Israel news

Israelis protest against settlement freeze

By Jessica Elgot, December 10, 2009

Protests over Binyamin Netanyahu’s plans for a 10 month freeze on settlements continued through the night in Jerusalem, where around 10,000 settlers, Charedim and sympathisers gathered.

It was US President Barack Obama who was the main target of anger from settlers, who gathered near the official residence of the prime minister, in the city’s Paris Square.

Banners criticised the US influence on Israeli policy. One read “We were hoping for change, got the same old imperialist.”

Another read: “Bibi, you serve us, not the US.”

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EU: Jerusalem must be capital of Israel and Palestine

By Jessica Elgot, December 9, 2009

The Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has defended the EU’s statement on Jerusalem, which called for it to become the capital of two states.

Mr Bildt’s original proposal, which has firm support from Britain, recommended re-dividing the city, so that east Jerusalem could be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

A watered-down version of the Swedish proposal was approved by the EU, removing the recognition of east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and referring to the Palestinian Authority, instead of “Palestine”.

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New UK ambassador to Israel

By Jessica Elgot, December 8, 2009

Matthew Gould has been appointed as the new ambassador to Israel.

He will take over from current ambassador Tom Phillips in late 2010.

Mr Gould, a former speech writer for Robin Cook, is currently the Principal Private Secretary to Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

He has also held positions in NATO, Tehran and Washington.

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Arab scholar 'blasted' over Temple Mount

By Ben Lynfield, December 3, 2009

Prominent Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh has reportedly been blasted for writing about the Jewish connection to Temple Mount.

Mr Nusseibeh was one of a number of Palestinian and Israeli scholars to contribute to an unprecedented joint new study about the site, Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem’s Sacred Esplanade, initiated by the Hebrew University and the Yad Ben-Tzvi Institute.

In his chapter, Mr Nusseibeh, president of al-Quds University in east Jerusalem, does not affirm that there were Jewish temples on Temple Mount.

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Ethiopian aliyah may restart

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 3, 2009

The lobby calling for the renewed emigration of the Falashmura to Israel scored a significant victory this week after the Jewish Agency confirmed that it would support bringing more than 8,000 members of the Ethiopian community to Israel.

The Jewish Agency chairman Nathan Sharansky will ask the Israeli government to renew its efforts to bring over the members of the Falashmura currently living in a compound in the Ethiopian city of Gondar. This is a reversal of the agency’s previous policy and of the government’s decision that all Falashmura emigration was to end in 2008.

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Crackdown on 'Orthodox' women who shirk IDF

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 3, 2009

A law enabling the IDF to crack down on women who defer army service fraudulently “for religious reasons” has become a political hot potato and may cause a coalition crisis.

Coalition partners Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) have said they will be voting against a government-approved law that will enable the IDF to send investigators to check whether young women who do not join the army claiming they were religious are indeed leading a religious life.

If they are not, the IDF will be able to draft them immediately.

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Details of Shalit deal slowly become clear

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 3, 2009

Israel will free 980 Palestinian prisoners in two stages in return for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. That is the broad framework of the prisoner exchange which is expected to take place in the next few weeks.

While the leaders of Hamas spent this week debating the details of the deal in Damascus, the public debate in Israel over the pros and cons of the exchange has gathered pace.

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Prayer call by women of the wall

By Leon Symons, December 3, 2009

Israel’s Women of the Wall organisation has said it will launch a major demonstration to try to break a 20-year-old law banning women from praying directly in front of the Western Wall.

The organisation’s chair, Anat Hoffman, told an audience of New Israel Fund supporters in London this week: “We will be there again at the Wall on December 18, believing that the Wall is the holiest place for Jews, believing it should be open to all.”

Last week a woman was arrested and then released after a group of 40 women, wearing tallitot and kippot read from the Torah.

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Climate change: what Israel is doing

December 3, 2009

Israel will be sending a delegation to the Copenhagen Conference. President Shimon Peres has expressed an interest in leading it but Prime Minister Netanyahu has not yet decided if he will attend.

Following a report last week on Israel’s carbon abatement by global consulting company McKinsey, Environment Minister Gilad Erdan has recommended that the government “spearheads a true environmental revolution” by establishing a reduction target of 37 per cent of total greenhouse emissions by 2030.

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Pollard: Execute prisoners until Gilad Shalit is free

By Jessica Elgot, December 2, 2009

Jailed spy Jonathan Pollard says Israel should be executing terrorists until Gilad Shalit is freed, rather than exchanging prisoners for his freedom.

Pollard, who is imprisoned in North Carolina, said the thought of terrorists being released was a chilul Hashem [crime against God]. He expressed horror at reports that Israel has done a deal with Hamas in which 1,000 Palestinian prisoners will be released.

Pollard is currently serving a life sentence in prison for spying for Israel on the United States. Convicted in 1987, he is not due to be released until 2015.

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