Anshel Pfeffer

Has Barak finally managed to destroy the Labour party?

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 29, 2009

Labour Chair and Defence Minister Ehud Barak added a new title on Monday: Labour parliamentary faction leader. Mr Barak had to assume the position after his last loyal back-bencher announced he was resigning from the post.

MK Daniel Ben-Simon said he was resigning because “Labour has not fulfilled its diplomatic goals and does not belong in the coalition”.

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Financial scandals rock Israeli sports

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 29, 2009

A suicide that was seen last Monday simply as a personal and family tragedy has swiftly developed into a storm engulfing not only Israel’s most successful basketball team, but the entire sporting establishment.

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Will this be Israel’s last Nobel prize?

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 22, 2009

Five Israelis have won Nobel Prizes in various fields of research over the past eight years. Only the United States, Britain and Japan have more Nobel laureates over the same period.

This statistic may make Israel appear to be an academic giant, but many leading professors are convinced that the prizes reflect efforts made many years ago and that with the current level of investment, Professor Ada Yonath’s Chemistry Prize - announced two weeks ago and widely celebrated within Israel - may be the last Nobel an Israeli will receive for many years to come.

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IDF mobilises as fears over olive wars grow

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 22, 2009

The IDF is deploying unprecedented forces in the West Bank to ensure that this year’s olive harvest can be carried out smoothly.

In past years, violent clashes have broken out between settlers and Palestinians over the right to pick olives around some of the settlements.

This year, the Defence Ministry’s civil administration in the West Bank has mapped out the ownership of all olive groves near settlements which are classified as “flash points”. A mobile battalion-sized security team of Border Police and the Special Patrol Unit has been formed to secure the area.

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Israel extends visa for illegal worker youth

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 22, 2009

The government will allow 1,200 children of foreign workers whose visas have expired to remain in Israel until the end of the school year, next July.

Previously, the government had ruled that the children, most of whom were born and raised in Israel, would have to leave with their families by November 1, but it reversed its decision following a public outcry.

The decision highlights the difficulty of formulating a consistent policy on an estimated 400,000 foreign workers, close to three quarters of whom lack a valid work visa.

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How the Palestinians stoked, then stopped, a new intifada

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 15, 2009

Everything seemed to be in place for a third intifada. A bogged-down peace process, extreme politicians eagerly egging on their cohorts, rumours of Zionist plots to destroy the Temple Mount mosques, huge piles of rocks aimed at the heads of Jews at the Western Wall and all the religious fervour of Ramadan and the High Holy Days.

But in the end, the Jerusalem riots of the past couple of weeks petered out. Despite dire warnings from some former police officers and defence experts, a third uprising against Israel failed to ignite.

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The end of Israeli-Turkish ties?

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 15, 2009

The Israeli government is split over the correct response to Turkey’s decision to cancel a joint military exercise. While the Foreign Ministry is in favour of a belligerent stance, the defence establishment is trying to lower the tensions.

Israeli, American, Italian and Turkish warplanes were due to simulate dogfights against each other this week over Turkey, but Ankara barred Israel from participating at the last minute, in protest at Operation Cast Lead. The other participants then pulled out, leading to the cancellation of the manoeuvre.

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Hizbollah 'rearming against Israel'

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 14, 2009

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Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal favoured by Israeli cabinet

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 8, 2009

There is a clear majority in the Israeli cabinet for approving a prisoner deal with Hamas, although there is opposition within the intelligence services.

The current deal being discussed between Israel and Hamas through Egyptian and German intermediaries is essentially similar to the one turned down by the Olmert government six months ago. Hamas has presented Israel with a list of 450 prisoners to be released in a direct exchange for Shalit. As a second stage, Israel will release hundreds more at an unspecified date.

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Shalit video ‘shows Hamas is serious’

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 8, 2009

The main conclusion of Israeli experts who viewed the video of Gilad Shalit is that Hamas is eager to reach a deal on a prisoner exchange.

The two-and-a-half minute tape handed by Hamas to the German negotiator last week, and broadcast on Israeli television last Friday, confirmed the intelligence assessments regarding Shalit’s condition.

“Nothing we saw there on the tape caused us to fall off our chairs,” said one senior defence official, following detailed analysis of Shalit’s appearance on camera.

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Will the UN report finish Abbas?

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 8, 2009

Internal fallout from the Goldstone Report on the fighting in Gaza is now threatening to bring down the Palestinian Authority leadership.

