Anshel Pfeffer

Lebanon uncovers more Israeli 'spies'

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 8, 2010

The capture of another group of alleged "Israeli spies" in Lebanon indicates the depth of Israel's penetration into the country's infrastructure and upper echelons.

Last week Charbel Qazzi, a senior executive at the Alfa mobile phone company, in charge of transmissions and broadcasting, was arrested on suspicion that he had helped Israeli intelligence plant listening devices at the heart of Lebanon's telecommunications infrastructure. The detention is causing shockwaves that are reverberating throughout the country's business, political and security circles.

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Israeli coalition hit by secret Turkish meetings

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 8, 2010

A meeting between Israeli and Turkish ministers last week, intended to be secret, seems to have done nothing to improve the countries' rocky relations, instead causing at least two crises within Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition.

Trade and Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has close ties with politicians in many Muslim countries and has undertaken delicate diplomatic missions in the past. Following the breakdown of Israel's relationship with the Erdogan administration after the Gaza flotilla incident last month, Mr Ben-Eliezer tried to use back channels to mend fences.

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Analysis: Obama and Netanyahu smile for the cameras

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 8, 2010

The master of oratory was a bit off-form on Tuesday. President Barack Obama said all the right words at the end of his Oval Office meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but his heart obviously was not in it.

He stuttered slightly, repeatedly failed to make eye contact with the camera and almost fluffed his lines. Mr Netanyahu seemed much more at ease, but then he has a lot more practice than the president at glossing over compromise in public.

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Analysis: No end in sight for IDF Gaza probes

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 8, 2010

Eighteen months after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and there still is no end in sight to the investigations and court proceedings.

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Analysis: Corrupt leaders can't make peace

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 8, 2010

Both Israelis and Palestinians emerged from the failed Camp David talks 10 years ago feeling they had gained the upper hand. PM Ehud Barak and his team were certain that they had finally "unmasked Arafat's real intentions".

They had offered them almost the whole of West Bank, unprecedented rights in Jerusalem and territorial exchanges around Gaza, and Yasir Arafat had said 'no'. Barak thought he was in an unassailable position.

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Analysis: Secular and religious Jews are not at war

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 24, 2010

The 100,000-strong demonstration last Thursday supporting the fathers about to go to jail has been billed as the ultimate showdown between the secular state and the strictly Orthodox community.

Feelings have been inflamed for a while. The media and politicians have been ramping up the debate over the role of the Charedi sector for several months, following a number of reports on the community's growing share of the younger population and its lack of contribution to the national economy.

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Rabbi's rebel son is behind race lawsuit

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 24, 2010

The identity of the Charedi rabbi who gave his blessing to the controversial petition to the Supreme Court surprised no one.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef has long made a name for himself in challenging not only the norms of his community, but also the wishes of his father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the most influential Sephardi rabbi of this generation and spiritual leader of the Shas political party.

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Mothers to go to jail in school race case

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 24, 2010

The crisis surrounding the segregated Beit Yaakov school in Emanuel seems set to continue with a new Supreme Court ruling ordering that the mothers of some of the pupils be sent to prison.

Thirty five fathers of girls at the strictly Orthodox school were jailed last Thursday for two weeks for contempt of court, after they refused to allow their daughters in the mainly Ashkenazi "Chasidic stream" to study with girls in the mainly Sephardi "general stream".

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Israel eases blockade of Gaza Strip

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 24, 2010

The Israeli cabinet has agreed to ease the blockade on Gaza and allow all foodstuffs and building materials into the Strip. At the same time, the naval blockade will stay in place and the IDF is preparing to stop further flotillas from reaching Gaza.

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Israel's UK ambassador tipped for UN post

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 24, 2010

Israel's ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, is being considered for the post of temporary ambassador to the United Nations.

The UN post is considered one of the key diplomatic jobs. Often the position goes to a political appointee rather than a career diplomat. The current ambassador, Prof Gavriella Shalev, was appointed by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The government is determined to replace her by the time her two-year term ends in August.

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Parents jailed over school race row

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 17, 2010

Seventy four strictly Orthodox couples have decided to go to prison for two weeks rather than disobey their rabbis and send their daughters to school with Sephardim.

