Netanyahu targets Iran at sombre Auschwitz ceremony

28th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

The ceremony was all the more sombre as Netanyahu was standing alongside his wife Sara, whose father was "probably the only survivor of a family of 100 people."

Berlin -- Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu took an indirect swipe at Iran and its Holocaust-denying president Thursday as he received blueprints of Auschwitz in an emotionally charged ceremony in Berlin.

Taking charge of original plans of the death camp where more than a million Jews were slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust, Netanyahu said: "We cannot allow those who call for the destruction of the Jewish state to go unchallenged."

"We cannot allow evil to prepare the mass deaths of innocents and it should be nipped in the bud," he added.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, has repeatedly said that Israel is doomed to be "wiped off the map" and that the Holocaust was a "myth."

"There are those who believe that the Holocaust didn't happen ... let them come to Jerusalem and let them look at these plans for this factory of death," Netanyahu said.

The ceremony was all the more sombre as Netanyahu was standing alongside his wife Sara, whose father he said was "probably the only survivor of a family of 100 people."

"I don't know how many of my wife's family died in these bunkers," he said, pointing at the blueprints.

The prime minister is to present the drawings, which were found in a Berlin apartment in 2008 and then bought by the Bild popular daily, to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

The blueprints, which date from 1941-2 and include plans drawn with cool technical precision of a gas chamber and a crematorium, were put on display by Bild's publisher Axel Springer earlier this year.

More than a million Jews, Roma and others deemed "subhuman" by the Nazis were killed at Auschwitz, near the Polish city of Krakow, out of a total six million slaughtered up to the fall of the regime in 1945.

Afterward, Netanyahu met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where he expressed hopes for a quick resumption of Middle East peace talks as he warned of a mortal threat to Israel's survival posed by Iran.

"There is not much time" to halt Tehran's nuclear ambitions, he told reporters.

"I think the most important thing that can be put in place is what the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called crippling sanctions. It is possible to put real pressure, real economic pressure, on this regime if the major powers of the world unite."

He said that even if the UN Security Council failed to approve tougher sanctions against Tehran over its sensitive nuclear work due to opposition from Russia or China, a "coalition of the willing" could enact its own measures.

Merkel told the same news conference that if Iran failed to meet international obligations by next month then "more serious steps" including energy sanctions would have to be considered.

Widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear armed power, Israel suspects Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge Tehran denies.

Netanyahu and Merkel said they were convinced the time was right to jumpstart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"I hope that in a timeframe of a month or two we can relaunch negotiations," Netanyahu said. "Let's just get on with it. We have a big job to fend off the radicals and move forward."

But Merkel echoed the US position that no progress could be made if Israel failed to halt construction of settlement in the occupied territories.

"I made clear that the Federal Republic of Germany believes that progress on the issue of settlement building -- a stop to settlement building -- is an important building block and a condition for relaunching the Middle East peace process," she said.

Netanyahu was on the second and final leg of a four-day European tour and his first stop in Germany since taking office in March.

Netanyahu later visited a villa on the Wannsee on the outskirts of Berlin where senior Nazi officials adopted in January 1942 the "final solution" -- plans to exterminate all Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Netanyahu, who has described the visit to Wannsee as "emotional," is the first Israeli prime minister to visit the site's museum which was opened in 1992 on the 50th anniversary of the "final solution" conference.

He lauded the Jewish state's close ties with Germany, which were officially established in 1965 following a fraught debate in Israel, a country deeply scarred by the Holocaust.

Germany now is considered Israel's strongest ally in Europe.

"Every time I am in Germany I bless the relationship we have with the German government. Not only because of the present and the future, but also because of the past," he told reporters shortly after arriving Wednesday.

Netanyahu came to Berlin from London where he met British counterpart Gordon Brown and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who has been pressing him to freeze Jewish settlement construction in the occupied West Bank in order to jumpstart peace talks.

Although Netanyahu seemed cool to the request, he expressed optimism that a deal could be clinched in the coming weeks, with direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks launched by the end of September.


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