Top US Commander: Iran ‘Very Close’ to Getting Nuke; Jerusalem Slams Brussels for West Bank Product Labeling Plan

Reprinted from Honest Reporting.

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A top US general said Iran has the ability to build a nuclear weapon in a very short time and that the American military is ready with options to prevent this should diplomatic initiatives fail.

“Our president said they’re not going to have a nuclear weapon,” General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, said. “The diplomats are in the lead on this, but Central Command always has a variety of plans that we could execute, if directed.”

McKenzie, the top US commander in the Middle East, said he believes Tehran has currently not made the decision to press ahead with building an actual warhead, but is putting itself in a position where it could do so quickly.

“They’re very close this time,” McKenzie stressed, adding, “I think they like the idea of being able to breakout.”

Reports in recent days have indicated that both the US and Israel believe that the Islamic Republic has pushed far enough ahead with its uranium enrichment program that it could build a bomb within a matter of weeks to months.

McKenzie’s comments came on the same day that the UN’s nuclear watchdog reported “no progress” on resolving disputes over the monitoring of Iranian atomic facilities and less than a week before talks are set to restart on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

   

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Israel has condemned plans by Belgium to place consumer labels on goods produced in the West Bank clarifying that they were not made in the Jewish state. Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll, who was in Belgium on Wednesday with a view to improving ties between the two countries, immediately pulled out of his scheduled meetings with officials.

“The Belgian government’s decision to label products from Judea [and] Samaria [the biblical names for the areas encompassing the West Bank] strengthens extremists, does not help promote peace in the region, and shows Belgium as not contributing to regional stability,” Roll wrote on Twitter.

The labeling of products produced in Judea and Samaria “harms Israelis and Palestinians alike,” the Foreign Ministry wrote. “It is inconsistent with the Israeli government’s policy that seeks to improve the lives of Palestinians, to strengthen the PA, and improve Israel’s ties with Europe.”

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in 2019 that products produced in West Bank Jewish communities must be labeled as not made in Israel. But EU countries have been slow to adopt the policy.

Legal expert Eugene Kontorovich said that Belgium’s plan “puts a new kind of yellow star solely on Jewish products. Belgium has no rules against doing business in disputed territories anywhere else in the world – because they know that such activity is not illegal under international law. Thus, the labeling and lists it is requiring is not about business in occupied territories – it is about business with Jews,” said Kontorovich, who heads the International Law Department at the Kohelet Policy Forum.

   

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More than 50 members of the United States House of Representatives signed a letter calling on the Biden Administration to add Israel to the US Visa Waiver Program. The letter was sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“Israel’s participation in the program would grow the US economy, strengthen national security at each of our borders, and increase opportunities for people-to-people exchange,” the lawmakers wrote.

For years Israel has sought entry into the waiver program, which allows travelers to stay in the US for 90 days without requiring pre-arranged visas. Israelis consider it a way to enhance business and trade with the US.

In the past, US officials listed numerous reasons why Israel was not allowed into the program, including Jerusalem’s purported failure to crack down on Israelis who arrive as tourists but stay to work illegally.

Current US law requires Israelis to apply for a visa before traveling to the Western country, a complicated process that often takes months.

   

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A 2,000-year-old silver coin experts believe may have been minted by a Temple priest was recently found in Jerusalem by an 11-year-old Israeli girl. Liel Krotokop came across the coin while helping sift through archaeological debris from the excavation of Pilgrimage Road in the City of David national park.

One side of the coin features an image of a chalice with the inscription “Shekel Israel.” Next to the cup the Hebrew letters Shin and Bet appear, an acronym of the words “Shana Bet,” or “Year Two” — a reference to the second year of the Jewish revolt against the Romans (67-68 C.E.).

The flip side of the coin features a depiction of what researchers say is the staff of the High Priest, flanked by the words “Holy Jerusalem” in early Hebrew script.

Dr. Robert Cole, head of numismatics at the Israel Antiquities Authority, explained that the discovery was a rare one.

“Of the thousands of coins found thus far in archaeological excavations, only about 30 are made of silver and date from the time of the great rebellion,” he said. Cole believes that the silver used to mint the coin was taken from the Temple stocks, and that the coin itself was minted on the Temple Mount grounds, possibly by one of the priests.

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