Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued a lobbying offensive against Iran during his last day in the US Thursday, comparing Tehran’s leadership to Hitler in the wake of the Israeli capture of a ship Jerusalem says was carrying Iranian missiles to Gaza.
Netanyahu spoke at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where exhibits document how 6 million Jews and Europe’s lively Jewish culture was destroyed in the Holocaust. He drew a parallel between a 1919 letter on display at the museum in which Adolf Hitler laid out his plans for an “uncompromising removal of the Jews altogether.”
“He called then for the destruction of Israel, and Iran today calls for the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu said, after being shown a document signed by Hitler.
“Then, too, there were people who did not want to believe his words. We shall not allow Iran to arm itself with the capability to destroy us,” he continued.
Israeli commandos captured the Panamanian-flagged ship on Wednesday, about 100 kilometers south of Port Sudan in the Red Sea, finding several medium-range missiles aboard that Jerusalem says were sent from Tehran and could have threatened millions.
Israeli officials said the discovery exposed the “true face of Iran” as an exporter of terror, a refrain Netanyahu repeated while speaking at the museum Thursday before wrapping up his five-day trip to the US.
“Building the weapons of mass death and dispatching the weapons of immediate death right now to the worst terrorist groups in the world… that’s the true face of Iran,” Netanyahu said.
Iran has flatly denied any involvement with the shipment, which, according to the Israeli army, was carrying missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel.
“The claim of sending a ship carrying Iranian weapons to Gaza is not true,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
“This claim is merely based on the repetitive and unfounded lies of the Zionist media” aimed at derailing negotiations between world powers and Iran over its contested nuclear program, he said.
However, Netanyahu said their lies would be exposed once the ship docked at the Israeli port of Eilat for a full inspection. It is slated to reach the Red Sea city on Saturday.
“The Iranian government says it’s all lies, it’s all lies. Well, that ship will get to Eilat in a few days and we shall see who is lying,” he continued.
Israeli officials are apparently using the shipment in a bid to try to put the brakes on detente efforts between the West and Iran, which Jerusalem maintains is developing a covert nuclear weapons program while hiding behind a “smile offensive.”
On Wednesday, the White House acknowledged that Iran is a major state sponsor of terrorism, but said it would continue to participate in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Even as we continue efforts to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy, we will continue to stand up to Iran’s support for destabilizing activities in the region, in coordination with our partners and allies, and made clear that these illicit actions are unacceptable to the international community and in gross violation of Iran’s UN Security Council obligations,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Netanyahu previously called an interim agreement with Iran “a huge mistake.” That six-month deal, set to expire in July, requires Iran to freeze some nuclear activities, which it claims are for peaceful energy purposes, in exchange for relief from sanctions.
“We cannot be tolerant to the intolerant. We cannot be tolerant to the fanatics,” he said. “These people are out to destroy a section of people called the Jewish people. We will not let them, we shall expose them and we will fight them. And I’ll tell you another thing: We shall beat them.”
The Los Angeles museum is part of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish human rights organization whose founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the prime minister calls a close friend.
Netanyahu visited it on a previous trip to California and has praised the center’s plans to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu also traveled to Silicon Valley on Wednesday to sign an agreement with California Gov. Jerry Brown to develop joint technology projects and conduct research in California and Israel.
During a meeting at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, the two emphasized their joint interests in cybersecurity, energy sources and water conservation, and suggested that Israel — an arid country with a growing population — might be able to help California cope with its ongoing drought.
The visit followed Netanyahu’s meetings with President Barack Obama in Washington, DC, on Monday and his appearance Tuesday at the Los Angeles premiere of a television documentary that features him giving a tour of his country that will air on public television stations.
It was the first California visit by an Israeli prime minister since 2006.