Anshel Pfeffer

World's top rabbi celebrates 100th

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 18, 2010

He has never flown in a plane or used a computer, but thanks to the advances in transport and communications that have taken place during the course of his lifetime, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who turned 100 this week, is the most influential rabbi in the world.

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Security forces: How police limited the Jerusalem riots

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 18, 2010

Security officials believe that they have contained the violence in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The last four weeks saw an unprecedented outbreak of rioting, following a decision by the Israeli government to include the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem on a list of national heritage sites.

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Analysis: Netnayahu faces US crisis

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 18, 2010

Binyamin Netanyahu is not a natural gambler. He hates making decisions and will use every opportunity to defer and procrastinate. But this week he was handed a clear ultimatum by the White House: make the choice - us or your coalition.

His response: to continue playing for time.

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President Peres is turning against Bibi

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 11, 2010

Two or three times a day, Shimon Peres stands in the President's mansion, receiving groups of blushing beauty queens, farmers and international parliamentarians. Each group gets its share of smiles, joint photographs and the standard joke, always some reference to the great man's age.

In the absence of a royal family, only the 86-year-old mega-statesman can lend grandeur to the informality of Israeli official events.

But no one ever expected him to be just a figurehead. The man eternally branded by Yitzhak Rabin as "a tireless schemer" could not stop playing politics even if he tried.

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Peace talks derailed by building plan

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 11, 2010

A row over Israeli building in east Jerusalem has caused major embarrassment during the American Vice President's visit to the region.

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Charedim attempt to block conversion law

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 11, 2010

A new law on conversion to Judaism could lead to a full-blown coalition crisis in Israel.

The law, presented by Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, would allow each city's chief rabbi to perform conversions. The Charedi parties are threatening to leave Binyamin Netanyahu's government if the law is passed.

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EU chief allowed into Gaza

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 11, 2010

Israel will allow the European Union Foreign Affairs Representative, Baroness Catherine Ashton, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to enter the Gaza Strip, in an apparent reversal of policy.

Baroness Ashton will visit next week and Mr Ban in April. Both asked Israel to open the Erez crossing into Gaza for their delegations.

Since Hamas took control of the Strip in 2007, Israel has enforced a ban on visitors. The closure was designed to delegitimise Hamas and help the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority assert its leadership.

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Ben Gurion airport hit by new safety fears

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 4, 2010

Just how safe is it to land at Ben Gurion airport? Within the next few weeks, the Israeli State Comptroller will publish a comprehensive report chronicling endemic safety failures in the country's civil aviation.

At the root of the problem is the crowded airspace.

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Analysis: Riots in Israel are not an intifada

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 4, 2010

The images of youths throwing stones and border policemen firing tear-gas grenades back at them last week in the alleyways of Hebron and at the entrance to the Temple Mount seemed eerily reminiscent of the two intifadas. But that is all they were: images.

So far, a widespread uprising throughout the territories, coupled with gradually escalating responses by the Israeli security forces, has failed to materialise; the riots seem to be petering out. This is not a third intifada, at least not yet.

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Government science advisor rejects evolution

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 4, 2010

The Chief scientific adviser of the Israeli Education Ministry may be forced to resign after he rejected evolution and the connection between human activity and global warming.

Doctor Gabi Avital, an expert in rocket science from the Technion and a veteran Likud Party member, was posted to the education ministry three months ago. Accusations of political cronyism soon followed as in the past the post was held by experts in the field of education.

The adviser's responsibilities include reviewing the national science school curriculum.

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Building plans in east Jerusalem on hold

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 4, 2010

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been forced to intervene in Jerusalem's building plans to prevent another diplomatic row with America.

On Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu asked Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to put on hold his plan to demolish 22 houses in the Silwan neighbourhood of east Jerusalem and build a tourism complex in their place.

Mr Barkat had announced his plan earlier that day at a press conference in City Hall. According to the plan, 22 buildings in Silwan which were built without planning permission will be demolished to make way for a series of parks, hotels and restaurants.

