Anshel Pfeffer

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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Israel wants rules of war to be changed

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 24, 2009

Israel is launching a campaign to adapt the international laws on warfare to a new reality where organisations purposely operate from civilian areas.

They are hoping that the American and British governments, which face similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be persuaded to join.

The effort comes in response to the UN Human Rights Council report released last week, which accuses the IDF of committing war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead at the beginning of 2009.

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Analyis: Deceptive quiet on Gaza border

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 18, 2009

My visit last week to the headquarters of one of the battalions stationed around the Gaza border was deceptively tranquil. The road leading to the base may still be full of craters created by Hamas mortar shells, fired in the years of bombardment leading up to Operation Cast Lead last January. But in the neighbouring kibbutz, work is going on peacefully in the fields, right next to the border fence.

For the first time in a decade, children in the nearby town of Sderot started the school year two weeks ago without having to first practise running to the bomb shelters.

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Analysis: Settlement deal is a hard sell

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 18, 2009

One of the less known items on Binyamin Netanyahu’s CV is his stint as the sales manager of an Israeli furniture manufacturer, before he joined the diplomatic service. The PM will need all his sales acumen now to market two totally different products to the American administration and the Israeli right wing in the run-up to the highly anticipated “peace summit” at the UN next week.

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Charedi women refuse bus gender segragation

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 18, 2009

A new group has joined the fight over gender-segregated bus lines in Israel: religious women who do not want to be forced to sit at the back.

This month, four such groups boarded the “Mehadrin”, or especially stringent buses, running through Jerusalem, pointedly sitting at the front.

“Charedi women on the bus also joined us,” says Rachel Azaria, a religious member of Jerusalem City Council who is leading a coalition of local organisations against the buses.

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Fighter pilot’s death re-ignites combat debate

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 18, 2009

The death of Captain Asaf Ramon in a jet fighter accident on Sunday has reopened the question of whether children from bereaved families should be allowed to serve in combat units.

Captain Ramon was the son of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died in the Columbia Shuttle disaster in 2003.

The IDF regulations state that a child or sibling of a fallen IDF soldier is exempt from service in a combat unit unless their parent signs an authorisation. On average, about 80 members of bereaved families join the IDF each year and serve in combat units with their parents’ consent.

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Israeli healthcare standards 'slipping'

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 10, 2009

The heated discussions going on in Britain and the United States over the future of public medicine and medical insurance has shifted the spotlight to successful systems in other countries.

In Israel, while there is universal coverage for all residents and a generally high level of treatment, there are complaints of slipping standards.

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Assimilation ad angers diaspora

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 10, 2009

A new campaign against assimilation in the diaspora, which is aimed at Israelis, is raising eyebrows in international Jewish organisations.

The television advert shows spoof “missing” posters, featuring young men and women with Jewish names. The implication is that the diaspora youngsters are being “lost” to Judaism.

The advert urges Israelis with a relative abroad who might be interested in Israel to contact MASA, an Israeli-based group that encourages Jewish students to study in Israel.

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Israel ponders missed chance over Ron Arad

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 10, 2009

The basic facts are not new. Israel’s intelligence services have believed for some time that Ron Arad, the Israel Air Force navigator who was taken prisoner in Lebanon 23 years ago, died in captivity over a decade ago. But the new details of the failed efforts to release him were published this week, and in this there is a chilling resemblance to the current situation of Gilad Shalit.

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What hijack? The high-sea drama no one will discuss

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 10, 2009

Ehud Barak’s face remained expressionless. The reporters surrounded the defence minister, asking again and again, “do you have anything to say about the Russian ship?” — but he would not even look at them. His bodyguards cleared a path for him as he stepped into his official car and sped away.

None of the countries allegedly involved in the mystery of the Arctic Sea — the boat that disappeared in the Baltic Sea for several days in July after being boarded by pirates — have any interest in publicity.

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Who will teach Israel’s Ethiopians?

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 3, 2009

The plight of 102 Ethiopian-born children in the town of Petach Tikva who do not have a school place has raised serious questions about the Israeli education system.

At the centre of the argument is the refusal of three private religious schools to accept about 50 of these children into their normal classes.

The Education Ministry, the media and even President Shimon Peres have all come down hard on these three schools, accusing them of racism.

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Netanyahu uses British tactics to fight crime wave

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 3, 2009

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has come out with a five-point plan for dealing with the rise in crime in Israel, based upon British and American experience.

Mr Netanyahu published his plan following a wave of crime in which 14 Israelis have been murdered in less than a month.

In a special radio interview, Mr Netanyahu termed the violence “inner terrorism” and said, “if missiles are fired at us, we respond fiercely immediately. In the same way I am not prepared to accept any kind of terrorism against Israeli citizens.”

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