PM Bennett to World Powers as Nuke Talks Resume: ‘Murderous Regime Should Not Be Rewarded’; Israel Denounces United Nations ‘Palestine Day’

   

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sent a sharp message to the international community to be tough on Iran as nuclear negotiations resumed in Vienna. Iran’s goal is for the US to lift sanctions while the Islamic Republic does almost nothing in return, the prime minister said. “Iran won’t just keep its nuclear program: From today, they’ll be getting paid for it,” he warned.

The Israeli premier’s statement comes as it was reported that the Jewish state has been sharing intelligence with the United States showing that Iran is “taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium” to weapons-grade 90 percent purity. The preparations could enable Tehran to reach weapons-grade level within just a few weeks.

World powers and Iran reconvened after a nearly six-month break, to negotiate Tehran’s compliance with and Washington’s return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal (JCPOA). The American and Iranian teams were situated in separate rooms because the Islamic Republic’s representatives refused to negotiate directly with Washington.

The talks ended after about four hours with an agreement to start with a discussion on lifting sanctions “and then other issues,” as Iran’s lead negotiator and Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani put it, avoiding explicitly mentioning negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

“There is a sense of urgency of putting the JCPOA back in place,” said European Union negotiator and political director Enrique Mora.

Israel opposes the JCPOA because it insufficiently limited Iran’s uranium enrichment – and in fact, legitimizes further enrichment after the agreement expires, which paves the way for an eventual nuclear bomb. In addition, the deal did not address Iran’s other malign actions in the region.

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Bennett also pointed to a remark by Iran Armed Force spokesman Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi earlier this week as characteristic of the regime’s intentions: “We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, not even one millimeter.”

“Such a murderous regime should not be rewarded,” Bennett said, calling on the world to make sure not to allow “hundreds of billions of dollars [to be] poured right into their rotten regime.”

   

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Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan, along with the World Jewish Congress (WJC), blasted the United Nations for its annual “Palestine Day” while ignoring the expulsion of Jews from Muslim countries.

“On November 29, exactly 74 years ago, the UN recognized the Jewish people’s right to a state. The Jews and Israel accepted this partition plan, and the Palestinians and the Arab countries rejected it and tried to destroy us,” said Erdan, adding: “The Palestinians and the Arab countries not only attacked Israel, the Jewish state, they also persecuted, massacred and ultimately expelled the Jewish communities in their own countries. Shockingly, this atrocity is completely, completely ignored by the UN.”

As part of the campaign led by Erdan and the WJC, trucks carrying signs arrived at the UN headquarters and showed those entering the building pictures of Jewish refugees being expelled from Arab countries and Iran, along with a demand to stop erasing Jewish history.

Meanwhile, A pro-Palestinian conference called “Solidarity with the Palestinian People” was held in the UN General Assembly. The conference, intended to strengthen support for the Palestinians “right of return,” was attended by the president of the General Assembly, the president of the Security Council, the Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations and representatives of Palestinian civil society.

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Israel’s ambassador to Bahrain, Eitan Na’eh, arrived in Manama to take up his role as the first such envoy since diplomatic ties were established between the two countries under the Abraham Accords.

Na’eh, who previously served as the head of Israel’s mission to the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, tweeted an image of himself on the flight before assuming the historic role. The official account for Israel’s diplomatic mission posted that he is “on his way to begin his important journey and mission of building bridges and strengthening ties between our nations.”

Bahrain became the first Gulf nation to normalize relations with the Jewish state under the US-brokered agreement that also saw several other countries follow suit.

Since then, the countries have cooperated on a number of initiatives, including granting mutual recognition of their respective coronavirus health passes and agreeing to collaborate on a number of new ventures.

Na’eh’s counterpart, Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma, arrived in Israel in September to begin his role in an event that coincided with the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords.

At the time, Jalahma said he believed Bahrain could be a “sincere and strong partner – an active partner – in peace” in the region.

   

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett joined Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall on Sunday that was dedicated to terror attack victim Eli Kay.

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Kay, 26, was murdered by Hamas gunman Fadi Abu Shkhaydam in an attack in Jerusalem’s Old City last week.

Four others were also injured before Abu Shkhaydam was shot dead by Israeli security forces.

Posting to his Facebook page after the event, Bennett said: “It is very emotional to light the first candle in the Western Wall tunnels,” adding: “Hanukkah is a holiday of miracles, and we, the citizens of the State of Israel who live in the State of Israel, are the miracle workers.”

In a separate ceremony held at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, President Isaac Herzog lit the first Hanukkah candle. 

   

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Israel is vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 against COVID-19 at a much faster rate than it was able to inoculate youngsters aged between 12 and 15, official figures show.

Data from Maccabi Healthcare Services shows the percentage of kids who have received a shot is more than double that of the older group when they first became eligible for the vaccine in June, while Clalit Health Services reported the number is nearly four times as many.

Health Ministry figures show a total of 3.3 percent of Israeli children aged 5 to 11 have now received at least one dose, while 58.6 percent of those aged 12 to 15 have had one shot.

Dr. Lior Hecht, a pediatrician at Maccabi, warned there was still misinformation surrounding the vaccine, adding she had been sent death threats by individuals who oppose the inoculation drive.

“There have been explicit threats to murder,” she said, revealing that police had been called in to investigate.

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