JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appealed to the international community on Monday to ostracize Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying the world must not stand by while he calls for Israel's destruction.
"It is inconceivable that ... a member of the United Nations continues to be received throughout the world as a legitimate leader while he stands up and says that another U.N. member state should be wiped off the map," Olmert told a business conference.
"We shall never repeat the mistakes of 60 years ago, of taking things lightly, ignoring what was being heard then when it was still possible to save lives," he added, in an allusion to the Nazis who killed 6 million Jews in Europe.
Israel considers Iran to be the greatest threat to its survival, and rejects Tehran's claim that its nuclear program is peaceful. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for the Jewish state's destruction, and Iran already has missiles capable of carrying payloads to Israel.
In Israel's sharpest warning yet, Olmert warned last week that Tehran would have "a price to pay" if it does not back down from its atomic ambitions.
Olmert did not specifically threaten to cripple Iran's nuclear program in a military strike, as it did 25 years ago in Iraq when it bombed an unfinished nuclear reactor there. But he has been saying the Iranians "have to be afraid" of the consequences of their intransigence.
Military experts have questioned Israel's ability to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, which unlike Iraq's in 1981 are scattered among installations, some hidden underground. But they have said Israel could set the program back years by striking several of the sites.
Support for U.N. sanctions against Iran has grown among members of the Security Council after weeks of talks between the EU and Iran failed to persuade Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment, a key process in bomb-building.