Anshel Pfeffer

Terror attack breaks lull in violence

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 30, 2009

A new bout of killings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has raised fears of an escalation in Israeli-Palestinian violence, at the end of a year which — since the end of the Operation Cast Lead — has seen the lowest casualty rates for over two decades.

While there have been sporadic shooting attacks against Israeli citizens in the West Bank over recent months, few have caused casualties. The murder of Rabbi Meir Chai in an ambush on a road near Nablus last Thursday evening was the first time an Israeli had been killed in a terror attack since April.

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Paper war launched over 'Bibi's freesheet'

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 30, 2009

Israeli politicians often complain about the power of the media and its pervasive influence. But in recent weeks, some of them have put themselves at the disposal of the local press barons in an attempt to block the new competitor in town.

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Hamas weighs up 'last offer' for Shalit

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 30, 2009

The main obstacle remaining to the Gilad Shalit prisoner deal is the number of Palestinian prisoners who will not be allowed to return to their homes in the West Bank.

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Analysis: Bibi's plot exposes Livni’s weakness

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 30, 2009

PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan to split the Likud’s main political rival, Kadima, suffered a setback this week when Kadima’s Knesset members unanimously voted to turn down his offer to join a national unity government. But the political machinations of the past two weeks also revealed the weakness of Kadima chair Tzipi Livni’s leadership.

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Israel doubts UK will overturn 'Livni law'

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 23, 2009

The Israeli government has little faith that Britain will, in the near future, change the laws that allow arrest warrants to be obtained for Israeli officials on the suspicion of war crimes. The government is now pinning its hopes on an international initiative to amend the laws of war.

Israel officially maintains that it is the responsibility of the British government to amend legislation that has put London out of bounds for many Israeli officers and politicians.

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Analysis: The grown-ups are back in charge

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 23, 2009

The stage was set for a traumatic split. An arrogant Defence Minister had jeopardised 50 years of partnership between the yeshivahs and the IDF by telling one of the rabbis what he could and couldn’t say. Now they were going to assert their independence and show Ehud Barak that he would not be allowed to push them around.

Fifty seven rabbis entered the conclave on Sunday in an atmosphere of fiery petitions and speeches. Four hours later, they emerged with a surprisingly pragmatic joint statement, opposing political demonstrations within the army and praising its officers and generals.

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Yeshivah backs off in fight with army

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 23, 2009

The heads of the Hesder yeshivahs, which allow 18-year-olds to combine Torah studies and army service, have issued a joint statement against any form of political protest within the IDF.

The rabbis are trying to end the crisis with the defence establishment which led to one of the yeshivahs being cut out of the arrangement last week. Defence Minister Ehud Barak cancelled the Hesder status of the Har Bracha yeshivah on the West bank following the refusal of its head, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, to retract his previous statements in support of soldiers refusing orders to dismantle settlements.

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Charedi sites close following ban

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 23, 2009

Two Charedi news websites closed down this week and a wave of resignations has hit other sites following the strictest rabbinical ruling against the internet to date.

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Police to recruit Arab youngsters

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 23, 2009

The Israeli Police will launch next week a low-profile programme to enlist 18-year-olds from the Arab population into its ranks.

The plan has three aims: to establish a national service option for Arab school leavers, to swell the police’s understaffed ranks and to try and improve relations between the state and the Arab community.

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Livni crisis deepens as Israel bans UK visits

By Anshel Pfeffer, Marcus Dysch and Martin Bright, December 17, 2009

The Israeli government’s fury at the arrest warrant issued for the former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni has culminated in a threat to end all ministerial visits to Britain. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the UK government that this would apply even to those not at risk of arrest, until the UK government changes the law allowing private citizens to bring charges against senior Israelis for war crimes.

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Row over kosher-only policy at Israeli ministry

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

An internal regulation saying that Israeli diplomats hosting foreign visitors must eat with them only in kosher restaurants has provoked a protest by Tel Aviv restaurateurs.

Israeli government agencies are mandated by law to operate only kosher catering facilities.

