Anshel Pfeffer

Israel may go it alone on Iran strike

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 26, 2009

While the American intelligence community is tearing itself apart in public over the question of whether Iran has accumulated sufficient uranium for a nuclear weapon, a quiet debate is going on behind the scenes in Israel.

Most Israeli intelligence analysts believe Iran is a few months away from the point of no return.

If pro-Israel president George Bush decided not to attack Iran, it is hard to see Barack Obama with his new policy of engaging Iran and the Muslim world ordering a strike. That leaves Israel with an awful dilemma — can it go it alone?

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Car bomb sparks terror fear

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 26, 2009

The failed attempt to explode a large car bomb in a shopping centre in Haifa on Saturday night has intensified fears of a possible wave of terror attacks.

The Israeli police and security forces have forbidden publication of any technical details of the car bomb. However, its size, described by explosives experts as “equal to 15 suicide bombers”, and the sophistication of the methods used to smuggle it into Haifa and the shopping centre car park, is of an order not seen in Israel for more than five years.

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Israelis debate morality of Gaza

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 26, 2009

The publication of the experiences of young soldiers from Operation Cast Lead has kicked off a public debate in Israel over the morality of the army’s conduct in Gaza.

The stories of the soldiers, alumni of the Oranim pre-military academy, were published last week in Haaretz and Maariv. They described several IDF units as acting in a trigger-happy army that operated with scant regard for Palestinian civilians.

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Netanyahu pact splits Likud

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 26, 2009

The only obstacle still standing in the way of Binyamin Netanyahu forming a government next week is a possible revolt within his own party.

Likud members are angry with Mr Netanyahu for allocating most of the senior cabinet positions to the other parties in his coalition. “We are going to give him a rough ride when he presents the coalition agreements to the Likud Central Committee next week,” said one disgruntled MK. “Netanyahu has given everything away to the coalition partners and Likud, the ruling party, has to make do with leftovers.”

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Murders prompt new terror fears

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 19, 2009

The murder of two policemen in the West Bank last week has raised fears of a new terror offensive.

David Rabinovich, 42, and Yehezkel Ramzarker, 50, two veteran traffic policemen, were ambushed near Moshav Massua by gunmen posing as motorists.

Both officers were shot at point-blank range when they stopped to investigate a broken-down car. A previously unknown group, Imad Mughniye Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack, but Israeli intelligence sources are dubious about the claim.

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Iran buys anti-aircraft missiles from Russia

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 19, 2009

The reported sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Tehran has made the need to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme more urgent than ever.

A senior source in Russia’s Federal Bureau of Military-Technological Cooperation confirmed to the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that his country had signed a contract to sell the S-300PMU missile system to Iran in 2007. The official said that the system had not yet been supplied.

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Olmert blames Shalit’s parents

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 19, 2009

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has blamed the intensive media campaign for the release of Gilad Shalit for the breakdown of the talks over a possible prisoner deal — and told his family that they may have harmed his cause.

This week the Israeli government announced that it had refused Hamas demands for the release of 450 senior terrorists, many of them jailed for life for murder.

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Analysis: Will the real Lieberman please stand up?

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 19, 2009

Politicians, journalists and diplomats are assessing Israel’s next foreign minister, trying to reconcile the wildly contradictory statements he has made in the past.

However, those who know him best insist there is only one Avigdor Lieberman. In the words of a senior Israeli official, who has worked closely with him: “Unlike most politicians who are interested in having a good public image, Lieberman is only interested in using his image as a tool for achieving his objectives.”

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Gilad Shalit: 'Media hampering swap deal'

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 18, 2009

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has blamed the intensive media campaign for the release of Gilad Shalit in hampering the talks over a possible prisoner deal.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Israeli government announced that it had refused Hamas demands for the release of 450 senior terrorists, many of then sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.

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Review: Who will write our history?

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

By Samuel D Kassow
Allen Lane, £10.99

The brave achievement of Emanuel Ringelblum could easily have been lost to history. A minor historian, mid-level activist in a small political movement, selflessly devoted relief worker, he was murdered with his family in the Warsaw Ghetto at the age of 43.