The Supreme Court's decision to jail the parents was the culmination of 18 months of proceedings. Charedi social activists petitioned the court last February after the Beit Yaakov School in the town of Emanuel was effectively divided between a predominantly Ashkenazi "Chasidic stream" and a mainly Sephardi "general stream".

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'Mossad spy' is arrested

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 17, 2010

An Israeli citizen has been arrested in Warsaw on charges that he fraudulently obtained a German passport that was used by one of the alleged assassins of Hamas operative Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai five months ago.

Uri Brodsky is currently awaiting extradition to Germany.

He was arrested at Warsaw Airport three weeks ago on a Europe-wide arrest warrant issued by the German federal authorities.

Mr Brodsky is suspected of using a false identity to obtain a German passport last year in the name of Michael Bodenheimer, an Israeli citizen who was unaware of his identity being stolen.

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Analysis: The Arab target is Iran

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 17, 2010

What did Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas say to Barack Obama last week in the Oval Office? Did he indeed express the view that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip should be allowed to stay in place, as some reports maintain? Or did he say no such thing, as his aides quickly rushed to claim?

The White House has yet to confirm either version but, judging from the way the report was greeted in Palestinian circles, few believe the denials.

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Analysis: Flotilla probe set up to satisfy world

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 17, 2010

The commission of inquiry into the flotilla set up this week by Israel may be called the Turkel Commission after its head, Judge Jacob Turkel, but the man whose name it really should carry is Richard Goldstone.

The only reason Binyamin Netanyahu caved in to demands to set up an inquiry is the fear of another hostile international commission, like the one set up by the UN after Operation Cast Lead last year.

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Soldier faces charges over Cast Lead

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 17, 2010

The IDF's Military Advocate General, Major General Avichai Mendelblit, will hold a hearing next week for a soldier suspected of double manslaughter in last year's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

The solider allegedly shot and killed two Palestinian women who were in a group of civilians holding white flags. This is the third and most serious case in which charges are being brought against soldiers involved in the operation.

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Analysis: Lebanon War lessons were totally ignored

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 10, 2010

When the commission of enquiry into the botched raid finally gets down to work, they should start by reading a three-year-old document. The Winograd Commission report, written in the wake of the Second Lebanon War four years ago, has no direct connection with the clash off the coast of Gaza, but all it had to say regarding the decision-making process of Israel's political and military leadership is relevant to the current crisis.

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Israel to announce its own inquiry into flotilla

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 10, 2010

The Israeli cabinet is expected to appoint a committee of inquiry into the Gaza flotilla operation on Sunday.

The current plan is to a form a committee with a limited mandate which will not question soldiers who took part in the operation. The inclusion of international observers on the committee is still under consideration.

The IDF has already set up its own committee of military experts to investigate the operational aspects of the boarding of the flotilla.

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Killed flotilla passengers belonged to radical Islamist group

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 10, 2010

Most of the nine men killed on board the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara were members of Islamic movements, it has now emerged.

The majority belonged to Insan Hak ve Hurriyetleri, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, or IHH. The Turkish Islamist movement has ties to Hamas and al Qaida and financed and organised the ferry's trip.

Israel claims that many of the other passengers on the ferry had links to terrorist groups as well.

IDF officers who were involved in last week's operation say there were two groups of passengers.

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Israel and Egypt: the new allies

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 10, 2010

The fallout from the Gaza flotilla and the emergence of Turkey as a clear ally of Iran and Syria and all but an official enemy of Israel, is part of a radically changing balance of power in the region, one that is seeing unprecedented levels of cooperation between Israel and Egypt.

Senior Israeli officials have been saying in recent months that Egypt has been pursuing two seemingly opposite courses in its relationship with Israel.

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Turkey and Israel relations in crisis after flotilla

By Anshel Pfeffer and Sami Kohen, Istanbul, June 3, 2010

The Gaza flotilla affair has plunged the crisis in the Israel-Turkey relationship to new lows and added impetus to Israeli efforts to find alternative allies in the region.

Israeli diplomats admitted this week that the relationship with the Ankara government has never been this bad.

"If we thought that Prime Minister Erdogan could not make things any worse," said one diplomat, "his support for the flotilla and his attacks on us this week have made it clear that there is no longer any strategic alliance between the two countries. At least, not while he is in power."

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