Israel news

Minister’s threat of Iran attack ‘sends oil price soaring’

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 13, 2008

A weekend newspaper interview with Israel’s Transportation Minister, Shaul Mofaz, who threatened Iran with military action, has been deemed a major cause of the latest spike in oil prices.

Mr Mofaz’s threats coincided with the unofficial start of his Kadima leadership primaries campaign, but its reverberations were felt much further afield than Israel’s political scene.

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Progress in prisoner swap but hopes fade for soldiers

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 6, 2008

The first stage of a prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbollah took place this week amid growing fears that the two IDF soldiers captured two years ago are dead.

Hizbollah surprised Israel with a consignment of body parts, belonging to five soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War.

The handover at Nakura on Sunday was supposed to be of convicted spy Nassim Nasser who had finished serving his six-year prison sentence in Israel.

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Conversion body was ‘a failure’

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 6, 2008

The Israeli Civil Service Authority has described the Conversion Directorate in a special report as “failing in a national mission” by not succeeding in boosting the number of conversions in Israel over the past decade.

The directorate’s head, Rabbi Haim Drukman, dismissed two weeks ago by the Prime Minister’s Office, hit back at the findings, insisting that “the report is warped and maliciously targeted against me and my deputy.

“We never committed ourselves to numbers and this is a travesty of the whole issue.”

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Outrage over East Jerusalem plans

By Ben Lynfield, June 6, 2008

In the face of criticism from the Palestinian Authority, the United States and the UN, Israeli housing minister Zeev Boim has defended a decision to expand Jewish housing in parts of East Jerusalem considered as settlements by the international community.

Mr Boim said that the decision to build nearly 900 units at Har Homa and in Givat Zeev was taken with the “knowledge and approval” of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and underlined the government’s policy to maintain Jerusalem as an undivided capital.

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Paratrooper thanks pilot who risked all to save him

By Shelly Paz, June 6, 2008

Lying seriously injured in a battlefield in South Lebanon, with a bullet in his head and another in his leg, 21-year-old Israeli Staff Sergeant Gur Nedzvetsky knew that the chances of rescue were receding rapidly.

But as dawn began to break on the ninth day of the Second Lebanon War — making a landing by a rescue helicopter even riskier than usual — the sounds of an Israeli military Blackhawk hovering above him gave the young Russian-born paratrooper fresh hope.

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Kadima prepares for new party primaries

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 6, 2008

The countdown to the end of Ehud Olmert’s premiership will begin next week, when senior Kadima members will meet to agree upon a date for primaries for a new leader.

Mr Olmert has signalled that he will not oppose the move, though he is still maintaining that he has no plans to resign. Meanwhile, support is growing in the Knesset for bringing forward the elections.

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Olmert in crisis

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 30, 2008

Kadimah inner circle to discuss future

The pressure on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to leave office greatly intensified this week after Defence Minister Ehud Barak demanded that he resign or suspend himself from the premiership until the investigation into his alleged bribe-taking was over.

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What next for the coalition?

By Daniella Peled, May 30, 2008

The net has been closing in on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ever since the news broke of his alleged financial misdoings. The last three weeks have been little more than a relentless march towards his final political demise.

On Wednesday, this inglorious fate came a step closer with the announcement by Labour leader Ehud Barak that he would lead his 19 MKs out of the coalition without some major show of political remorse from Mr Olmert.

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Amnesty slates Israel and Palestinians in report

By Bernard Josephs, May 30, 2008

Both the Palestinians and Israel have been heavily criticised in a major report issued this week by Amnesty International to mark the 60th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights.

Launching the report, the organisation’s secretary-general Irene Khan said it covered countries all over the world, but noted that in the Middle East the brunt seemed “to fall on civilians taking no part in conflict”.

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Jets take aim at Blair's plane

By Shelly Paz, May 30, 2008

Former British prime minister Tony Blair came close to being shot down by Israeli Air Force jets last week after air-traffic controllers noticed what they thought was a suspicious aircraft heading into Israeli airspace from the Sinai peninsula and tried to make contact.

Mr Blair, now envoy to the Middle East Quartet, was returning to his Jerusalem headquarters from a World Economic Forum meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

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