Anshel Pfeffer

Netanyahu gets away with Jerusalem policy

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 29, 2010

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu believes he has turned a corner in his difficult relationship with the American administration and that peace talks are now possible without a commitment to freeze building in east Jerusalem.

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Lag B'Omer bonfires challenged by Chief

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 29, 2010

The ancient custom of lighting bonfires on Lag Ba'Omer is being challenged for both religious and ecological reasons.

The tradition of lighting bonfires on the eve of Lag Ba'Omer, which falls on Sunday, has become a popular custom in Israel, for religious and secular youngsters alike. But the prevalence of the custom, which causes large clouds of thick smoke above most Israeli citiesm, is raising concern amongst rabbis and environmentalists.

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New Israel Fund under attack again

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 22, 2010

The right-wing movement Im Tirzu is stepping up its campaign against the New Israel Fund (NIF) with a new report accusing NIF of funding groups that have tried to prosecute IDF officers for alleged war crimes.

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Olmert faces massive new corruption investigation

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 22, 2010

Police investigators believe that they are close to securing the testimony of a number of close associates of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in what is being described as the largest corruption case in Israeli history.

So far, the allegations against Mr Olmert have focused on millions of shekels in bribes that the investigators believe were paid to secure extensive building rights in the Holyland project in Jerusalem. The suspects include a group of building tycoons and senior officials in Jerusalem City Hall.

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Analysis: Settlers are the next threat to peace

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 22, 2010

On Tuesday, Israel's Independence Day, hundreds of settlers travelled to IDF outposts and took them over. Well, they took over the kitchens and cooked the soldiers barbecue dinners.

But not all was sweetness and light between the army and the settlers. At least in one spot on the West Bank, no one was doing anyone any favours. A clash between security forces and a group of youngsters from Yitzhar left at least two soldiers wounded by stones and a growing number of settlers under threat of arrest.

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US may impose own Middle East peace plan

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 15, 2010

Israeli diplomats are coming round to the idea that the White House could try to impose its own peace plan on the Israelis and Palestinians for the first time in four decades.

In addition to reports by well-sourced correspondents in the American media, there have been a number of signals in recent days that the administration is planning to present its own peace plan. The next visit to the region by US representative George Mitchell has been repeatedly postponed, giving rise to the speculation that President Barack Obama has decided to change tack.

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Analysis: On Iran, at least, Bibi and Obama agree

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 15, 2010

Commentators have been competing with each other to come up with the best superlative to describe the apparent crisis in Israel-American relations, but it has gone almost unnoticed that on one very significant issue, President Barack Obama seems to be closer now to Israel's position that the Bush administration.

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Terror cells 'rife' in Sinai

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 15, 2010

Israel’s Anti-Terrorism Bureau warned all Israeli tourists to leave Sinai in Egypt as soon as possible on Tuesday, due to a serious terror threat.

Defence officials said that the Egyptian security forces were making a “serious attempt” to clamp down on the terror cells in Sinai but that a number of terror groups were operating in the peninsular almost at will.

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'Israel was close to war this winter'

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 15, 2010

Syria smuggled long-range missiles to Hizbollah in Lebanon earlier this year, leading to Israeli threats to attack the weapons convoys, it has emerged. Such an attack could have escalated into another war on Israel’s northern border.

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IDF big guns in face-off as Barak takes on Ashkenazi

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 8, 2010

The laconic announcement published by the defence minister this week that IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, would end his term as planned next February, hid beneath it a bubbling storm of ego and political reckoning. It had little to do with Israel's strategic interests.

The appointment of the IDF's chief has always been carried out in a hotbed of political intrigue. There are few democracies in which the army's supreme command carries as much social and political significance as it does in Israel.

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Bibi back in US for security talks

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 7, 2010

Only three weeks after the traumatic meeting in the Oval Office, Binyamin Netanyahu will be returning to Washington next week and participating in President Barack Obama's nuclear security summit.