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Rabbis to heal rift with Pope

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

A visit to Rome by members of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate this weekend is intended to heal the rift between the Vatican and the Jewish world.

The eighth annual meeting of the Bilateral Commission of the Vatican and the Chief Rabbinate had been cancelled by the Israelis after Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of a group of renegade bishops, including Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier.

Jewish organisations have accused the Vatican establishment and the Pope himself of turning a blind eye to Bishop Williamson’s statements.

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Israel: Iranian bomb just months away

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

Israel warned the Obama administration this week that the window of opportunity for dealing diplomatically with the Iranian nuclear threat has closed.

At the Israeli cabinet meeting on Sunday, Major General Amos Yadlin, commander of the IDF’s Intelligence Branch, said: “Iran has crossed the technological threshold. It is one strategic decision away from becoming a nuclear-enabled military power.” He indicated that Iran can now build a bomb in a matter of months.

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IDF looks to West to boost recruitment

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

The Israeli army hopes that a boost in immigration from Western countries, especially America, Canada and Britain, will help it overcome a shortfall in recruitment.

The IDF and Jewish organisations are planning new recruitment drives based on forecasts that larger numbers of immigrants from Western countries will arrive in Israel over the next decade — and on upcoming projects helping Jews in the 18-23 age group make aliyah.

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Top job for Lieberman as Bibi is forced right

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

The key appointments in Israel’s new government, being sworn in on March 18, will be Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister and Moshe Yaalon as Defence Minister.

Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu has failed to convince the leaders of Kadima and Labour, the mainstream parties in the Knesset, to join his coalition. His new government, therefore, will be based on a narrow, right-wing coalition, leaving Mr Netanyahu no choice but to accede to most of his partners’ demands.

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'Swap Shalit for the killers of our sons'

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

Parents of slain IDF soldiers have called upon the Israeli government to release their sons’ killers in return for the freedom of Gilad Shalit.

As Aviva and Noam Shalit launched a “last hour” campaign for the freedom of their son last Sunday, many relatives of IDF members whose killers could be freed in return for Gilad’s release came out to support them.

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Israel flights 'safe' despite warnings

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 5, 2009

The head of Israel's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has insisted that flying to Israel remains safe, despite international criticism over the state of its air traffic control and aviation infrastructure.

However, CAA head Giora Romm admitted: "Our problem is that we don't conform to the international standards in documentation and bureaucratic procedures and these things have to be addressed.

"At the same time, the level of safety incidents and near-misses is not higher in Israel than elsewhere."

Senior transportation officials have blamed lack of government funding for l

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IDF chief is to warn Pentagon over Iran

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 5, 2009

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is to meet his US counterparts in Washington next week for talks aimed at convincing the Obama administration of the urgency of acting against Iran’s nuclear programme.

Senior Israeli military sources have made it clear that a decision on an Israeli strike against Iran will top the agenda of a new government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu.

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Gaza soldiers speak out

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 5, 2009

Ofer, a fighter in the Golani Brigade, was in the first wave of the ground offensive:

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Ehud Barak may leave Labour for Netanyahu

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 5, 2009

Defence Minister Ehud Barak is considering leaving Labour to join Binyamin Netanyahu's government as an independent MK, according to party sources.

Mr Barak mobilised business leaders, former Supreme Court judges and retired senior IDF officers to lobby his colleagues in an attempt to forge a party-wide coalition with Likud. So far, however, Labour's Knesset members remain overwhelmingly opposed.

"There are rumours that Barak has support from the party for coalition talks," said MK Danny Ben-Simon. "But the rumours are being put out by Barak's political advisors.

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Netanyahu will face 'tough' US demands

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 5, 2009

Sources close to Prime Minister-elect Binyamin Netanyahu have warned that they anticipate "a tough time" from the Obama administration over the Middle East peace process.

Visiting Israel this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a clear indication that she expected Israel to do more on both the Palestinian and Syrian fronts.

"Clinton left us with no illusions," said a senior adviser to Mr Netanyahu.

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