News Digest — 2/24/21

Netanyahu’s Biblical Purim Message To Iran’s ‘Delusional’ Rulers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Tuesday (23rd) that Israel will not permit Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons to fulfill its oft-repeated goal of destroying Israel.

“On the eve of the festival of Purim, I would like to say to those who seek our lives, Iran and its proxies in the Middle East: 2,500 years ago, another Persian villain [Haman] tried to destroy the Jewish people and just as he failed then, so too will you fail today.  We will not allow your extremist and aggressive regime to attain nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said during a speech at a memorial service in northern Israel.

“We have not made the journey of generations, of thousands of years, to return to the Land of Israel in order to allow the delusional regime of the ayatollahs to end the story of the revival of the Jewish people,” the prime minister said.

“We are not pinning our hopes on any agreement with an extremist regime such as yours.  We have already seen the quality of agreements with extremist regimes such as yours, in the past century and in this one, with the government of North Korea,” Netanyahu said.

“In the 1990s North Korea agreed to end its nuclear weapons program, but years later withdrew from the International Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and set off its first nuclear blast in 2006.  North Korea is known to be giving extensive military support to Iran, including ballistic missile technology that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons.”

“With or without agreements – we will do everything so that you will not arms yourselves with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony marking the 100-year anniversary of the death of Zionist pioneer Joseph Trumpeldor and seven others who defended the Jewish farming community of Tel Hai in the Upper Galilee in 1920.

The Purim festival celebrated each year recounts the story of how an evil advisor to the ancient king of Persia persuaded him to order the genocide of the Jewish people, but the king subsequently fell in love with a Jewish woman, Esther who he took as his queen.  Esther turned the tables on Haman, the evil advisor, and saved the Jews from destruction.

Iran’s political and military leaders have for decades said their national goal is to destroy Israel, which it calls a ‘cancer’ that has to be removed from the Middle East.

Israel objected when world powers signed a deal with Iran in 2015 to restrict its nuclear activities, pointing out the numerous shortcomings of the agreement, particularly the fact that it didn’t address Iran’s murderous intentions, including ‘sunset clauses,’ and put limits on how the UN’s international nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, could inspect Iran’s nuclear sites. 

Last month Iran announced it was increasing the rate at which it enriches uranium in a clear violation of the agreement.



Israel’s National Library Gifted Rare 15th-Century Scroll Of Esther

One of the world’s oldest scrolls of Esther was recently gifted to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, the library blog announced on Monday (22nd).

The scroll, dating from medieval times, was a gift from long-standing supporters of the library.

Scholars have determined that the scroll, known as Megillat Esther in Hebrew, was written by a scribe on the Iberian Peninsula around 1465, prior to the Spanish and Portuguese expulsions that happened at the end of the 15th century.  Their estimation was based on both stylistic and scientific evidence, including carbon-14 dating.

According to Yoel Finkelman, the curator of the library’s Haim and Hanna Salomon Judaica Collection, the new addition is “an incredibly rare testament to the rich material culture of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula.  It is one of the earliest extant Esther Scrolls, and one of the few 15rh-century Megillot in the world.”

Finkelman added that the library was “privileged to house this treasure and to preserve the legacy of the pre-expulsion Iberian Jewry for the Jewish people around the world.”

He added that Torah and Esther Scrolls from pre-expulsion Spain and Portugal are even rarer, with only a handful known to have survived.

The Scroll of Esther is read worldwide in Jewish communities on Purim, which this year begins after sundown Thursday, February 25th.



Iran Ending Snap Inspections Is ‘Dangerous,’ France, Germany And UK Say

Iran’s decision to block snap inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is dangerous and a violation of the Iran deal, the European countries party to that deal, known as the E3, said on Tuesday (23rd).

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK said they “deeply regret” that Iran suspended what is known as the Additional Protocol of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the 2015 Iran deal is called.

