It appears that our prime minister, Benjamin (Winston) Netanyahu, has a very high opinion of himself. In a recent interview
with The New York Times, Netanyahu stated that great leaders, such as Churchill, who served as Britain's PM during the decisive years of World War Two, are always isolated.
Netanyahu repeatedly mentions the British leader, particularly when he is talking about his obsession - the Iranian bomb. The Israeli PM sees himself as almost the only leader who is capable of understanding the lethal significance of Iran's actions – as opposed to most of the Western leaders.
This comparison is arrogant and fundamentally wrong for a number of reasons. The use of Churchill's name in the dispute turns Iran
into Nazi Germany, Tehran into Berlin (the capital of the Third Reich) and Iranian leaders Hassan Rohani and
Ali Khamenei into Adolf Hitler types. This comparison detracts from the severity of the Holocaust. It turns it into another banal event and blurs the horrible uniqueness of the murderous Nazi ideology and its disastrous effect on the Jewish people.
While Iran is a dangerous enemy state, it does not view Israel in terms of the need to annihilate all Jews in order to bring salvation to the universe.
Netanyahu's comparison is similar to the comparison Menachem Begin made between Yasser Arafat and Hitler,
mainly during the first Lebanon war. Author Amos Oz said at the time that the comparison is indicative of a "severe mental distortion" and that "this urge, to revive and destroy Hitler again and again" can lead statesmen to dangerous paths.
Netanyahu's comparison is wrong also because Churchill's struggle was conducted mainly within his Conservative Party, against Neville Chamberlain (Britain's prime minister from 1937 to 1940) and Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary who supported negotiations with Hitler in order to reach a separate peace agreement.
Winston Churchill and his wife (Archive photo: Getty Images)
Netanyahu is inadvertently turning those Likud members who oppose his stance on Iran into Chamberlain-like politicians. This absurd outlook stems from his arrogance – 'only I am capable of understanding the horrible truth.'
Moreover, Churchill was a leader capable of making difficult decisions while risking his political standing. Israel also had leaders who took fateful decisions – David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin. Netanyahu is not such a leader. He has never presented a clear stance that could risk his premiership. His most dominant characteristic as prime minister is survival – the desire to please everyone in order to remain close to the golden calf that is the regime. He has never displayed any courage.
There is no comparison between the colorful and optimistic Churchill and the dark, anxious Netanyahu who is capable of making only apocalyptic prophecies.
There is one thing Netanyahu has in common with Churchill – a fondness for expensive cigars.
Yechiam Weitz is a history professor at Haifa University
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