Anshel Pfeffer

Kadima set to implode as defeat looms

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 5, 2009

In the last frantic days before the elections on Tuesday, the ruling party, Kadima, is already in disarray over what is expected to be its defeat at the hands of Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu.

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni is being attacked for the campaign she ran and plans are already being made to mount a leadership challenge immediately after the elections.

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Israelis ‘at risk from Hizbollah assassins’

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 5, 2009

The Israeli defence establishment is readying itself for another round of warfare with Hizbollah following fears that the Lebanese movement is planning an operation against Israelis overseas and stepping up its efforts to rearm itself with weapons that would change the balance of power.

February 12 is the first anniversary of the assassination of Hizbollah’s operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, in a car bomb in Damascus. Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah last week blamed the Mossad for the assassination.

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At work in an identity laboratory

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 5, 2009

In a chilling reminder of how life imitates literature, the title of AB Yehoshua’s latest novel, Friendly Fire, has in recent weeks become a key phrase in Israel. “Friendly fire” was the official cause of the deaths of five IDF soldiers killed in last month’s operation in Gaza. It was also what killed the son of a character in Yehoshua’s book, and what spurred that character to try and escape Israel for an archaeological dig in Tanzania, in a desperate attempt to shed his now resented Israeli and Jewish identity.

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Avoid capture at all costs, IDF were told

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 29, 2009

Israeli soldiers operating in Gaza had unofficial orders to foil Hamas attempts to capture their comrades, even if it cost a captured soldier’s life.

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Doubt cast on Hamas fatality numbers

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 29, 2009

Two weeks after the fighting in the Gaza Strip has ended, the battle over the exact number and identity of the Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead is still raging. Most of the international media has unquestioningly accepted the Hamas figures of 1,300 fatalities but there are other reports that put the numbers significantly lower.

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Avigdor Lieberman looks an election winner

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 29, 2009

The Received wisdom was that there would be two main political beneficiaries from Operation Cast Lead: Ehud Barak as Defence Minister, and Binyamin Netanyahu, who could claim prescience over his warnings that Hamas had to be confronted.

But while Barak’s Labour has slightly improved its position and Netanyahu’s Likud is still ahead of Kadima, the unexpected beneficiary has been Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party If recent polls are anything to go by, Lieberman has surged ahead of his previous marginal status and is now tying with Labour for third place.

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Egypt turns a blind eye to arms tunnels

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 22, 2009

The Egyptian regime is still enabling Bedouin smugglers to use the tunnels under their border with the Gaza Strip to transfer arms to Hamas, the JC can reveal.

Despite announcements by senior Egyptian officials that they would clamp down on the smuggling, local Bedouin traders are still offering — even after the Gaza ceasefire — to smuggle goods and people under the border.

These were the tunnels that enabled Hamas and the other Palestinian organisations to bring through materials to manufacture the missiles fired on Israel.

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Settlers return as soldiers

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 15, 2009

Soldiers from the evacuated Gush Katif returned this week to some of the ruined settlements abandoned after Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005.

“I cried when our tank passed by the ruins of Netzarim and made a symbolic small tear in my uniform as a sign of mourning,” said one soldier interviewed through his parents and whose name cannot be used due to IDF restrictions.

An Israeli flag had been planted on the ruins and the road to Netzarim was being used by the 401th Armoured Brigade to cut Gaza City off from the southern part of the Strip.

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Media clampdown in Gaza result of Lebanon lessons

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 15, 2009

Alongside the brigades of Merkava tanks and battalions of armoured personnel carriers sent to the Gaza Strip over the past two weeks, the IDF also sent a detachment of military police cars.

Their targets were not rowdy soldiers attempting to abscond without a pass. Rather, they were journalists — both Israeli and foreign — trying to photograph the massed forces and to interview the soldiers preparing to enter the combat zone.

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We learned lessons from the Blitz, says Home Front

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 15, 2009

The IDF Home Front Command studied the wartime Blitz while overhauling its operational plans before Operation Cast Lead.

It concluded that, if the people of London could continue working despite repeated nights of aerial bombings, there was no reason for Israel’s southern region to be paralysed by Hamas rockets.

Like the other major units of the IDF, the Home Command also underwent a comprehensive process of reassessment following the second Lebanon war.