“Iran’s actions are a further violation of its commitments under the JCPOA and significantly reduces safeguard-oversight by the IAEA,” they stated,  “and the E3 are united in underlining the dangerous nature of this decision.”

The foreign ministers pointed out that stopping snap inspections will limit IAEA access to nuclear sites and its ability to monitor Iran’s nuclear program and related activities.

“We urge Iran to stop and reverse all measures that reduce transparency and to work to ensure full and timely cooperation with the IAEA,” they said.

The ministers said they seek to preserve the JCPOA and negotiate for Iran and the US to return to it.

Iran announced that it would stop the inspections last Tuesday (16th), going back on a prior agreement to extend them for three more months.  They said the move was a response to the US not lifting sanctions on the regime.

Former US President Donald Trump left the Iran deal in 2018, placing heavy sanctions on Tehran.

It has been reported that US President Joe Biden seeks to return to the JCPOA when Iran returns to compliance with the agreement’s nuclear restrictions.



Israel Signs Agreement To Equip German Military With Trophy AP

The Israeli Defense Ministry and the German Federal Ministry of Defense signed a government-to-government agreement to supply Rafael’s Trophy active protection system to the German military.

The system will be used for the German fleet of Leopard 2 tanks, the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday (23rd).  It added that the program was led by the Ministry’s Directorate of Defense R&D (MAFAT) and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

The Trophy system, produced by Rafael, is considered among the world’s most effective active protection systems, securing armored vehicles from a range of anti-tank missiles and rocket fire.

It is a combat-proven mechanism that has been operational in the IDF for almost a decade and is integrated into the Merkava Mark IV and Namer APCs.  Its capabilities have been demonstrated in numerous military operations and have saved the lives of countless IDF soldiers.

The agreement was signed by Defense Ministry Director-General Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amit Eshel, and by an official in the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support.

It includes the provision of systems for a company of tanks, interceptors and spare parts as well as operational and technical training.  The systems will be delivered over the next several years.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said following the signing that “once again,” we see the appreciation that leading security institutions around the world have for Israel’s innovation and technology.

“Germany’s expression of confidence in an Israeli system emphasizes the important relationship and close cooperation between our countries, and highlights the strength of Israeli industries,” said Gantz.

Dr. Ran Gozali, executive vice-president and head of Rafael’s Land and Naval Systems Division, said that “Germany is joining a group of nations who have chosen the Trophy APS to protect their troops and assets from the ever-increasing threat of anti-armor warfare.  We are thankful to the German government for joining other user-nations and for their confidence in our system and our experience, and we look forward to working with them.”



Israeli Air Force Promotes Centenarian Officer To Colonel

Alex Ziloni, one of the founding members of the Israel Air Force (IAF), was promoted last week to the rank of colonel in honor of his “many decades of dedication to the State of Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement.

Ziloni, 105, was promoted by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin.

In a tweet shared by the IDF, the military saluted Ziloni for his lifelong contributions.

“At 105 years old, founding IAF member Alex Ziloni was promoted to Colonel by LTG Aviv Kochavi & IAF Commander MG Amikam Norkin today as a token of appreciation for his many decades of dedication to the State of Israel,” the tweet read.  “We salute you, Col. (Res) Alex!”

Ziloni immigrated to Israel from Poland at age five.  After graduating from school, he joined the Haganah paramilitary organization in Jerusalem in 1934.  During the events of the Great Arab Revolt against the British occupation of Palestine, Ziloni moved to England (1936) to study aviation engineering and later volunteered to serve as an engineer in the British Royal Air Force during World War II.

He went on to become a founding member of the IAF in May 1948, during Israel’s War of Independence, the Jewish News Syndicate reported.

He served in the corps until 1960 and participated in aerial operations in the 1956 Suez War.  Ziloni retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel, later moving on to serve as a military attache in Washington.

Ziloni negotiated with British officials in January 1948 to purchase 21 single-engine lightweight Auster planes according to JNS.