Anshel Pfeffer

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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UK blamed for East Jerusalem building row

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 23, 2009

British diplomats played a major part creating the recent spat between Israel and the United States over Jewish building in East Jerusalem.

Last week, during a routine meeting with Israel’s new ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, at the State Department, the Americans objected to plans to convert the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem into 20 flats for Jewish families.

The building has been owned by American-Jewish millionaire Irving Moskovich for 24 years.

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Embassy names its press attache

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 23, 2009

The new press attaché to the Israeli Embassy in London will be Amir Ofek, a 43-year old career diplomat.

Mr Ofek, a former infantry officer and graduate of Tel Aviv University, joined the Foreign Ministry’s cadet course in 1995 on the “communications and culture” track. His main foreign postings have been as first secretary at the embassy in Chile, and consul for public afairs at the New York consulate. He also served shorter periods in Belarus, El Salvador and Georgia.

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Soldiers defend IDF’s conduct

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 23, 2009

IDF soldiers have responded to criticism of the army’s conduct in Operation Cast Lead by producing a website describing how the army did everything in its power to minimise civilian casualties.

Soldiers Speak Out was created by Stand With Us, a Los Angeles-based pro-Israel advocacy organisation, and includes videos of IDF reservists who fought in the Gaza operation.

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British diplomats involved in US-Israel tension

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 22, 2009

British diplomats played a major part in the recent spat between Israel and the United States over Jewish building in east Jerusalem.

Last week, during a routine meeting with Israel’s new ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, the Americans expressed objection to plans to convert the Shepherd Hotel in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah into 20 flats for Jewish families.

The building is owned by American-Jewish millionaire Irving Moskovich.

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This arms restriction might work in Israel's interest

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 16, 2009

The latest restriction on arms export licences is certainly not the most strategically damaging of arms embargos imposed by the UK government on Israel.

That prize probably goes to the refusal to sell Israel the Chieftain tank in 1969.

In the 1980s, refusal to sell chemical warfare defensive gear was certainly more insulting, and the problem with the supply of parts for the Martin Baker ejection seat seven years ago was potentially life-threatening for Phantom combat jet pilots.

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Court examines IDF violence in West Bank

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 16, 2009

Next week, the commander of the IDF’s Central Command, Major General Gadi Shamni, will take the stand in the final hearing of a criminal case that has shaken the IDF to the core and cost at least one senior officer his career.

General Shamni will testify in the case of Lieutenant Adam Malul, a junior officer in the Kfir Brigade who is accused in a military court of using excessive force against Palestinian detainees in a West Bank village last year. General Shamni will explain exactly what degree of force soldiers are allowed to use to quell demonstrations.

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For Israelis, claims are a fact of war

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 16, 2009

The Israeli Supreme Court forbade the IDF to use the “neighbour protocol” four years ago.

But everyone understands that, in some circumstances, Palestinian civilians are ordered to make sure that a building’s inhabitants are aware that they are surrounded.

“There is a very stark choice,” says one field commander. “Either you abide by the law or you go into a building knowing that innocent bystanders may be killed.”

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IDF accused by own soldiers

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 16, 2009

A new report alleging that IDF soldiers carried out war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead includes testimony from soldiers who claim that their units used human shields , a practice banned by the Israeli Supreme Court, while searching Palestinian homes.

The report, by the human rights group Breaking the Silence, is based on interviews with 30 soldiers.

The organisation is run by IDF veterans and it bases its evidence only on soldiers who claim to have witnessed the events.

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Shalit negotiator duped by $370m business hoax

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 16, 2009

The partial sale of an Israeli medical device firm to a British-Taiwanese company for $370 million has turned out to be an elaborate hoax, taking in serious businesspeople, senior doctors, former intelligence officers, political insiders and most of the Israeli media.

SafeSky seemed to have it all: a managing director who is the Prime Minister’s best friend, an invention that could change the medical world forever, a former Mossad deputy chief on the board and the potential to make all those involved into multi-millionaires.

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IDF learnt lessons from Lebanon War

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 16, 2009

On Tuesday morning, an explosion shook the Upper Galilee, after months of quiet. The shock-wave reminded many that exactly three years ago this week, war broke out in the same area.

Later in the day, when the circumstances of the blast began filtering out, those memories were reinforced.