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Egypt holds key to ending the conflict

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 8, 2009

Egypt appears to hold the key to the solution of the Gaza crisis as the Israeli government waits for an improved ceasefire deal before ending Operation Cast Lead.

The IDF has indicated that it is prepared to escalate the ground offensive by reinforcing the units already operating in the Strip and entering Gaza City. However, the army high command and Defence Minister Ehud Barak are opposed to such a move as it may result in higher casualties.

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We need to be scared, says IDF colonel

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 7, 2009

An IDF colonel has described how he hopes his troops feel fear as they continue to push into Gaza.

“Fear is healthy” Lt-Colonel Amir Ulo said this evening. “It is part of a warrior’s basic skills that helps him prepare, not fear that paralyses.”

Lt-Col Ulo is commander of the Combat Engineer Corps special operations unit Yahalom and his soldiers have been leading the IDF’s combat groups as they take up positions around Gaza.

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Analysis: Cairo bears a major part of the responsibility for the conflict

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 31, 2008

In all the talk of the siege, blockade and humanitarian disaster of Gaza, one small inconvenient detail almost always goes unmentioned. Gaza has a second border in addition to the one with Israel: a small but potentially useful border with its Arab sister, Egypt.

Three-and-a-half years ago, when the international community was still hopefully predicting a peaceful outcome to Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the Egyptians were self-importantly promising to play a major role in the security arrangements from the day after the pullout.

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Protestors target embassy

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 31, 2008

The Israeli Embassy was repeatedly targeted this week by demonstrators, who accused Israel of carrying out a “Holocaust in Gaza”.

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Israel claims success in the PR war

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 31, 2008

Fewer military officers; more women; tightly controlled messages; and ministers kept on a short leash. This was Israel’s new media game-plan in Operation Cast Lead.

The Gaza attack is the first major demonstration of Israel’s total overhaul of its ‘hasbara’ operation following the Second Lebanon War. While the military aspects of the operation were meticulously planned, a new forum of press advisers was also established which has been working for the past six months on a PR strategy specifically geared to dealing with the media during warfare in Gaza.

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Israel blasts UK’s ‘megaphone’ tactic

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 30, 2008

Israeli diplomats have expressed their “deep disappointment” over what they have termed Britain’s “megaphone diplomacy” over Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

But the Minister for the Middle East, Bill Rammell, has denied that the government is planning any initiatives.

Mr Rammell visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority last week and at the end of his stay said: “Our position is long-standing. We have always said that the settlements are illegal by international law and that they make facts on the ground, making a solution more difficult.”

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Aliyah lowest since 1988

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 30, 2008

Last year was the worst in two decades for immigration to Israel, new figures have revealed.

Only 16,500 Jews arrived in the country, 16 per cent less than in 2007. However, aliyah from Britain was slightly up, with 680 new immigrants in 2008.

The aliyah figures, the lowest since 1988, can be attributed to the Israeli government’s decision to cap the immigration of Ethiopian Falashmuras, whose Jewish ancestry is contested.

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Yemeni Jews: relocation offer

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 30, 2008

The Jewish community in Rayda have refused an offer by the Yemeni President to relocate to the capital, Sana’a. Three weeks ago, a Jewish teacher was killed there by a former air force officer demanding his conversion to Islam.

About 270 Jews live in the Rayda area and they have been living in fear since the murder of Moshe Yaish Nahari by former pilot Abdul Aziz Yahya Hamoud Al-Abdi, who has already confessed to the murder. In his defence he said that he had given Nahari a choice between converting to Islam, fleeing the country or death.

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Fury at ‘Don’t buy on West Bank’ advice

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 23, 2008

Israeli officials have said they are “deeply disappointed” at the British Government’s decision to publish an advice note warning Britons against buying property in settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, describing the move as “politically motivated”.

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Israel prepares troops and PR offensive to counter Hamas

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 23, 2008

Israeli representatives around the world are preparing the groundwork for a PR and diplomatic campaign that will accompany an IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip.

The final decision on whether to launch such an operation has not yet been taken, but the government is preparing itself for all eventualities, including an immediate escalation.

A barrage of Kassam rockets and three IDF retaliatory attacks at the weekend signalled the end of the six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

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