The two leaders are not expected to meet privately as the Israeli government has yet to respond to the administration’s demands regarding the peace process.

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Israeli conversions in legal challenge

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 1, 2010

Israel's Supreme Court will have to decide whether local rabbis can refuse to marry converts, in what may turn out to be a landmark case.

The latest challenge the rabbis are posing to the converts is an attempt to sabotage the only successful conversion programme still operating in Israel, run by the IDF.

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Analysis: Netanyahu will survive, but at what cost?

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 1, 2010

Binyamin Netanyahu may be presiding over one of the most precarious periods for Israeli diplomacy in decades, but on the local political front, his situation has never been better. Whatever course he tries to chart out of the quagmire that his government's relations with the Obama administration has become, it is virtually impossible to sketch a scenario in which he is forced out of power.

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Netanyahu warns of lessons learnt from history

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 1, 2010

Binyamin Netanyahu is the son of a historian. Three weeks ago, hundreds of guests celebrated Benzion Netanyahu's 100th birthday.

In an emotional speech, the PM extolled his father's ability to foresee major historical events, from the Shoah to the attack on New York by Islamic terrorists.

"I learnt from you to look into the future," said Bibi to his father.

In his own speech, the wise old historian spoke of the future and warned of the terrible consequences if Iran is allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.

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Officials blamed for leaking Jerusalem building plans

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 25, 2010

Senior Israeli officials are accusing both the left and right wing of sabotaging the Netanyahu government's relations with the US by leaking details of building plans in east Jerusalem.

As Mr Netanyahu was going to his meeting with President Obama on Tuesday, Israeli websites broke the story that the Jerusalem municipal planning council had given the final authorisation for a new building project on the site of the Shepherd's Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem.

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Analysis: Israel left reeling from US-British attacks

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 25, 2010

The day after David Miliband announced that an Israeli diplomat would be expelled from Britain, British Ambassador Tom Phillips made the rounds in Jerusalem trying to promise that the ties between the two countries, especially those regarding intelligence, would remain strong.

The same could be heard from Israeli sources: this was regrettable, but the British did what they had to. It could have been worse.

That is true. The Foreign Office has not named and shamed the Mossad representative in London, who is being given time to leave in an orderly fashion, after Pesach.

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Israeli TV star set to run for Knesset

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 25, 2010

For once, elections in Israel are not even on the horizon. By law the country will not have to go to the polls for another three years and a coalition crisis is not even on the cards.

Even if Binyamin Netanyahu's current right-wing partners turn against him, he can still join forces with Kadima and form a new centrist coalition.

Still, this relatively stable political landscape has not stopped the Israeli media and parliament feverishly speculating about a political upheaval: the emergence of a force that may rearrange the balance of power in the Knesset.

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Israeli hospital A&E moved due to ancient graves

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 25, 2010

Binyamin Netanyahu was forced to take time out from his Washington trip this week to order a review of a government decision to relocate a new emergency ward planned for an Ashkelon hospital, at a cost of NIS 136 million (£24 million).

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Analysis: Sick Mubarak setting up son as successor

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 18, 2010

Egyptian television showed footage of President Hosni Mubarak in a German hospital following an operation on Tuesday, to scotch rumours that he was dying.

Mr Mubarak is recovering from a successful operation to remove benign cists from his gallbladder. Israeli experts believe that after his return, the president will intensify efforts to ensure his son's succession.

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Ashkenazim-only school 'illegal'

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 18, 2010

The Israeli Education Ministry has stepped up its campaign against schools that segregate Ashkenazi and Sephardi pupils.

This week, the ministry ordered the closure of a school that had been set up three months ago to cater for 74 Ashkenazi girls in the strictly Orthodox town of Emanuel in the West Bank.

Their parents had taken them out of the local Beit Yaakov girls' school after the Supreme Court ruled that the separate classes in the school for Ashkenazi and Sephardi girls were illegal.

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