Anshel Pfeffer

Analysis: Call this slow-drip diplomacy

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 27, 2009

Binyamin Netanyahu has an ideal schedule in mind. Reach an agreement on a prisoner deal with Hamas and carry it out in three weeks’ time. And then, with Gilad Shalit safely at home for Rosh Hashanah, travel to New York and together with Barack Obama and Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly, announce the beginning of negotiations with the Palestinians and a temporary freeze on settlement activity.

The icing on the cake would be an agreement between the permanent UN members on a severe round of sanctions against Iran.

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Analysis: Mr Netanyahu’s London visit could be a summer break he would prefer not to take

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 20, 2009

Binyamin Netanyahu is hardly looking forward to his visit to Britain next week. Relations between the two governments are going through a rocky period and Israel does not consider Gordon Brown a critical partner given his current political situation.

The meetings at Downing Street and the Foreign Office will have little diplomatic value. They will consist mainly of lectures by the hosts on the evils of settlements and attempts by Mr Netanyahu — mostly unsuccessful —to move the debate on to the Iranian threat.

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Fears over policing as crime surges in Israel

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 20, 2009

It is not just the numbers — 12 civilians murdered in less than three weeks since the beginning of August, an abnormally high body count for crime in Israel. It is also the utter senselessness of most of the deaths.

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Syrian missile test fails, killing 20

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 20, 2009

Reports of a major failure in a missile firing test in Syria has drawn attention once more to the military co-operation between North Korea, Iran and Syria.

According to the report by the Japanese news agency Kyodo, two improved Scud missiles were fired in a test at the end of March. Both missiles veered off-course, and one of them landed in a marketplace in a town near the Turkish border, killing 20 people and wounding 60.

North Korean and Iranian experts reportedly participated in the trials.

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Israeli rabbis back gay parenting

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 20, 2009

A revolutionary halachic ruling that will allow religious homosexual men to marry women and have children with them is currently being discussed at one of the most prestigious Orthodox institutes in Israel.

Rabbi Menachem Burstein is founder and head of the PUAH Institute, recognised in Orthodox circles as the leading organisation on matters of fertility and Jewish law. He confirmed this week that he has “been dealing with this subject for quite some time”.

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Public outcry over IDF initiation ‘abuse’

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 13, 2009

“The truth is that neither officers nor soldiers really want to hear me when I tell them not to do initiation ceremonies,” admits Colonel Yigal Slovik, commander of the 401st Armoured Brigade.

“Everyone wants a bit of tradition. They want it to be like it was in their day, or in the days of their predecessors. If not, they feel unfulfilled. But if we let these things carry on, we will see more scenes of worsening brutality. I don’t want us to be like the Russian Spetsnaz, where soldiers die at the hands of their comrades.”

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Mayor stoned in Jerusalem Shabbat war

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 13, 2009

The dispute over Shabbat in Jerusalem worsened this week when a group of Charedi men attacked Mayor Nir Barkat and stoned his car.

The weekly battles which have raged for the past two months over the Shabbat opening of a large car park at the Mamilla Shopping Centre near the Old City show no sign of abating.

Last weekend, for the first time, strictly-Orthodox demonstrators managed to block the entrance to the car park despite the attempts of police to block them.

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Envoy could be sacked after Israeli policy attack

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 13, 2009

An Israeli diplomat could be forced to resign following the publication of a letter he wrote criticising the government’s foreign policy.

The consul in Boston, Nadav Tamir, wrote in his letter that the government’s current attitude towards the American administration was causing Israel “strategic damage” and harming the “special relationship” between the countries.

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How racism defeated the ‘X-ray rabbi’

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2009

He faced down Israel’s most famous family of mystics, became the undisputed leader of Israeli kabbalah, transformed himself into a household name and became the close confidant of tycoons and celebrities.

But now it seems that Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan has finally come up against one immovable barrier — the strictly Orthodox Ashkenazi establishment which is forcing the Sephardi star out of his home town of Netivot.

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Analysis: Lieberman's last cabinet meeting?

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2009

Yisrael Beiteinu may have 15 Knesset members, as well as several ministries and parliamentary committees, but is still essentially a one-man party.

Avigdor Lieberman handpicked the candidates, decided which spot they would receive on the list and who would become a minister.

But now, he is learning the limitations of his power.

After an investigation which seemed never ending, the police this week recommended pressing charges against Israel’s foreign minister for allegedly money laundering over NIS 10 million (£1.5 million).

