News Digest — 2/22/22

With Ukraine War Seemingly Imminent, Israel Relocates Kiev Embassy To Lviv

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has ordered Israeli Embassy staff in Kiev to move to consular offices in the Western Ukraine city of Lviv following a situation assessment and discussions with various international actors.

In a statement, the ministry noted, “The consular office in Lviv has been working to provide travel documents to Israeli citizens since Thursday (17th) and will assist citizens interested in leaving the country, primarily through land border crossings to neighboring countries.”

Officials said the Foreign Ministry was “prepared for any development, including the possibility of a land exit.  Within the framework, Israeli diplomats stationed in Lviv as well as those serving in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, and Hungary have held visits to border crossings with Ukraine, and meetings with the authorities at the crossings, to ensure the passage of Israeli citizens who wish to leave the country.”

With Russia sending troops into Luhansk and Donetsk after Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday (21st) recognized the independence of the separatist regions, Israeli officials believe war is increasingly likely to break out.

The assessment is that once war breaks out, it will be increasingly difficult for Jews to leave Ukraine on airplanes.  With thousands of Israelis still in Ukraine, the decision was made to relocate embassy staff to Lviv, which is situated near the land border crossing with Poland. Efforts towards this end are set to commence Tuesday (22nd).

The Foreign Ministry has called on Israeli citizens in the country to leave immediately.  Just 4,000 Israelis have heeded Jerusalem’s advice and left Ukraine thus far.

The Jewish Agency also announced it would be moving its staff from Kiev to Lviv in the west of the country before reassessing the security situation early next week.

Local Jewish Agency representatives in Kiev would continue to provide service to Local Jewish community members, agency officials said.

“The Jewish Agency is closely monitoring developments in the Ukraine region and is prepared to provide assistance in various scenarios, in accordance with the relevant government ministries,” acting Jewish Agency Chairman Yaakov Hagoel said.



Lapid: Israel Will Not Be Bound By Nuclear Deal With Iran

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid addressed the reports that the Western powers are close to a new nuclear deal with Iran, at the start of the Weekly Yesh Atid faction meeting Monday (21st).

“A bad nuclear agreement is going to be signed in Vienna.  It’s the same deal that was signed in 2015 which restricted Iranian uranium enrichment for ten years.  But they didn’t do one straightforward thing: they didn’t update the timeline,” Lapid said.

“They left the same expiration date in 2025 on a large portion of the restrictions on Iran.  In two and a half years, many of the restrictions on Iran will disappear.  Iran will be able to put advanced centrifuges back into action, and enrich uranium for a bomb.”

“And if that’s not enough, Iran is asking the world powers for a bonus: to cancel the designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.  Iran wants umbrella organizations like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Houthis not to be designated as terrorist organizations also. 

“If the Revolutionary Guard isn’t a terrorist organization, what is it?  A folk dancing group?  The world cannot agree to these conditions.  It cannot pump tens of billions of dollars into Iran and let it continue to spread terror around the world.”

“Israel will continue to conduct a serious and honest dialogue with the American government, as friends do,  in order to make sure an agreement isn’t the end of the matter.  Even if it is signed, we’ll continue our fight against the Iranian nuclear program and against Iranian terror.”

“Let me be clear: we aren’t subject to this agreement.  Israel will defend itself, by itself.  We have a strong army, we have the Mossad, we have a determined government, and we won’t hesitate to act in order to prevent Iran from achieving its goals,” Lapid concluded.



Malcolm Hoenlein: Defeat Iranian Regime By Standing With Iranian People

Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is in Jerusalem for his organization’s National Leadership Mission taking place February 20-24.

Speaking on a wide array of topics, he said that his organization has been working on the Iran issue for many years going back to the 1980s when there was warning of the dangers of a nuclear Iran.

“The situation inside Iran is much worse than people know.  COVID took a toll, that they tell me, was perhaps five to ten times greater than what they said.  Even more, the drought is eating up half the country.  Millions of people have moved into the cities.  The currency has been lopped off by four zeros, leaving people penniless and their pensions worthless.  People are living very difficult lives, but they are willing to do it and take additional sanctions, they tell us, if we are willing to help them against their regime, said Hoenlein.”

While the West is focused on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian people are “oppressed by the regime.  It’s what’s happening inside the country.  Fifty percent of college students are unemployed.  There are no jobs for people.”

According to Hoenlein, the best way to support the citizens of Iran against the regime is for the West to make public statements in their support, and for unions to stand up in support of striking Iranians.  He estimated there are 6,000 strikes a year inside Iran, but no one outside is reporting it.”

