Iran Nears First Nuke
IRAN WEEKS AWAY FROM HAVING ENOUGH FISSILE MATERIAL FOR FIRST ATOMIC WEAPON: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Tuesday morning, May 17, that Tehran is just weeks away from being able to produce sufficient fissile material necessary for a nuclear weapon.
Speaking at the ‘A New Global Order’ conference being held at Reichman University in Herzliya a day before his trip to Washington, Gantz said Iran’s nuclear program is making significant progress both qualitatively and quantitatively. 19″Iran continues to accumulate irreversible knowledge and experience in the development, research, production, and operation of advanced centrifuges. It stands just a few weeks away from accumulating fissile material that will be sufficient for a first bomb, holds 60 kilograms of enriched material at 60%, produces metallic uranium at the enrichment level of 20%, and prevents the IAEA from accessing its facilities.” “Even today, Iran is making an effort to complete the production and installation of 1,000 advanced IR6 centrifuges at its nuclear facilities, including a new facility being built at an underground site near Natanz. Even now, Iran is working to complete the manufacture and installation of 1,000 new advanced IR6 centrifuges at its nuclear facilities, including at its new underground facility near Natanz.” He added: “We will continue the political effort to strengthen our relations with our neighbors in the region and our partners around the world. This while being willing to make efforts to shrink the conflict and strive for political arrangements between us and the Palestinians, which, even if they seem distant, are a strategic need.” (JPost / VFI News)
US TO REFUEL ISRAELI WARPLANES DURING MASSIVE DRILL SIMULATING STRIKE ON IRAN: In a signal to Iran, the US Air Force will refuel Israel Air Force fighter jets during a massive aerial drill in the coming weeks that will simulate an Israeli strike against Iran.
The Israeli drill – dubbed “Chariots of Fire” – will simulate striking targets far from Israel’s borders with a large number of planes while simultaneously acquiring new targets on various fronts in real-time. It will be the largest military drill in Israel’s history. Unprecedented in scope, the drill will enable the army to maintain a high level of readiness in an ever-changing region, the IDF said. It aims to improve the military’s capabilities in an intense, multi-front and prolonged war on all of Israel’s borders. The chief of staff said that following the month-long drill – which reflects “updated operational planes, customized military capabilities and new combat methods including cooperation with the US military” – the IDF’s readiness for war will be at its peak. Alongside the drill, the IDF has said that fighting the ongoing wave of terror attacks is its No. 1 priority, and will continue to carry out operations to arrest suspects and confiscate weapons. (JPost / VFI News)
HEZBOLLAH BLOC LOSES MAJORITY AS FINAL RESULTS RELEASED: Hezbollah and its allies lost the majority it held in the Lebanese parliament, as their opponent, the Christian Lebanese Forces, became the largest Christian party in parliament after the final results of the elections in the country were announced on Tuesday, May 17.
The election process was marred by violence, violations of election regulations, and power outages, with only about 41% of voters casting their vote. Supporters of Hezbollah and the Christian Lebanese Forces clashed and polling monitors were threatened as Lebanese citizens voted in the first parliamentary elections since the economic crisis in the country began. Monitors from the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) reported that its monitors were threatened by members of Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement multiple times at multiple polling locations on Sunday. Politicians will now need to work to form a government and resume efforts to remedy Lebanon’s worsening economic crisis. (TOI/ VFI News)
IN FIRST, ISRAEL SENDS 2,000 HELMETS, 500 FLAK JACKETS TO UKRAINE: In a further sign of its shifting stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Israel on Wednesday, May 18, sent Ukraine helmets and flak jackets that the Defense Ministry said will be given to rescue forces and civilian organizations.
In a statement, the ministry said it was shipping 2,000 helmets and 500 flak jackets — the first sent by the Jewish state since the Russian invasion began. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Jerusalem has tried to preserve its ties with Moscow and has until recently refused to send defensive equipment to Ukraine — instead, sending over some 100 tons of humanitarian aid as well as setting up a field hospital in western Ukraine for six weeks. However, the attempt to maintain a neutral stance has appeared to shift somewhat in recent weeks. Jerusalem agreed last month to send the helmets and flak jackets to emergency workers in Ukraine and explicitly accused Russia of war crimes as scenes of atrocities have emerged in towns and cities across the country. Sending defensive arms would mark a sea change in Israel’s approach to the war, though it would stop well short of the tanks, guns, planes, and ammunition sent by the Europeans and Americans. The reported move is being driven both by pressure from the US and other Western allies, which want Israel to back up its condemnations with actions and by concerns that Israel’s reluctance to more fully back Ukraine could hurt defense exports if countries fear Jerusalem will do the same to them in a time of need.
CATASTROPHE LOOMS FOR DEAD SEA AS INCOMING WATER SOURCES DRY UP: The Dead Sea sinkhole situation is worsening, according to a marine scientist, who is warning of a looming environmental catastrophe.
