Israel news

Israeli navy seizes pro-Palestine boat

By Jessica Elgot, June 30, 2009

A boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists, who were attempting to break the blockade of Gaza has been seized by the Israeli navy who have forced it to sail to the southern port city of Ashdod, the army said.

The boat is said to include at least six activists from the UK.

The navy surrounded the vessel, which was said to be carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza, and demanded the protesters turn back because of the security risks in breaking the blockade.

More..

Netanyahu backs Lieberman after Sarkozy criticism

By Jessica Elgot, June 30, 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has given his foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman his full backing, after reports surfaced that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had told Netanyahu to "get rid of" him.

In a meeting with EU ambassadors in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Lieberman was “fully committed to peace and security” and was an integral part of the government.

He said Lieberman "will play an important role in implementing the policy" presented in his diplomatic speech at Bar-Ilan University last month.

More..

Palestinian support for Hamas sliding, poll shows

By Jessica Elgot and Reuters, June 29, 2009

Support for Hamas has dropped by almost ten per cent, an opinion poll has shown.

The survey of 1,199 people, by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre (JMCC), put public support for Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at 18.8 per cent, compared with 27.7 per cent in its previous poll in January.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction is now more popular than Hamas with a 34.9 per cent rating, up from 26 percent in January, indicating the group could take the next election in Gaza.

More..

Israel approves 50 new settler homes in West Bank

By Jessica Elgot, June 29, 2009

Israel plans to build 50 new West Bank homes in an existing settlement to absorb residents evicted from the illegal outpost of Migron, five kilometres north of Jerusalem.

The State Prosecutor's Office in Israel told the High Court on Friday that 190 housing units will be built in the settlement of Adam, approved by the Defence Ministry in May.

However, only 50 of the units can be erected without further approval from the ministry and the building approval does not include permission for any public buildings and roads.

More..

Gazans are trapped ‘in despair’- Red Cross

By Jessica Elgot, June 29, 2009

The Red Cross has released a report today on the effects of the two-year Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip, which it says has trapped 1.5 million Gaza residents ‘in despair.’

The humanitarian organisation said the blockade, which has been in place since Hamas took control of Gaza two years ago, was ‘strangling’ the local economy and that local people were unable to rebuild their homes and their lives six months after the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

More..

Mixed forecast from the Governor

By Candice Krieger, June 25, 2009

Sausages and the budget are pretty much the same, says Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel: “You do not want to know how they are made.”

More..

Strong shekel brings more pain than gain

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 25, 2009

Shmulik is sitting behind a 3in-thick glass window in a small flat in Meah Shearim that has been divided by a concrete wall and a steel door. This is one of half a dozen “black banks” that are the economic pipeline of Jerusalem’s Charedi community. He looks out at the empty room.

“Business is slow,” he says.

Not that long ago, the bank was packed at all hours, mainly with local residents selling dollars or cheques.

More..

Torture expert claims Israeli doctors were ‘complicit’

By James Martin, June 25, 2009

Israel’s secret services are operating in a “black hole” which allows torture to go unchecked, according to a leading expert on torture in Israel.

Dr Ishai Menuchin, executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), says his organisation has recorded 600 complaints about treatment received during General Security Service interrogations since 2001.

More..

Row over Sharansky’s Jewish Agency role

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 25, 2009

Former Prisoner of Zion Nathan Sharansky was expected to be voted chair of the Jewish Agency on Thursday, after an unprecedented row between the Israeli government and American Jewish organisations nearly scuttled his appointment.

Mr Sharansky was PM Netanyahu’s candidate and, in the past, would have been automatically voted in.

More..

PM’s office in chaos

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 18, 2009

After only two-and-a-half months in power, Binyamin Netanyahu’s office is already coming apart at the seams. Bitter arguments between senior officials, an inflation of special advisors and a lack of clarity over responsibilities all contribute to an atmosphere of chaos.

Nir Hefetz, a former executive on the Yediot Achronot daily, was appointed the new head of hasbarah in the Prime Minister’s Office last week.

Mr Hefetz is currently the fourth senior communications official in Mr Netanyahu’s team.

More..