People put their lives on the line – many lose their lives in anti-government actions.  When hundreds and thousands were marching saying “we will not die for Gaza, we will not die for Hezbollah…. the people were looking to the West for support.”

“It’s imperative that Western governments show we stand up for them, we speak up for them, and that sanctions reflect the violation of human rights and the regional and global aggression by Iran.”

He said that it’s not just Iran’s nuclear program, but it’s also it’s ballistic missile and conventional weapons programs that are in violation internationally, and need to be sanctioned.

He said he believes wholly in the promise of the Abraham Accords and has been working to bring together the Gulf nations for 15 years.

“We should acknowledge that some of the Gulf Arab countries are now having Holocaust Memorial Days, and are fixing up Jewish sites,” he said.  But nobody tells you this positive side of the story.  I meet all the leaders of these countries, and I honestly believe their fear of Iran is driving them, and soon in the not too distant future, many other countries  will join with the Abraham Accords,” Hoenlein concluded.



Protective Maritime Defense System Completes Successful Test At Sea

Israel’s version of the maritime Iron Dome defense system successfully completed a series of tests in the early hours on Monday morning (21st) the Defense Ministry announced.

Protective Dome’s test was supervised by the Defense Ministry, Israeli Navy, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.  Its intercepts were fired from a Sa’ar 6 corvette, the ministry said in a statement.

According to available details, the tests simulated various threat scenarios, including rockets, cruise missiles, and drone attacks targeting Israel’s vessels and shores.

“Protective Dome’s abilities are a significant addition to Israel’s defense abilities with respect to maintaining maritime superiority in the region,” the Defense Ministry said. 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett commended the defense establishment on the successful test, saying Protective Dome “will serve as an important tier in Israeli defenses.”

“We continue to lead the development of advanced technologies that enable us to protect the public as well as enable us vital operational leeway concerning Iran and its regional proxies.

Dr. Ran Gozali, head of the Land and Naval Division at Rafael said in a statement that the tests represent “the end of a process of trying to develop and adapt the Iron Dome [defense] system to the sea, and meets the requirements of the Defense Ministry, the Navy and the IDF.”

“This series of tests demonstrated Raphael’s advanced engineering ability in the development and integration of maritime systems at the highest level.’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz lauded the developers, saying the technology will go a long way toward allowing Israel to counter the weapons possessed by Iran and its regional offshoots.

Once operational, Protective Dome will be integrated into Israel’s multi-tiered air defenses, which includes Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow defense systems.



Jewish Community Sues U.S. State To Prohibit Use Of Zyklon B Gas For Executions

The local Jewish community is suing the state of Arizona in an effort to prevent capital punishment by the same lethal gas used to exterminate Jews at the Auschwitz death camp the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and Northern Arizona reports.

“We are not arguing the merits of the death penalty, nor the guilt or innocence of the defendants – simply that because of our tragic history we have a unique lens to declare that the use of Zyklon B is a cruel and barbarous practice whose usage has no place in modern society,” Paul Rockower, executive director of the JCRC and one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

Janice Friebaum, former vice president and spokesperson for the Phoenix Holocaust Association, said that Holocaust survivors and their descendants were horrified, according to the weekly paper.

“It’s a very painful way to kill a person and it’s fundamentally inhumane.  To think that it was done to millions of people during the Holocaust is horrific enough, but to think that 70 to 80 years later we’re thinking of using it as a method of capital punishment is mindboggling,” Friedbaum said, according to the report.

“There are clearly other more humane methods available for the state to consider,” she said.

“Also the use of this poison for mass extermination of human beings was essentially an innovation of the Nazis.  So, if the state of Arizona is considering mimicking that, we, the survivors and their descendants, see that as tantamount to approving what the Nazis did.”

“Under no circumstances should the same method of execution used to murder over one million people, including Jews, during the Holocaust be used in the execution of people on death row,” said Jared Keenan, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Arizona, the paper reported.

“Regardless of where people stand on the matter of capital punishment, it is clear that the use of this barbaric practice is cruel and must be abolished,” he said.

A hearing is scheduled for March 7.

Tim Eckstein, chairman of the JCRC board, said painful punishments such as the use of lethal gas go against Jewish values.

“Thousands of years ago, Jews shunned mutilation, burning at the stake, and throwing the condemned into a funeral pyre – common practices in other cultures,” he said, according to the weekly.

“Today those same moral and ethical values require us to take a stand against a practice that we know, from very recent history, is cruel, inhumane and will highly cause severe pain and suffering.”