yad Vashem. The cabinet ministers also heard briefings on anti-Semitic incidents that took place last year around the world, from isolated killings to the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries.
Meanwhile, on Thursday night at the British Parliament, Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, together with a panel of parliamentarians and diplomats, put forward a legal case to remove Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Speaking to parliamentarians and journalists at the House of Commons, Netanyahu called for international support, and for Britain to play a leading role in bringing the Iranian president to trial as an international criminal for incitement of genocide.
The legal case, based on a report prepared by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is based on the premise that Iran will have nuclear weapons within three years. Netanyahu cited Ahmadinejad's "messianic apocalyptic view of the world" and called on the international community to respond to the early warning signs of genocide.
The meeting was chaired by Conservative MP Michael Gove who said: "His [Ahmadinejad's] rhetoric is more than worrying but tantamount to an incitement of genocide.
"What we want to do here is to try to use the machinery of international law in order to make sure the world is alerted to the danger we face and that civil and peaceful means can be used in order to try to litigate a potentially terrible evil," he added.
The panel included Irwin Cotler, former Canadian minister of justice and expert in international law; Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; MP from the Labor Party Gisela Stuart; MK Dan Naveh (Likud) and Lord David Trimble, former Ulster Unionist Party leader.
Netanyahu pointed a finger at the UN and the international community for not taking timely action to prevent genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia.
"In the 1930s, too, no one believed that Hitler was capable of taking action because he didn't explicitly talk about wiping out the Jewish people. In contrast, the Iranian president publicly announces his intentions and no one is trying to stop him," he said.
Gold also talked about the failure of the UN to prevent genocide, and said that the proposed law, aimed at the prevention of genocide, was one way to gain perspective on the issue.
"We are talking about protecting the crown jewel of international humanitarian law. Kofi Anan said in 2004 there can be no more important issue and international obligation than preventing genocide. This may be considered one of the original purposes of the UN," he said.
Presenting the report that outlines the proposal, Cotler noted that among those backing the initiative were Iranian academics who believed it was inconceivable that no country has turned to the UN Security Council despite the fact that Ahmadinejad's actions constituted incitement to genocide.
Responding to a question about the possibility of Israel attacking Iran, Netanyahu said: "I can say categorically that Israel had no intention of a preemptive attack on Iran; this is good newsprint but nothing to do with reality.
"Many governments in the Arab world are terrified of this regime which threatens them also and they would like to see this danger removed. Many are begging Washington to take action because they are concerned with the fate of their own stability," he explained.
Meanwhile, diplomats in New York said Tuesday that the US is circulating at the UN General Assembly a proposed resolution condemning any denial of the Holocaust as increasing the risk that such a terrible historic event could be repeated. According to several diplomats, the draft resolution was inspired by the behavior of Iran, where Ahmadinejad has publicly denied repeatedly that the Holocaust occurred.