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Police: Don't call Tel Aviv shooting a hate crime yet

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2009

Tel Aviv police are investigating additional motives for the attack on a gay youth club on Saturday night, rather than labelling it a simple “hate crime”.

The shooting spree, which resulted in the deaths of 17-year-old Liz Trubeshi and 26-year-old Nir Katz, and the wounding of 11 others, was initially interpreted by the media and politicians as an attack against the gay and lesbian community.

The unidentified shooter was portrayed by the press as someone who hated homosexuals for religious or racist reasons.

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In east Jerusalem, an Arab PR coup

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2009

Two Palestinian families sitting on street corners in east Jerusalem in the sweltering August heat are at the centre of a media and diplomatic storm this week. The eviction from the homes they have lived in for 53 years has delivered the Palestinian cause a major PR coup.

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Great white hopes

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2009

The height of summer has to be the time for drinking the best white wines you can get you hands on.

Trying to find a fine white wine — one that would fit a formal and elegant setting — is much more difficult than finding a comparable red.

In the kosher market, where inferior whites abound, the search can be wearying. Part of the reason is that many of the better whites made in Israel are produced in relatively small quantities and are rarely exported to the UK.

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The New Jersey scandal could hurt Israel's Shas party

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 30, 2009

The arrest of leaders of the Halebi community in New York and New Jersey sent shockwaves through the Sephardi Orthodox party, Shas, in Israel.

While numerically the Halebis are one of the smaller Sephardi groups, their financial clout is inordinate.
Rabbi Ovadia Yossef and other Shas leaders have regularly visited the Halebi communities in New York, Sao Paolo and Mexico City to give sermons and fundraise.

Rabbi Ovadia has been close to the community for over six decades. While he was born in Baghdad, his late wife, Margalit, was the daughter of a respected Halebi family.

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Jerusalem slams UK on NGO funds

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 30, 2009

Israel has formally protested against the British government’s funding of the soldiers’ organisation Breaking the Silence.

The objection was raised at a meeting in Jerusalem this week between the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general, Rafi Barak, and British Ambassador Tom Phillips. The meeting was mainly meant to discuss attempts by UK organisations to boycott Israel, but the £40,000 given by the British government to Breaking the Silence was also raised.

Similar objections were raised with the Dutch embassy and the EU, which has also funded the organisation.

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Israel gives its missile defence a huge boost

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 30, 2009

Two recent missile tests have proved that Israel is on the way to equipping itself with the most comprehensive multi-layer missile defence system in the world.

Two weeks ago, the IDF and the Defence Ministry completed the first full test of the Iron Dome short-range interceptor system.

Iron Dome is designed to operate against rockets and artillery shells fired from between four and 70 km away.

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Why Israel fears a Lebanon flare-up

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 30, 2009

At a rare press conference on Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi tried to play down the reports of tension on the Israel-Lebanon border.

“We have no signs that the peace is about to be broken,” he said.

A few minutes earlier, though, while meeting new recruits bound for one of the IDF’s infantry brigades, he told them that “the chance we will have to act in the near future is large. So make the most of your training, you could well be put to the test.”

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Analysis: An agreement on a settlement freeze is imminent

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 30, 2009

Visits by four high-ranking American officials to Israel this week seem to have pushed Binyamin Netanyahu’s government to the brink of an agreement on freezing settlement building.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Adviser Jim Jones, special envoy George Mitchell and Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross all repeated the requisite statements on America’s commitment to Israel’s security and tried hard to infuse a friendly atmosphere into the talks. They even began to sound tough about imposing time limits on talks with Iran.

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NGO funding base exposed

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 23, 2009

Israeli and international human rights organisations are coming under increasing scrutiny as to the identity of their donors.

In many cases, Israeli NGOs which have been critical of the government’s policy have been financed by EU governments, including Britain.

Most of the NGOs have a similar agenda. They are dedicated to monitoring human rights in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, preventing torture in Israeli prisons, advancing the demands of Israeli Arabs for equal civil rights and exposing Jewish settlement activity.

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Bibi’s trap for Kadima

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 23, 2009

The next week could be a pivotal one in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is determined to pass a new law in the Knesset, before the parliamentary summer recess begins, that will make it easier for parties to split and regroup.

The main target is Kadima.

Mr Netanyahu has never kept secret his ambition to bring about a dissolution of the party, which broke away from the Likud in 2005. He sees Kadima as illegitimate, a coincidental gathering of opportunists and, worst of all, a political threat.

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