A commission of inquiry has been set up in Ramallah to investigate why the Palestinians dropped their demand to refer the report to the United Nations Security Council.

The report, written by a team headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, alleged that Israel committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in January.

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Jerusalem riots 'not new intifada, just Palestinian politics'

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 8, 2009

Experts believe that the outbreak of riots around the Old City of Jerusalem is not the beginning of a “third intifada”, but an attempt by Palestinian leaders to draw their population’s attention away from recent governmental debacles.

Stone-throwing and violent encounters with police began in Jerusalem, in and around the Old City, last Sunday, on the day before Yom Kippur.

The rioting began when a group of French tourists entered the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount and rumours spread that “the Jews are trying to take over the mosques”.

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Defence chief in Israel

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 1, 2009

Chief of the UK Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, has made a three-day visit to Israel.

During the trip — which was not publicised by the British or Israeli defence ministries — Sir Jock met IDF Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi and other senior officers. Issues discussed included missile defence, Iran’s nuclear programme and methods of defending ground troops from explosive devices. British forces in Afghanistan have a strategy based on Israel’s experience in dealing with suicide bombers and explosives.

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Move to outlaw Shabbat 'lifts'

By Anshel Pfeffer and Simon Rocker, October 1, 2009

A new edict by senior Charedi rabbis forbidding the use of “shabbat lifts” is causing an uproar in the Orthodox world.

For decades, the great majority of rabbis have approved the use of lifts that operate automatically, stopping for a few seconds on every floor, on Shabbat.

But on Tuesday, the Charedi daily Yated Ne’eman published a new ruling signed by some of the leading halachic decision-makers in Israel, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Shmuel Halevy Wosner.

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Israel may set up official inquiry into Cast Lead

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 1, 2009

The Israeli government is considering whether to set up an official commission of enquiry into Operation Cast Lead in the wake of the United Nations Goldstone report.

The investigation, prepared by Judge Richard Goldstone for the United Nations Human Rights Council and presented two weeks ago, accused the IDF of committing war crimes during the Gaza operation in January.

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Attack on Iran: the clock is ticking 'until Pesach'

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 1, 2009

As on every Yom Kippur for the past 35 years, Israeli newspapers, television and radio channels this week were full of interviews, features and special projects, picking at the unhealed wound of the terrible war that took a nation and its military idols by surprise.

But while the Yom Kippur War remains a trauma to this day, Israel’s current strategic predicament is much more reminiscent of the Six-Day War.

Then as now, the political leadership remains uncertain whether the looming threat — this time, from Iran — is indeed an existential one.

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Anger at rule on gender segragation near Kotel

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 1, 2009

A move by the rabbi of the Western Wall to gender-segregate ceremonies taking place near Judaism’s holiest shrine is causing consternation.

Officials at the Jewish Agency are considering changing the venue of the ceremony at which new immigrants to Israel are given their first identity cards. According to the decision of the Western Wall Heritage Fund, headed by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, women and men would be forced to sit separately and women would not be allowed to speak from the podium.

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As his trial opens, Olmert still hopes to return to public life

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 1, 2009

Last Friday, Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert set off on a road that could take him to prison, or back to national leadership.

“I have come here as an innocent man,” he told the assembled media on the first day of his trial in Jerusalem, “and I believe that I will leave without any charge.”

Although Mr Olmert — the first former Israeli PM to stand trial — would not signal his plans for after the trial, his close friends have no doubt.

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Analysis: Obama could not make peace alone

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 24, 2009

Binyamin Netanyahu has accomplished a remarkable feat. He travelled to the US, met the president at a highly publicised summit, upset the leader of the free world, returned home empty-handed — and is still not facing a public outcry.

A similar dispute with the Americans ultimately brought down the Shamir government in 1992. Later premiers never dared openly confront the US.

Barack Obama’s displeasure was barely disguised and no amount of spin can gloss over the failure of the three-way summit. But Mr Netanyahu, at least for now, is getting away with it.

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Analysis: Come to think of it, the new system might benefit Israel

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 24, 2009

Barack Obama’s decision to scrap the plan to position a missile-defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic could ultimately prove a boost to Israel’s defences.

The change in American plans was motivated by President Obama’s desire to placate the Russian leadership but there also remains a need to mount a defence against nuclear missiles that may be launched in future from Iran and other rogue nations in the east.

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