Anshel Pfeffer

Conversions cause political storm

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 16, 2010

The Knesset voted unanimously on Wednesday in favour of a law affirming the conversions carried out by the IDF's rabbinate, despite warnings by the Charedi parties of a political crisis.

The Shas leader, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, said following the vote that: "If the law goes ahead, we will consider leaving the coalition".

Shas and United Torah Judaism both oppose the law which will give conversions performed in the IDF the same status as those carried out by the civilian conversion courts of the Chief Rabbinate.

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Mobile crash could be cyber attack

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 9, 2010

The reasons for a software breakdown which resulted in no service for millions of Israeli mobile phone users last week are still unclear. Computer experts are worried that this could have been a successful trial run ofa cyber attack against Israel.

Cellcom, the largest mobile phone provider in Israel, experienced last Wednesday what the company described as a "failure in the heart of our system". For over 12 hours, most of the company's 3.3 million users were without service but, despite resuming normal operations, the company has been silent as to the causes.

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Lebanon crisis may be averted

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 9, 2010

Israeli intelligence believes that serious turmoil can be avoided in Lebanon by a toning down of the results of the Special Tribunal investigating the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Central operatives of Hizbollah are expected to be indicted by the tribunal and Hizbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has issued dire warnings that "political upheaval" would result from such accusations.

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Peace talks are failing and it's Obama's fault

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 9, 2010

Two weeks ago we were prophesying that a deal on a second freeze of settlement building and a return to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was a matter of days away. But on Tuesday, the White House unofficially admitted that there was no hope for a settlement moratorium and that it would return to pursuing peace through indirect talks between the sides.

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Turkish aid for forest fire brings diplomatic thaw

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 9, 2010

The aid sent by the Turkish government to help fight the blaze on Mount Carmel offered an opportunity to improve the relations between the two countries.

In the wake of the fire, discussions took place this week over an Israeli apology for the Gaza flotilla incident and compensations to the families of nine Turkish citizens killed by Israeli naval commandos.

On Friday, Turkey sent two firefighting planes to take part in the international effort to end the fire on the Carmel at the request of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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Israel's leaders must accept some blame for fire

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 9, 2010

Binyamin Netanyahu can arguably be said to have come out well from the first national emergency of his second premiership.

Indeed, his decision to call it
a "national emergency" - at one stage he even used the word "international" - contributed to the marshalling of resources necessary to put the fire out, four days and 42 deaths after it was ignited.

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Negligence caused Israel Carmel forest fire

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 9, 2010

While investigators have yet to pinpoint the definitive cause, one thing seems clear: the worst forest fire in Israel's history comes down to a moment of negligence.

The blaze raged for four days, consuming some 12,000 acres on the Carmel Mountain range, claiming 42 lives, severely damaging 250 homes, displacing 15,000 people and threatening Israel's third largest city.

It was finally put out by an unprecedented coalition of the woefully underfunded Israeli firefighters and planes, engines and firemen from 24 countries including Britain, the US, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority.

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Satmar couple are held over daughter 'kidnap'

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 2, 2010

A man and woman from the Satmar community in Stamford Hill were arrested last week at Ben Gurion Airport on suspicion that they were trying to take their 21-year-old daughter out of the country against her will. The pair were charged on Sunday at Tel Aviv District Court with attempted kidnap.

The daughter, who also has Israeli citizenship, and her parents arrived in Israel three months ago, with her brother who studies at a yeshivah in Jerusalem.

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Reut in vanguard of policy planning

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 2, 2010

A lack of long-range comprehensive strategic planning is evident in much of the Israeli government's actions and was one of the main criticisms of the Winograd Commission Report on the second Lebanon war. The National Security Council, which was founded in 1999, was supposed to act as a national planning forum, but political and personal calculations have limited its influence.

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Mumbai Chabad wrangle over attack site

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 2, 2010

The second anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks in India has been marred by a legal battle over the future of the Chabad House, the site of one of the attacks.

Six Jewish hostages at Nariman House, the Chabad Centre, were among 175 people killed by Pakistani terrorists on November 26, 2008.

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Sacked MK vows to run new party

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 2, 2010

Rabbi Chaim Amsellem, the Knesset member banished last week by his party Shas for his "heretical" views, is now threatening to form a new party for "traditional" Sephardi voters.

Rabbi Amsellem, a second-term MK, has repeatedly angered conservative Charedi rabbis and politicians with his over-liberal positions on religious and social issues.

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Senior policeman in lurid sex scandal

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 2, 2010

Accusations of sexual harassment have thrown the Israeli police into turmoil and affected the selection of the next national chief of police. In an unorthodox move, the accuser revealed herself in public last week to draw attention to the victims of sexual crimes.

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IDF on manoeuvres as Nasrallah hints at war

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 26, 2010

The IDF's Nahal infantry brigade is carrying out its annual manoeuvres on the Golan Heights.

Traditionally, this is considered tank country, a potential battlefield between Israeli and Syrian armoured formations, but the column of soldiers moving under cover of darkness into dawn attack positions are training for war against another adversary.

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Religious freedom report contains swathe of errors

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 25, 2010

While portraying a generally authentic picture of religious freedom in Israel and the inequalities suffered by various groups, there are a number of inaccuracies in this report.

One big mistake is the assertion that shuls are built through state grants, unlike mosques that are privately funded. This is seldom true, as almost all shuls are privately built, and in only some cases receive special grants. Similar grants are available in Arab municipalities for mosques.

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Netanyahu struggles to get votes for settlement freeze

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 25, 2010

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is finding it hard to gain the necessary cabinet votes he needs to pass an agreement with the Obama administration on a new settlement freeze period and renewed talks with the Palestinians.

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Analysis: Bibi sets course for historic deal

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 18, 2010

Kicking, struggling and protesting, Benjamin Netanyahu has been dragged across the Rubicon. He may still try to swim back.

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Actors agree West Bank settlement pact

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 18, 2010

Israeli theatre companies will play at the new concert hall in the settlement of Ariel while allowing individual actors not to perform.

This was the uneasy agreement reached between the theatre industry and the Culture Ministry following a dispute which included threats of boycotts and a curtailment of funding.

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Ethiopian Jews in Israel: final chapter?

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 18, 2010

The Israeli government voted unanimously on Sunday to bring some 8000 members of the Falashmura from Ethiopia over the next four years.

Previous government decisions had stopped the emigration of the Falashmura in 2008.

The decision, sponsored jointly by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, is purported to be "an end to the story of Ethiopian Jewry". The groups lobbying to allow the Falashmura to emigrate have promised to stop campaigning once the group currently waiting in a transit camp are on their way to Israel.

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Egypt helping Israel root out Gaza terror cells

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 18, 2010

While israel is disappointed with Egyptian efforts to stop the smuggling of weapons over the border into Gaza, joint intelligence efforts between the two countries are ongoing and there have been recent successes in tracking down terrorists in the Strip and in Sinai.

Last week the Egyptians arrested 25 terror suspects living in northern Sinai, with Israel's help. They are currently searching for a cell of seven jihadists still at large in the desert.

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'Segregation' row in Israeli town of Safed

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 18, 2010

In different circumstances, the Zefat Academic College in the northern town of Safed could have been a poster story for successful integration between the Jewish and Arab communities in Israel.

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