Israel news

Prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit video

By Jessica Elgot, September 30, 2009

Israel has agreed to release 20 Palestinian woman prisoners in exchange for video proof that Gilad Shalit is alive.

International aid organisations are denied access to the solider, who was captured in 2006. No news has been heard from him since a letter in 2008 and an audio message in 2007.

Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the decision was made because "it is important that the entire world know that Gilad Shalit is alive and well and that Hamas is responsible for his health and state."


Miliband denounces Barak arrest threat

By Leon Symons, September 30, 2009

Foreign secretary David Miliband made it clear that the government will not back attempts by Palestinian supporters to try to have Israeli politicians arrested as war criminals.

Speaking at the Labour Friends of Israel fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Mr Miliband said: “This will never become a country where ministers of Israel are unable to come and have proper dialogue with the government of the United Kingdom.”


Barak arrest warrant is rejected by judge

By Jessica Elgot, September 30, 2009

A judge has rejected a Palestinian group’s application to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who is in the UK this week.

Deputy District Judge Daphne Wickham at Westminster Magistrates Court said: “I am satisfied that under customary international law, Mr Barak has immunity from prosecution as he would not be able to perform his functions efficiently if he were the subject of criminal proceedings in this jurisdiction.”


Barak to meet Brown, Miliband for Iran talks

By Jessica Elgot, September 29, 2009

Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak will meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband at the Labour Party conference in Brighton to discuss the growing nuclear threat from Iran.

But Mr Barak's visit may be hampered by a Palestinian group who have sought to obtain an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes committed by Mr Barak.

The group, represented by solicitors Irvine Thanvi Nataz, submitted the request to Westminster Magistrates, seeking the arrest under the International Criminal Court Act 2001 and the Criminal Justice Act.


Secularists fight Charedi housing plan

By Ben Lynfield, September 24, 2009

The Charedi community has scored a victory in the latest round of its conflict with secular residents over the future of the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood in Jerusalem. Last week a Charedi group won a tender for a large housing project expected to further consolidate the growing ultra-Orthodox presence in the area.

The rapid influx of Charedim into the neighbourhood is being met with unusually vocal opposition from secularists, and the area has come to symbolise the larger battle over the character of Israel’s capital.


Israel wants rules of war to be changed

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 24, 2009

Israel is launching a campaign to adapt the international laws on warfare to a new reality where organisations purposely operate from civilian areas.

They are hoping that the American and British governments, which face similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be persuaded to join.

The effort comes in response to the UN Human Rights Council report released last week, which accuses the IDF of committing war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead at the beginning of 2009.


Ehud Barak to speak at Labour conference

September 23, 2009

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak will speak at the Labour Party Conference next week.

He will be addressing the Labour Friends of Israel at their annual reception on Tuesday afternoon.

The presence of Mr Barak, who is also Israel’s deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party, is certain to be controversial given the hostility of many Labour Party members to Israel, and his role in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza earlier this year.


Baron Cohen to star in Simpsons' trip to Israel

By Jessica Elgot, September 21, 2009

The Simpsons are going to Israel, and their tour guide will be Bruno and Borat creator Sacha Baron Cohen.

The episode, called The Greatest Story Ever D'ohed , is scheduled to air in 2010 and will feature the famous yellow family on a guided tour of Israel with an angry Israeli tour guide, voiced by Mr Baron Cohen.

Homer Simpson will develop Jerusalem Syndrome – where sufferers experience obsessive religious fantasies – and become convinced he is the new messiah, dragging Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson to the Holy Land.


Charedi women refuse bus gender segragation

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 18, 2009

A new group has joined the fight over gender-segregated bus lines in Israel: religious women who do not want to be forced to sit at the back.

This month, four such groups boarded the “Mehadrin”, or especially stringent buses, running through Jerusalem, pointedly sitting at the front.

“Charedi women on the bus also joined us,” says Rachel Azaria, a religious member of Jerusalem City Council who is leading a coalition of local organisations against the buses.


Fears of 'hostile' shekel trading

By Simon Griver, September 18, 2009

The recent strength of the shekel has generally been credited to a strong Israeli economy. However, market sources now claim that speculators are targeting the shekel, keeping it artificially high, with foreigners holding nearly $80 billion of the currency.

A massive sell-off of shekels could seriously destabilise the country’s economy and some, like Motorola Israel president Elisha Yanay, suspect that the speculators may have more than profit in mind.