Anshel Pfeffer

Israel’s intelligence chiefs divided over Iranian bomb

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 25, 2009

Mossad Chief Meir Dagan has recently given up smoking his beloved pipe in staff meetings. Instead he plays with a large hunting knife.

But some are beginning to wonder whether the old hunter is losing his aim.

The cabinet voted unanimously on Sunday to extend Mr Dagan’s term as head of Mossad until the end of 2010, by when he will have been chief for eight years. That doesn’t mean that ministers were overjoyed at the prospect.

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Row over Sharansky’s Jewish Agency role

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 25, 2009

Former Prisoner of Zion Nathan Sharansky was expected to be voted chair of the Jewish Agency on Thursday, after an unprecedented row between the Israeli government and American Jewish organisations nearly scuttled his appointment.

Mr Sharansky was PM Netanyahu’s candidate and, in the past, would have been automatically voted in.

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PA starts site in Ivrit

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 18, 2009

WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, launched a Hebrew website this week, in order to “present Israelis with another view of what is happening on the other side.”

WAFA is based in the PA offices in Ramallah but Faiz Abbas, an Israeli who resigned from Yediot in 2006, edits the website from his home in the Galilee.

Ma’an, the independent Palestinian news agency, set up a Hebrew website in 2005 but failed to attract many readers. Editor Abbas believes that his new website will be more successful.

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PM’s office in chaos

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 18, 2009

After only two-and-a-half months in power, Binyamin Netanyahu’s office is already coming apart at the seams. Bitter arguments between senior officials, an inflation of special advisors and a lack of clarity over responsibilities all contribute to an atmosphere of chaos.

Nir Hefetz, a former executive on the Yediot Achronot daily, was appointed the new head of hasbarah in the Prime Minister’s Office last week.

Mr Hefetz is currently the fourth senior communications official in Mr Netanyahu’s team.

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Soldier’s tale? No, just war tourism lit

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 11, 2009

There is nothing unusual about Seth Freedman’s story (Can I Bring My Own Gun? Five Leaves/Guardian Books, £8.99). Young British Jew leaves life of comfort to follow his Zionist ideals. Emigrates to Israel, joins the army (15 months in uniform giving him a lifetime’s supply of anecdotes), then, back on civvie street, he begins asking himself questions and becomes disillusioned with most of those ideals.

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Shalit clearly not Bibi’s priority

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 11, 2009

Two months into the Netanyahu government’s term and almost three years to the day since Gilad Shalit was captured from his tank on the border of the Gaza Strip, Israel still has no clear policy on how to secure his freedom from Hamas.

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IDF in 'astonishing' co-operation with PA

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 11, 2009

While the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians is at a standstill, the security ties between the IDF and the armed forces of the Palestinian Authority have never been closer.

The steep decline in organised terror attacks originating in the West Bank over the past four years has been attributed mainly to more forceful operations by the IDF and successful penetration into the Palestinian organisations by the General Security Service. The IDF now admits it has another partner.

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Make or break for Bibi

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 11, 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will deliver his most important policy speech to date on Sunday, outlining his government’s plans for peace.

Few details have been leaked, but speculation is rife that he will discuss the future of the settlements and the Palestinian Authority, as well as relations with Arab countries.

It is unclear whether he will formally endorse a two-state solution — a formulation he has avoided in the past.

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Wine: Dalton winery

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 10, 2009

On the day before Shavuot, I visited Dalton winery in the Upper Galilee. The main reason for my visit was to taste the new white wines just out to accompany the festival of cheese.

They were fantastic, but then the winery’s manager, Moshe Haviv, pointed out that they were all of the 2008 vintage, the Shmita year, and therefore would not be exported for sale outside Israel. So I won’t tantalise you with my favourable impressions, seeing as those of you not planning to visit Israel will not get to taste them.

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Dudu Topaz 'set up attacks on TV bosses’

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 4, 2009

One of Israel’s top television stars, Dudu Topaz, has confessed to organising a series of physical attacks on media executives who rejected his ideas for television programmes.

