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Netanyahu Compares Israel Defense against Iran to Book of Esther, Slams IAEA Chief's Comments That a Strike Would be 'Illegal'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday March 5, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday March 5, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via AP)

JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply criticized remarks by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who suggested Saturday that a potential Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would be "illegal."

Speaking at Sunday's cabinet meeting, as Israelis prepared to celebrate Monday and Tuesday's Purim holiday, Netanyahu compared Israel's defense against Iran today to the story of Esther in the Bible, when she convinced the Persian king to reverse an edict that called for all Jews to die.

Netanyahu said, “2,500 years ago an enemy arose in Persia who sought to destroy the Jews. They did not succeed then, neither will they succeed today,”

The prime minister asked, “Is Iran, which openly calls for our destruction, permitted to defend the destructive weapons that would slaughter us? Are we permitted to defend ourselves? It is clear that we are, and it is clear that we will do so.”


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He was responding to comments made in Tehran over the weekend by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi. According to a JNS News report, Grossi spoke at a joint press conference with Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Director Mohammed Eslami, saying, “I think any attack, any military attack on a nuclear facility is outlaw[ed]—is out of the normative structures that we all abide by.”

The IAEA and Iran said in a joint statement that they would work in a "spirit of cooperation," despite the IAEA's own report issued Feb.28, which warned that Iran had enriched uranium to a level near 84 percent and could possibly manufacture a nuclear bomb within 12 days.

Netanyahu called Grossi "a worthy gentleman who said something unworthy."

Meanwhile, Ynet News military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai published a column Sunday saying the Biden administration has concerns that Israel would not notify them before carrying out a strike to prevent Iran from going nuclear. The column cites a visit to Israel this past Friday by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. Mark Milley, who met with top Israeli defense officials, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

After the meeting, Gallant said, "Ongoing cooperation is required in order to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon." He thanked Milley for his commitment to the security of Israel.

The Ynet column quoted a senior Israeli defense official who said the White House and the Pentagon fear an Israeli surprise attack on Iran while the U.S. and its allies are heavily invested in Ukraine and the rise in tensions with China.

Also on the eve of Purim, Sheik Nasrallah, the leader of the terror group Hezbollah and Iran's proxy in Lebanon, pronounced the demise of Israel in an address Monday. Nasrallah pointed to the internal Israeli strife over judicial reform and other issues and said, "Everything that is happening in Israel is a sign of the end of the entity."

He added that the Israeli cabinet's approval of the death penalty for terrorists "will only increase the Palestinians' desire to carry out more jihad actions."

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