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Analysis: Is this the end of Bibi’s coalition?

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 4, 2010

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has become embroiled in another criminal investigation, just when a decision on a possible indictment against him seems imminent.

If he is indicted, Mr Lieberman will have to resign his ministerial post and many coalition insiders believe that his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, will not stay for long in the Netanyahu government. Their departure would almost certainly cause a dramatic change in the coalition's make-up and could lead to the entry of the main opposition party, Kadima, into the government.

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'America is blocking the Shalit exchange'

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 25, 2010

The talks over a prisoner deal in which Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit could be released are set to resume over the next few days with the return of the German mediator to the region.
The talks have been frozen for almost two months following Hamas's failure to respond to Israel's latest proposal to release almost 500 Palestinians prisoners, with a quarter of them sent into exile abroad, away from the West Bank. Last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Russia that this was Israel's last offer.

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Israeli ministry ‘boycotted’ J Street

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 25, 2010

In what is being seen as an abrupt reversal of policy, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has tried to smooth over ruffled feathers after it apparently boycotted an American congressional delegation to Israel, sponsored by the left-wing advocacy group, J Street.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon allegedly refused to meet the five Congress members, and President Shimon Peres did not find time to meet them either.

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Olmert trial opens despite delay threat

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 25, 2010

The trial of Israel's former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, was due to open on Thursday in the Jerusalem District Court. He is being charged over three separate cases of corruption.
Mr Olmert, who was forced to resign last year over the allegations, was indicted in September on charges of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying records, tax evasions and fraudulently obtaining benefits.

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Analysis: Drone signals new spy era for Israel

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 25, 2010

During the rolling-out of the Israeli Air Force's new spy-plane, the Eitan, on Sunday at Tel Nof airbase, one of the guests whispered to his neighbour: "Do you think they scheduled this for today to take the international attention away from the Dubai fiasco?" The neighbour answered: "To do that they would have had to roll out an atom bomb."

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Son of Hamas leader was an Israeli agent

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 25, 2010

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a leading member of Hamas, has revealed himself to be an agent for Israel's security service.

In over a decade as a secret source working within Hamas, he exposed plans to launch suicide bombings and supplied information that led to the arrest of dozens of Hamas terrorists.

The son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of Hamas's founders and the leader of its military wing in the West Bank, Mr Yousef has written a book to appear next week in the United States, titled Son of Hamas.

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Analysis: Mossad's passport problem

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 18, 2010

Hiding the identity of its operatives abroad is more problematic for Israeli intelligence organisations than for their Western counterparts. An MI6 agent carrying out a mission in Dubai, for example, can simply use a genuine British passport, issued by the Home Office in a different name, and masquerade as one more holidaymaker. A Mossad agent in Dubai cannot do the same thing with an Israeli passport.

The use of foreign passports by Israeli agents has caused the country diplomatic problems in the past, when Western governments have been embarrassed by the use of their travel documents.

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Analysis: If it was Mossad, then was it a success?

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 18, 2010

Israel almost never takes responsibility for mysterious killings in the Middle East. To do so would only cause diplomatic and security problems and reveal operational methods.

As it is, most of the targets have multiple enemies and whoever's finger was on the trigger, Israel will be blamed.

There is one major exception to this rule: sometimes things go dramatically wrong and the only way to release a captured agent is to own up.

Did the assassins who eliminated the Hamas arms smuggler, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, mess up? Operationally, no.

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Rabbi blasts 'ignorance' at weddings

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 18, 2010

Rabbi Ovadia Yossef has attacked the "ignorant" manner in which the custom of breaking a glass under the chupah is often carried out during religious wedding ceremonies.

The most prominent Sephardi rabbi in the world and the spiritual leader of Shas, 89-year-old Rabbi Ovadia Yossef published his public criticism of religious wedding services in Yom Leyom, the weekly affiliated to the Sephardi Shas party.

He singled out the breaking of the glass, which is meant to remind all those present at the celebration of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

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