A hidden Hizbollah katyusha rocket store in a nondescript house had blown up nine miles from the border. This was just the kind of thing that Israel had hoped to eradicate by embarking on what became known as the Second Lebanon War.

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Anti-Israel lobby wins arms ban from UK government

By Bernard Josephs and Anshel Pfeffer, July 16, 2009

The Foreign Office this week denied imposing a partial arms embargo on Israel, despite its decision to ban spare parts for Israeli naval vessels used during its winter operation in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead.

The news broke as 26 Israeli soldiers claimed that the IDF had committed war crimes during the Gaza operation.

On Monday, the government, in response to a sustained campaign from pro-Palestinian groups and parliamentarians, announced the cancellation of five export licences for equipment to upgrade weaponry on 4.5 Saar Corvettes.

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This year in Jerusalem

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 16, 2009

The 52 new Israeli immigrants who arrived at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday night began their journey to Zion in typical fashion, with an 80-minute delay on the runway at Heathrow. They took it in their stride, some even clapping when the plane finally landed in Tel Aviv though, on the whole, they were remarkably sober and quiet throughout the flight and immigration process.

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Our ‘future leaders’ set out their visions

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 9, 2009

What are young Jewish “leaders” and “thinkers” interested in?
If the 120 participants in the fourth annual Return On Investment (ROI) Summit last week in Israel are anything to go by, the answer seems to be: the same things as other starry-eyed idealists — student politics, human rights, multiculturalism and volunteering in the developed world. They also want to find other Jewish partners with whom to explore these interests.

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A political war is fought over Israel’s courts

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 9, 2009

After years of being a bastion of Israel’s liberal-left establishment, the Supreme Court appears to be moving to the right.

There is currently deadlock in the appointment of three new Supreme Court judges, with an ideological battle being waged between religious and right-wing representatives and the secular, mostly Ashekanzi left.
The Judicial Appointments Committee is chaired by the Justice Minister, and also includes three judges from the Supreme Court, three Knesset members and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association.

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Religious battle rages over IDF

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 9, 2009

A behind-the-scenes struggle is going on in the IDF over the role of the military Rabbinate and the increasing number of soldiers asking the IDF to accommodate their religious needs.

The IDF Chief Rabbi, Brigadier General Avihai Rontzki, has angered many senior officers by what they see as undue intrusion of the military rabbis into the internal affairs of the army’s units.

Rabbi Rontzki has told his rabbis that they are there “not only to distribute wine and challahs for Shabbat” but to “bring yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit to the soldiers in the field”.

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Tired of Al Jazeera? I’m beaming kosher TV across the Middle East

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 9, 2009

Next week, for the first time, a Jewish news channel will begin broadcasting via satellite to the entire Middle East, trying to persuade the Arabs that a Jewish presence in their midst is not such a bad idea after all.

Unlike previous grandiose plans to launch a pro-Israel hasbarah channel to counter the influence of Al Jazeera, this project is much more humble, at least to start with.

Israeli businesswoman Galia Albin has just bought a controlling stake in the small Jewish Life TV (JLTV) channel, which is currently carried on American cable and digital services.

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Who is the real man?

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 9, 2009

Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s trip to London this week to meet American negotiator George Mitchell was unremarkable for any breakthrough on the thorny issue of settlement building. It was, however, a useful illustration of the real mindset of both sides in this uneasy relationship.

On the Israeli side, the fact that Mr Barak is the main representative in the country’s most vital strategic alliance is a sign of the dysfunctionality of Binyamin Netanyahu’s government — only 100 days after it was sworn in.

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Austrian death camp to be ‘filled with trash’

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 2, 2009

Parts of the Gusen 2 Concentration Camp in Austria, almost forgotten for 64 years, are being turned into a residential development, and a former underground slave-labour factory is being filled in, local residents claim.

Tens of thousands of prisoners toiled and died in the vast underground caverns, building jet planes for the Luftwaffe. The site has remained sealed since the camp’s liberation, but redevelopment work recently began.

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Disgraced political prodigy rides back

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 2, 2009

After almost a decade of enforced absence, one of the brightest stars of Israel’s political scene is set to make his comeback.

Arieh Deri, the Moroccan-born maverick, was appointed Interior Minister before the age of 30 and transformed Shas from a marginal religious party into a major parliamentary force. But in 1999 he was convicted of fraud and bribe-taking and jailed for two years.

He will make his return to public life on July 15, seven years after leaving prison.

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