Israel news

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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Israel and Turkey vow to improve ties

By Sami Kohen, November 26, 2009

After nearly a year of strained ties, Israel and Turkey have vowed to improve their bilateral relations and discussed the prospect of Turkey mediating Israeli talks with Syria.

Israeli Minister for Industry, Trade and Labour, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, spent two days in Turkey this week. It was the first such trip by an Israeli minister since Operation Cast Lead, which was the catalyst for a breakdown in relations between the allies.

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Briton is first gay spouse of an Israeli ambassador

By Simon Griver, November 26, 2009

A former member of Liverpool Bnei Akiva is set to become the first ever gay spouse of an Israeli ambassador.

UK-born Mikie Goldstein, 44, will accompany his partner Yitzhak (Izzy) Yanouka to Angola when he takes up his appointment as the next Israeli ambassador in Luanda. Earlier this week the appointments committee of Israel’s Foreign Ministry approved Mr Yanouka’s candidacy, and the decision will be rubber-stamped by the cabinet in the next few weeks.

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No church or mosque for Ben Gurion airport

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 26, 2009

Plans to build a church and mosque at Ben Gurion Airport have been stymied by Charedi pressure.

The new Terminal Three, which serves 95 per cent of the flights leaving Ben Gurion, was originally planned to include prayer areas for all three monotheistic religions but when the terminal began to operate five years ago it included only a synagogue. In addition there is a booth operated by the Lubavitch movement.

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IDF cracks down on its settler rebels

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 26, 2009

Two political protests by religious soldiers in uniform have turned a spotlight on the divided loyalties of many yeshivah students who also serve in the IDF.

Last Sunday, a group of soldiers in the Nahshon infantry battalion hoisted a banner on top of a building on their base in the southern region of the West Bank, reading, “Nahshon also doesn’t banish Jews.”

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Mixed feelings from IDF over the Shalit deal

By Anshel Pfeffer in Hebron, November 26, 2009

Views among IDF soldiers this week over the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange broadly mirrored those among the wider public, but they had some unique insights of their own.

The younger soldiers, those who started their service only recently, were broadly in favour of the emerging deal. Uriya, a machine-gunner in the Golani Brigade who began his first operational posting last month, said: “From my point of view, what is important is how his mother feels. Nothing can compare to that. Any price is worthwhile, even 1,000 terrorists.”

His friend, Tamir, added a less emotional reason.

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Gilad Shalit's freedom 'will change the Middle East'

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 26, 2009

It is safe to say that the Gilad Shalit saga is now in its final stretch. Assessments by senior Israeli sources range between a prisoner exchange taking place sometime next week and sometime next month. What is clear is that both sides have reached the point of no return.

Too much is at stake for Israel and Hamas, both on the domestic front and in the international arena. Outside the direct mechanics of the negotiations, both sides made major concessions this week which will go a long way to enabling the deal to go down.

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