Holocaust is over, leading Israeli tells Likud

Benjamin Netanyahu, a front-runner for the Israeli premiership, has been severely criticised by a former Speaker of the Knesset and head of the Jewish Agency for comparing the threat posed by Iran to that of pre-war Nazi Germany.

Mr Netanyahu, whose Likud Party is running neck and neck in the polls with Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, has gone further than his rivals in implying he might authorise a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear installations.

Avraham Burg, whose new book The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From Its Ashes is out in Britain this weekend, says in an interview with The Independent Magazine that the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is “no doubt a problem”. Mr Burg adds: “He is an issue in the Western world and for Israel’s sense of confidence in particular.” But he continues: “What is [Mr Netanyahu’s] soundbite? ‘It is [19]38 all over again. Do me a favour. Did we have such a powerful state in ’38? Did we have this onmipotent army in ’38? Did we have the most important superpowers siding with us in ’38? Did we have the Catholic church taking a |different attitude in ’38? It’s not ’38, however you look at it. And even Ahmadinejad, when you compare him with Hitler, you diminish Hitler.”

Mr Burg’s book, in part a plea to fellow Israelis more than 60 years after the Holocaust to stop seeing themselves as “a nation of victims”, caused
furious debate when the Hebrew version became a bestseller in Israel last year. The new translation is likely to provoke similar argument, particularly in the US. Mr Burg, a strong Barack Obama supporter, says “a dialoguing President is better than a shooter” and that George Bush has been a “disaster for the world and for Israel”. He argues against Israel defining itself as a “Jewish state” instead of as a “state for the Jewish people which belongs to all its citizens” – including Arabs.

Mr Burg, who does not rule out a return to Israeli politics, also warns that the days for a two-state solution are “numbered” because Israeli and Palestinian societies have been “abducted” by fundamentalists. An opponent of the occupation of Palestinian territories, Mr Burg makes a plea for the EU to become more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and for Israel to reconsider its “orientation” of “Europhobia” and “Americophilia”. He says a solution may lie in a federation of Israeli and Palestinian entities, perhaps as part of a regional body including Arab states worried about Iranian hegemony. Mr Burg suggests the EU might eventually hold out membership to the region, including Israel and the Palestinians, as a peace incentive.