It is wrong to use Holocaust terminology to describe the threat to Israel from Iran, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said late Thursday in a speech at the Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya.
The speech was intended to attack Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who often makes that comparison and did so most recently in a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day last month at Yad Vashem. The timing of Livni's criticism was significant, because Netanyahu's meeting at the White House with US President Barack Obama on Monday is considered critical for coordinating the two countries' strategies on Iran.
"The use of terms such as 'Holocaust' when speaking of threats is problematic," Livni told the crowd. "It doesn't convey the right message. Israel of 2009 is a stronger, more powerful state, and it can make decisions.
She reminded her listeners that the tragedy that befell the Jews during World War II took place "before the Jewish nation had the capacity to defend itself," and therefore, "the connection to the Holocaust... is wrong, both with regards to the Holocaust itself, and also with regards to the correct ethos of our nation, from the perspective of its strength."
She added that "Israel must not be portrayed as weak at time when decisions need to be made."
But Livni's critics point out that she herself often compared Iran to Nazi Germany as foreign minister, including as part of a high profile speech to the United Nations General Assembly in October 2007. While pleading for the world to intervene to prevent Iran's nuclearization, she told the General Assembly that the UN had been formed "to prevent another Holocaust."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also rejected comparisons between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler in an interview with Channel 2 on Saturday.
"I'm not very happy with the comparison," Barak said. "We are not the Jews of Europe. The State of Israel is the strong one here. I don't see anyone annihilating it."
Livni also criticized Netanyahu in her speech on Thursday for resisting pressure to endorse a two-state solution as a way of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She said the possibility of the establishment of one nation for Israelis and Palestinians, rather than the acceptance of a two-state solution, was a strategic threat to the existence of the Jewish state.
"The idea that there will be one state for two peoples instead of a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is a strategic threat, no less [important] than any other threat," she said. "Time is not on the side of those who want to keep Israel a Jewish state, time is not on the side of the moderates in the region, and therefore we must not drag our feet and delay the inevitable with unfruitful negotiations."
Livni's confidant, Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, warned on Saturday night that if Netanyahu is not forthcoming to Obama on the Palestinian front when they meet on Monday, the international community might force a dangerous diplomatic plan on Israel.
"The problem with Bibi is that he doesn't have the courage or the political power to implement what he believes in," Hasson said of the prime minister. "Even if he would adopt leftist positions, his Likud and his coalition won't let him do anything, so he won't end up initiating a diplomatic process and Israel will face pressure from the world because of it."
Itamar Sharon contributed to this report.