Anshel Pfeffer

'Gaza flotilla activists fired first'

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 28, 2010

Each one of the shootings on the Mavi Marmara ferry earlier this year was justified, said the IDF Chief of General Staff this week.

In a combative appearance before the Turkel Commission, the body set up by the Israeli government to investigate the Gaza flotilla operation, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi insisted that the commandos who boarded the ship and killed nine Turkish activists acted in an exemplary fashion.

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Hizbollah leaks signal Lebanon escalation

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 28, 2010

The detailed account of the Hizbollah missile shipments that appeared this week in Le Figaro is another indication of the escalation in the intelligence war being waged by the West against the Iran-Syria-Hizbollah axis.

According to the French newspaper, special Hizbollah units are operating in Syrian and Lebanon to prepare launching sites for an attack on Israel.

The report that appeared in Le Figaro on Monday was attributed to sources in the French Defence Ministry.

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Netanyahu changes loyalty pledge after backlash

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 21, 2010

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to alter the "loyalty pledge" law voted on last week by the cabinet so that it will include not only non-Jews but any new Israeli citizen.

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Turkish activist backs IDF account of Gaza flotilla

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 21, 2010

A Turkish journalist's account of the events during the takeover of the flotilla to Gaza on May 31, in which nine Turkish activists were killed by Israeli commandos, tallies with the Israeli version of events.

Sefik Dinc, a Turkish journalist, was on the Mavi Marmara ferry when the violent clashes took place. Mr Dinc recently published in Turkey a book on the incident, The Bleeding Mavi Marmara, which, while critical of Israel's actions, is also critical of his own government and the activists' actions.

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Rabin assassination anniversary to be downgraded

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 21, 2010

The memorial events for the 15th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination began this week under growing controversy over his legacy.

A series of events marked the anniversary of the former prime minister's killing beginning with a ceremony at the President's residence in Jerusalem including a memorial service at his grave on Mount Herzl and a special Knesset session.

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Ahmadinejad: welcome to Iran's western axis

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 21, 2010

There was a farcical ending to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit last week to Lebanon.

Hours before his departure on Thursday, he had one last meeting, at the Iranian embassy in Beirut. His local ally, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, emerged from his hideout bringing him, as a tribute, a rifle supposedly taken from an Israeli soldier during the Second Lebanon War. But it was a sham. The rifle was an AK-47 Kalashnikov - not a weapon used by Israeli forces.

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Analysis: Rage over 'racist' law is misplaced

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 14, 2010

The newly amended Citizenship Law, approved by the cabinet on Sunday and requiring all foreign non-Jewish citizens wishing to become Israeli to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, is polarising opinion in Israel and across the world.

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Netanyahu needs this peace deal

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 14, 2010

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing the ground for a possible centrist coalition, if a resumption of talks with Palestinian Authority and an extension of the settlement freeze cause a major crisis within his government.

Another week has gone by without a decision by Mr Netanyahu on the future of the settlement freeze, now at the centre of Palestinian conditions for continuing direct peace talks.

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How Israel prepared for a cyber war

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 7, 2010

Israeli officials are maintaining their silence over reports that the country's intelligence agencies are behind the Stuxnet computer virus that has wreaked havoc on the Iranian nuclear programme.

Analysts are convinced that the complex "worm" virus was a targeted attack that could have only been carried out by a clandestine agency of a country opposed to the Iranian efforts to acquire a bomb. Countries developing such capabilities include the United States, Britain and Israel.

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Nobel winner is expelled from Israel

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 7, 2010

Irish Nobel prize-winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire was expelled from Israel on Tuesday morning after the Supreme Court ruled against an appeal to cancel the deportation order.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch recommended that the government allow Ms Maguire to complete the scheduled visit but ruled that since she had entered the country despite knowing that she was banned, the deportation order was legal.

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Analysis: Bibi fights his coalition on settlements

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 7, 2010

"Bibi really has a big dilemma right now,"a prime ministerial aide said this week. "This is probably the most difficult decision of his premiership."

Delaying tactics have become Binyamin Netanyahu's signature move but, this time, his stalling over whether or not to renew the building freeze in the West Bank settlements seems to be a sign of genuine soul-searching.

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Settlement freeze ends, talks teeter on knife edge

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 28, 2010

Israel's version of procrastination is epitomised in the phrase acharei ha-chagim. In other words, "after the High Holy Days", which is when Israelis promise to get things done, start a new diet and generally set their lives in order. This week, acharei ha-chagim also symbolises the next stage of the diplomatic process.

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Revolution in the Israeli army

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 28, 2010

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi is widely credited with putting Israel's military back on an operational footing after the Second Lebanon War. But when he ends his military career in five months' time, he may be remembered for an altogether more profound change in Israeli society.

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Religious party puts up Shabbat pay-wall

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 21, 2010

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has opened a new front in the battle between state and religion by ordering his ministry's website to close down its payment facilities on Shabbat.

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How politics hurt Israel's Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 21, 2010

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak received a personal letter last week wishing him good health and thanking him for his involvement in the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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Analysis: Olmert wreaks revenge in memoir

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 21, 2010

The current political status of the two Ehuds hardly seems comparable. Defence Minister Ehud Barak was in Washington this week, conferring with senior figures in the Obama administration and then attending more high-level meetings at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on the other hand, spent most of his week hunkered down with his lawyers, preparing for another series of damning testimonies by a former secretary on his double-billing speaking fees in the ongoing corruption case against him.

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Israel's air space 'not safe enough'

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 16, 2010

A special State Comptroller report has slammed the safety standards at Israel's airports.

The report, by Comptroller Michah Lindenstrauss, blamed the finance and transport ministries and the Israel Airports Authority for underfunding the country's air control infrastructure. It also accused them of allowing Israel's air control system to become understaffed and use antiquated equipment.

The Comptroller found that many of the recommendations included in a wide-ranging security report prepared for the Transport Ministry three years ago had not yet been carried out.

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Analysis: Peace talks? More like high-risk pregnancy

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 16, 2010

Do not buy into the hype being created by the Americans about the first round of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on Wednesday that the sides have begun discussing the "core issues", but even if that is technically true, talking about the issues is a long way from any agreement.

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Israeli actors to boycott West Bank theatre

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 7, 2010

On November 11, a new cultural centre will open in Ariel, across the Green Line. For many actors and theatre-goers, it will be a moment of truth.

Two weeks ago, 35 actors and dramatists signed an open letter telling the directors of their theatres that they would refuse to act on the stage of the largest Jewish town in Samaria. Since then, the Israeli drama scene has been up in arms, with season-ticket holders cancelling their subscriptions, counter-petitions flying around and politicians threatening to withhold funding.

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Analysis: Bibi changed. He really does want a deal

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 7, 2010

On the surface nothing significant has changed. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in Washington, stuck to his proven tactic of giving nothing away until he absolutely has to.

President Mahmoud Abbas brought up all the old Palestinian demands, including the right of return. The gulf between the two sides seems as wide as ever. Meanwhile, building in the settlements is set to resume in only two weeks and blow up talks that have barely resumed.

But something has changed.

Israelis who returned from the Washington summit have shed their outer layer of cynicism.

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