As a matter of tradition, Israeli ministers will eat only kosher at official meals, in Israel and abroad, even if they do not keep kosher at home.

At the Foreign Ministry, this extends to a regulation forbidding its employees to entertain visiting dignitaries at restaurants that serve non-kosher food.

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Quiet on the Gaza border is deceptive

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Almost a year after Operation Cast Lead, Israel may still be fighting a legal and diplomatic battle over the war in the international arena, but around Gaza itself there is uncustomary calm.

On the Israeli side, all the damage caused by missiles and mortar rounds has been repaired, and life is back almost to normal in the villages around the Gaza Strip. While the occasional Kassam is still fired towards Israel, these are always badly aimed. They quite often fall in Palestinian territory and have not caused any Israeli casualties in the last 11 months.

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How Iran's secret A-plant was exposed

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Israel’s military intelligence chief, Major General Amos Yadlin, has confirmed that Iran owned up to its secret nuclear facility in Qom only because it discovered that Western intelligence services were already aware of its existence.

According to other intelligence sources, several months ago, Iran captured a spy operated by MI6 and discovered that Western intelligence services knew about Qom.

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Israel severs link between religious school and IDF

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to end the Har Bracha yeshivah’s hesder arrangement — which allows 18-year-olds to combine Torah studies with army service — has sent reverberations through the IDF and the network of yeshivahs which have, for decades, enjoyed close relations with the military.

“This isn’t about just one yeshivah,” said a senior rabbi this week. “This is a battle for the soul of the next generation of the national-religious community.”

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Syria and Israel may restart talks

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Israel and Syria are inching back to the negotiation table, although both sides are still not quite ready to sit down. In a number of statements in recent weeks, leaders and senior officials of both countries have indicated that they are open to resume talks that took place while Olmert was prime minister.

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Mosque attackers want a new intifada

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

There was something almost too neat about the arson attempt at the mosque in Yasuf on Friday morning. The nearby settlement of Kfar Tapuach, the graffiti in Hebrew, the choice of target. The Palestinians certainly had no trouble pointing out who they thought were the culprits. It was their neighbours, they said, who have been harassing them, they claim, for years.

But a week has gone by and the police and Shin Bet security service have yet to arrest any suspects.

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Jerusalem mayor attacks ‘ghost flats’

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 10, 2009

Jerusalem’s Mayor, Nir Barkat, has launched a campaign against the “ghost flats” in the city, owned by Jewish tourists who use them for a few weeks a year and leave them empty for the rest of the time. City Hall is trying to persuade the owners to rent the flats out to young couples.

Last week, Mr Barkat sent a personal letter to 9,000 flat owners in which he described the consequences of having so many empty homes in the central neighbourhoods of Israel’s capital.

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Analysis: Israel’s environment will remain a mess as long as security is the priority

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 10, 2009

It was only on Wednesday that Binyamin Netanyahu’s ‘will he, won’t he go to the Copenhagen climate conference?’ was finally decided. He won’t.

His office has said a number of times over recent weeks that he would like to be there, but every time they also leaked pressing reasons why he would not be able to.

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Chief Rabbi vows to help converts wed

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 10, 2009

The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Yonah Metzger, has announced a new move designed to alleviate the problems faced by gerim (converts) wishing to marry in Israel.

In a letter to the chairman of the Knesset’s Aliyah and Absorption Committee, MK Lia Shemtov, Rabbi Metzger promised that converts would be able to register for marriage in every city in Israel.

If the local rabbi who issues marriage permits refuses to recognise their conversion, an alternative marriage registrar would be appointed.

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Ethiopian aliyah may restart

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 3, 2009

The lobby calling for the renewed emigration of the Falashmura to Israel scored a significant victory this week after the Jewish Agency confirmed that it would support bringing more than 8,000 members of the Ethiopian community to Israel.

The Jewish Agency chairman Nathan Sharansky will ask the Israeli government to renew its efforts to bring over the members of the Falashmura currently living in a compound in the Ethiopian city of Gondar. This is a reversal of the agency’s previous policy and of the government’s decision that all Falashmura emigration was to end in 2008.

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