Israel news

Olmert blames Shalit’s parents

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 19, 2009

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has blamed the intensive media campaign for the release of Gilad Shalit for the breakdown of the talks over a possible prisoner deal — and told his family that they may have harmed his cause.

This week the Israeli government announced that it had refused Hamas demands for the release of 450 senior terrorists, many of them jailed for life for murder.

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Report raises hopes of possible Shalit deal

March 13, 2009

The end of the ordeal of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit may be moving closer - but at a very slow pace.

A newspaper report in Israel has claimed that it had agreed a deal that would free 450 Hamas prisoners in exchange for Mr Shalit.

However, according to the report in Haaretz, there were still areas where the two sides were a long way apart.

Quoting Palestinian sources in Cairo, the newspaper said that Israel wanted some of the prisoners to be deported abroad or to Gaza rather than returned home to the West Bank.

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Rabbis to heal rift with Pope

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

A visit to Rome by members of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate this weekend is intended to heal the rift between the Vatican and the Jewish world.

The eighth annual meeting of the Bilateral Commission of the Vatican and the Chief Rabbinate had been cancelled by the Israelis after Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of a group of renegade bishops, including Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier.

Jewish organisations have accused the Vatican establishment and the Pope himself of turning a blind eye to Bishop Williamson’s statements.

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Katzav faces rape charge

March 12, 2009

Moshe Katzav, the former Israeli president, is to be charged with rape. Mr Katzav, 63, allegedly raped a female official in the late nineties while he was minister of tourism. He will be indicted on several counts of sexual misconduct.

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Gay couple allowed to adopt

March 12, 2009

A same-sex male couple have been granted the legal right to adopt for the first time in Israel.

Former MK Uzi Even and his life partner Amit Kama were permitted to adopt Yossi Even-Kama, 14 years after they took him in. Mr Kama described the decision as “legitimising our daily lives, our feelings and our emotions”. The couple applied for adoption because Tel Aviv University refused to grant Yossi Even-Kama a tuition discount reserved for families of faculty members, where Mr Even is a professor of chemistry.

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Northern Israel in economic crisis

By Ben Lynfield, March 12, 2009

Despite hopes that Israel would escape relatively unscathed from the global economic slump, the crisis is now hitting home with factory closures, hundreds of layoffs and outbreaks of worker unrest across the north of the country.

At the Of Haemek slaughterhouse and packing plant in the northern Israeli town of Ramat Yishai, 200 employees learned on Sunday that the factory had staggering debts and was to close.

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IDF looks to West to boost recruitment

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

The Israeli army hopes that a boost in immigration from Western countries, especially America, Canada and Britain, will help it overcome a shortfall in recruitment.

The IDF and Jewish organisations are planning new recruitment drives based on forecasts that larger numbers of immigrants from Western countries will arrive in Israel over the next decade — and on upcoming projects helping Jews in the 18-23 age group make aliyah.

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Top job for Lieberman as Bibi is forced right

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

The key appointments in Israel’s new government, being sworn in on March 18, will be Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister and Moshe Yaalon as Defence Minister.

Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu has failed to convince the leaders of Kadima and Labour, the mainstream parties in the Knesset, to join his coalition. His new government, therefore, will be based on a narrow, right-wing coalition, leaving Mr Netanyahu no choice but to accede to most of his partners’ demands.

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Now they claim I’m not Jewish!

By James Martin, March 12, 2009

Yossi Fackenheim is a 29-year-old Israeli like any other. He proudly served in the IDF and lives and breathes the country. But a judge in the Jerusalem rabbinical court has ruled that he can no longer be considered Jewish.

“Either I’m excommunicated and there’s nothing I can do, or I fight and get justice for a right I thought was mine for life — being Jewish,” said Mr Fackenheim defiantly as he sat in a Swiss Cottage café in north London, discussing a bewildering turn of events.

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Jerusalem murder is solved

March 12, 2009

Clues to a mystery that is more than 60 years old will be revealed next week at an intriguing Jerusalem press conference.

On May 6 1947, a 16-year-old volunteer for the hard right-wing Stern Group in pre-state Palestine, Alexander Haim Rubowitz, was distributing political leaflets on a Jerusalem street corner. The teenager was abducted by men who identified themselves as British police officers — and was never seen again.

He was presumed to have been murdered by his abductors, but his body

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