Mr Topaz apparently hired two former bouncers to assault Shira Margalit, vice president of Channel 2; Avi Nir, a Channel 2 director; and talent agent Boaz Ben-Zion in Tel Aviv over the past seven months. Ms Margalit was hospitalised with fractures in her face but the attacks were unexplained until Mr Topaz was arrested on Sunday.

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Better the devil you know

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 4, 2009

Israeli intelligence analysts do not have a vote in the Lebanese elections on Sunday and in Iran on Friday but if they had, don’t bet on them voting against Hizbollah or even against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

If there is one thing that military planners hate most, it is instability. In the end, this is the reason that in 1982, when PLO chieftain Yasir Arafat was in the rifle-sights of IDF snipers in Beirut, they were given the order to hold their fire.

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Tough love’ from Obama

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 4, 2009

The Israeli government is seeking ways to accommodate American demands to stop building in the settlements as some commentators warn of the worst period in US-Israel relations for over a decade.

As President Barack Obama headed for the Middle East and his address to the Muslim world in Cairo on Thursday, Israeli officials were concerned by a report that Mr Obama was considering abandoning the long-standing United States veto of United Nations resolutions against Israel.

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Analysis: This is the least Netanyahu can do to keep Obama happy

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 27, 2009

If this works, Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu will be competing to take the credit for coming up with the idea first. If it works.

While everyone was waiting for a major bust-up between the Israeli government and the White House over Mr Netanyahu’s reluctance to commit to a two-state solution, both leaders seemed to agree to lay their differences aside, for now, and to focus on a more immediate and much smaller objective: removing the settler outposts.

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Bibi bows to US as settlers removed

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 27, 2009

London became the venue this week for discussions between the Israeli and American leaderships over a new co-ordinated policy towards Iran and the Palestinians.

A team headed by Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor has been meeting a White House team to discuss President Barack Obama’s plans to talk to Iran about its nuclear programme.

The Israelis hope to receive a definite time limit to American talks.

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Cash pledged for Reform conversions

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 27, 2009

Two separate rulings by the Supreme Court in Israel last week have brought the controversial issue of giyur (conversion) back to the fore.

In a petition filed by the Israeli Reform movement, the court ruled that the government has to provide the Reform and Conservative academies that prepare candidates for conversion with the same funding it gives Orthodox academies.

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Analysis: Iran is not on the radar - yet

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 27, 2009

There is more than a hint of disingenuousness to the protestations that last week’s exercise of the entire Israeli Air Force and next week’s national Home Front drill are both routine annual exercises.

Armies, of course, routinely carry out exercises — but part of that routine is to play out certain scenarios, and it is those scenarios which give an indication as to the army’s intentions and concerns.

So what can we learn from the scenarios in these two exercises?

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7 million Israelis rehearse for war

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 27, 2009

Israel is launching its largest-ever emergency drill next week, but the government insists that it is a routine exercise.

Next Tuesday, sirens will sound throughout Israel, and the entire population will be requested to take shelter in “protected spaces”.

The nationwide alert will be the high point of the Defence Ministry and IDF Home Command’s exercise, “Turning Point 3”.

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Religious war waged in the suburbs

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 21, 2009

Israel’s Charedi and secular communities are squaring up once again — this time in the central neighbourhoods of the country’s two largest cities.

Kiryat Yovel, the largest remaining secular area in Jerusalem, is facing an influx of dozens of Charedi families who failed to find flats in nearby religious Bayit Vegan. Secular residents have tried to convince neighbours not to rent or sell flats to Charedi families.

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Israeli teachers ‘back to basics’ as international rankings fall

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 21, 2009

A new education minister in Israel almost always heralds a complete revolution in pedagogical priorities and teaching methods; until the next change at the top.

Likud’s Gidon Saar is no exception. His predecessor, Professor Yuli Tamir, promoted advanced learning theories. Now, Mr Saar is promising “back to basics” for Israeli schools.

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Israel’s unlikely ally versus Iran: the Arabs

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 14, 2009

Israel has identified unlikely allies in its emerging diplomatic dispute with the new administration in Washington over Iran’s nuclear programme — the Arab states.

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