Anshel Pfeffer

Barak is Israel’s de-facto foreign minister

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 21, 2010

No new strategic agreements or arms deals were signed during Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s visit to Ankara on Sunday; he did not even get to meet the prime minister.

Still, the half-day trip was described as “very positive”. These days, any diplomatic contact between Israel and Turkey that does not end acrimoniously is seen as a definite success.

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Analysis: Trouble and strife is back for Bibi

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 21, 2010

In the remaking of the Bibi brand, a decade-long project that preceded Binyamin Netanyahu’s return to power last year, the Sarah Problem was a major headache.

Long before Israeli voters booted him out of office in 1999, the first lady’s image as a highly-strung, grasping, freebie-loving harridan was well engraved on the national psyche. Newspapers regularly chronicled her tantrums and ego trips, supplemented by rumour and innuendo.

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Mrs Netanyahu sued by her maid

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 21, 2010

A lawsuit against the Netanyahu family brought by their former housekeeper has cast a new set of question marks over the conduct of Sarah Netanyahu and her influence on her husband’s policy-making.

Lillian Peretz, who was employed for six years as housekeeper at the Netanyahu weekend home in Caesarea, claimed in the Labour Court lawsuit that she was paid beneath the minimum wage, not given social benefits and forced to work on Saturdays despite being Shabbat-observant.

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Crisis after Israel 'humiliates' Turkey

By Anshel Pfeffer and Sami Kohen, January 14, 2010

Relations between Israel and Turkey hit an all-time low this week after Israel’s deputy foreign minister publicly humiliated the Turkish ambassador in Jerusalem.

Turkey threatened to order its ambassador home and the matter was only resolved after Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon personally apologised, twice.

The row broke out on Monday when Mr Ayalon called in Turkish Ambassador Oguz Celikkol to rebuke him over the second drama series to be broadcast on Turkish television recently showing Israeli agents murdering civilians.

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Rabbi: Conversion annullment 'illegal'

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 14, 2010

A rabbi is causing an uproar in Israel’s strictly Orthodox community with a new book in which he insists that there is no Halachic basis for the annulment of conversions.

Rabbi Haim Amsalem, a Shas MK, has been told by his party’s leaders in the past to rein in his zeal to publish Halachic rulings.

One of the party’s ministers even said recently: “He has to decide whether he’s a politician or a rabbi.”

But Rabbi Amsalem is undeterred and his latest book, soon to be published, contains a bombshell.

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Israel to fence off Egyptian border

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 14, 2010

After years of deliberations, the Israeli government has decided to build a border fence along its border with Egypt. The fence is meant to keep out terrorists, but the more immediate reason is to stem the flood of African refugees into Israel.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu authorised a plan presented to him by the Defence Ministry to spend NIS 1.5 billion on a fence between Israel and Egypt.

Besides a few short fences near the Gaza Strip to the north and Eilat in the south, most of the border, over 300km, is not fenced.

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New rocket defence system action-ready

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 14, 2010

A successful test of Israel’s newest missile defence system, the last before its deployment, has caused a stir among the country’s enemies.

Israel last week completed a two-day series of tests to prove the operational capability of all the elements of the Iron Dome system before they are handed over to the IDF for deployment. The tests, which took place in the Negev, used live missiles of the types used by Hamas and Hizbollah, up to a range of 70km.

Iron Dome also proved capable of intercepting a salvo of missiles launched in one go.

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Analysis: As Hamas loses control, the risk for Israel grows

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 14, 2010

AT Around 11pm on Monday, a large explosion was heard near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Reports began to stream in from civilians on both sides of Israeli Air Force strikes, dead Hamas fighters, IDF units concentrated near the border and forces on the move. For a few minutes, it seemed as if a year after Operation Cast Lead, another Israeli invasion of Gaza was under way.

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Fears for Yemenites

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 7, 2010

The threat of permanent closure of the American and British embassies in Yemen has heightened fears for the safety of some 200 Yemenite Jews.

The main channel of contact with the community has, in recent years, been the American State Department.

American diplomats have helped Jewish groups transfer aid to the community and keep abreast of its condition. Last year, Moshe Yaish-Nahari was murdered by a former Yemeni Air Force pilot after he refused to convert.

The fear of al Qaida and other Islamic movements has caused many rural Jews to move to the capital, Sana’a.

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Israel airport security too tough for the UK

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 7, 2010

Israeli security experts are sceptical of talk in America and Europe about the need to “Israelify” airport security, following the attempt to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

In an Israeli-style system, they say, security in the airport itself is only one component of an entire framework for combating terror. It would also require the political will to use controversial methods such as racial profiling.

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Right-wing violence threat on the rise

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 7, 2010

Senior Israeli security officials are warning of a drastic increase in the number of right-wing extremists prepared to use violent means to stop any attempt to dismantle settlements.

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Gas mask for every Israeli within 3 years

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 7, 2010

The Israeli cabinet has decided to hasten the production of gas masks so that in three years the entire population will be equipped with them.

The previous policy, to equip less than two-thirds of the population, was changed due to predictions that in a future conflict, Israel’s enemies would almost certainly bombard cities with medium-range missiles which are capable of carrying chemical warheads.

Although defence experts say that Hamas and Hizbollah’s missiles will probably still only carry conventional warheads, the cabinet decided that it could not take the risk.

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Bourekas 'banned' from Israeli cabinet

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 6, 2010

Israeli ministers arriving for the weekly government meeting on Sunday morning were surprised to find sliced vegetables and fresh fruit on the cabinet table, instead of the normal lavish repast.

The change of menu is the initiative of Cabinet Secretary, Tzvi Hauser, who decided to end the age-old custom where ministers enjoyed bourekas, ruggelach and sandwiches during their meeting.

"I reached the conclusion that the ministers have to eat healthy food, it's time to say enough to the dough and oil," said Mr Hauser.

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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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