“At present, there are over 6,000 sinkholes on the western [Israeli] side alone,” said Dr. Michael Lazar, from the Department of Marine Geosciences at the University of Haifa. Since the 1960s, the Dead Sea has lost a third of its surface area, and the water continues to recede by about a meter every year. A report released by the Environmental Protection Ministry in 2014, based on 10 years of research and data collection, attributes this decline to evaporation accelerated by global warming and climate change as well as human activities, such as the diversion of water from the Jordan River and mineral extraction. Downstream from Syrian and Lebanese tributaries, water is diverted for agricultural and other purposes. This is essentially turning off the Dead Sea’s tap, with very little water now flowing into it. In addition, water is being pumped from the sea to the Dead Sea Works factories’ artificial evaporation ponds. Very little water enters the salt lake in the north but lots of water exits in the south. The Israel Meteorological Service recently published a report on extreme weather events that indicates a significant warming trend in all regions of the country. The warming rate is higher in the west – the coastal plain, the northern Negev, and the mountain region – than it is in the valleys, the east, and the north, where the rate of temperature increase was the lowest. By the end of the 21st century, precipitation is likely to decrease by 10%. The change in rainfall distribution is expected to result in years of below-average rainfall, a phenomenon that could lead to decreased replenishment of water sources causing an increase in the salinity of water sources. The flow of the Jordan River – the main water source of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea – is expected to shrink by up to 22% (or possibly more) in the 21st century. This is a dramatic trend for the region regarding water availability and water scarcity. “There is a clear correlation between sinkhole collapse and peak drought periods,” Lazar said directly linking the increase in sinkholes to the climate crisis. (JPost/ VFI News)
WHAT ARE THE JEWISH ROOTS OF FRANCE’S NEWEST PRIME MINISTER?: French President Emmanuel Macron appointed Labor Minister Élisabeth Borne as the new prime minister of France on Monday, May 16. Borne is the second female prime minister in the republic, and is also the daughter of a Jewish Holocaust survivor. Here are her Jewish roots:
Borne, 61, was born in Paris’s 15th arrondissement (administrative district) to Joseph (Borne) Bornstein and Marguerite Lecèsne. Her father is a Jew of Polish origin, born to a family that fled to France in 1939 as refugees escaping from the Nazis. He was a member of the Resistance and was therefore deported in 1942 from France. He was naturalized as a French citizen in 1950. Borne’s parents ran a pharmaceutical laboratory. Since her father passed away when she was just 11 years old, she became “a pupil of the Nation,” receiving educational benefits granted by the state to minors who had a parent injured or killed during a war, a terrorist attack, or while rendering certain public services. This allowed her to obtain a full scholarship for her studies. She had previously spoken about being the daughter of a single mother, saying in an interview that “It has not always been easy. I lost my father when I was very young and so we ended up with my mother, who had two daughters and who did not really have an income.”When Borne presented her naturalization decree as a citizen for the first time, as a prefect in school, she was moved. She told a local newspaper in 2015: “That I, the daughter of this stateless refugee who only became French in 1950, made this gesture… says something about integration.” Borne has served as a civil servant for decades – but is not considered someone who might overshadow Macron. (JPost/ VFI News)
MCDONALD’S LEAVING RUSSIA AFTER THREE DECADES: McDonald’s announced on Monday, May 16, that it will be permanently closing up its operations in Russia after over 30 years in the country and that it has begun selling off its restaurant locations.
The decision came after the company said it was temporarily closing its 850 Russian sites in March in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. McDonald’s said the decision was made due to the “humanitarian crisis” and “unpredictable operating environment” created by the Ukraine war, BBC News reported. McDonald’s first opened a location in Russia in 1990 as the Cold War was coming to an end, with the arrival of the fast-food giant in the Soviet Union seen as symbolic of the end of tensions between the West and the East. In 1991, the USSR fell apart and when Russia opened its economy to Western companies, McDonald’s began to add more locations. “This is a complicated issue that’s without precedent and with profound consequences,” McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a message addressed to staff and suppliers. (INN / VFI News)
JEWISH RADIO STATION TO OPEN IN MOROCCO: A Jewish-focused radio station will soon be opening in Morocco, featuring programming that highlights the culture of Moroccan Jews.
With a planned September launch, Mozaik will offer programming on Moroccan Judaism, and will be based in studios in Casablanca, said Jacques Knafo, who is one of the project’s founders, EJP reported. Mozaik will start off as an online station before launching as an FM radio station once it receives its broadcast license. The station will focus on social and cultural aspects of Moroccan Judaism and will start off broadcasting in Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrakesh before expanding to other Moroccan cities. (TOI / VFI News)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by VFI writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff