Anshel Pfeffer

Analysis: Squandering the victories of Operation Cast Lead

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 5, 2009

Six weeks since the end of Operation Cast Lead, Palestinian groups are still launching missiles, Hamas is busy replenishing its arsenal and Gilad Shalit remains incarcerated. Israelis are beginning to ask if it was all worth it.

Brigadier-General (res) Shmuel Zakai, former commander of the Gaza Division, fears that politicians will waste the IDF’s military victory . “The political leadership has, in the past, proved incapable of taking advantage of the opportunities afforded it by the IDF’s achievements.”

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Israel makes last-gasp attempt at Shalit deal

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 26, 2009

The efforts to secure a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas are to proceed through two different channels in a last-gasp attempt to finalise the deal before a new right-wing government is formed in Israel.

Negotiations are taking place simultaneously in Cairo and Europe through joint mediation by the French and Qatari governments, both of which are eager to deepen their involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

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Analysis: Lieberman may not be celebrating long

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 26, 2009

Avigdor Lieberman may have a very short period in which to savour his election success. The new kingmaker of Israeli politics has been the target of an ongoing police investigation for almost nine years, and senior officials within the Justice Ministry are now insisting that a formal charge sheet is now imminent.

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Netanyahu’s coalition offer splits Kadima

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 26, 2009

Senior figures in Kadima are putting pressure on leader Tzipi Livni to accept Prime Minister-elect Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer to participate in a national unity coalition.

The two party leaders met on Sunday and Mr Netanyahu, tasked by President Shimon Peres last Friday with forming Israel’s next government, offered Kadima eight ministerial positions — equal to that of Likud — including two out of the three senior portfolios of defence, finance and foreign affairs.

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Share power, Peres tells main parties

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 19, 2009

President Shimon Peres is to spend the coming days trying to convince the leaders of Kadima and Likud to find a way of power-sharing in a national unity government.

Senior members of Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu are already conducting quiet talks on a possible coalition of the three largest parties in the Knesset.

However, Likud is still trying to form a right-wing government as a first step before offering cabinet places to Kadima.

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No truce with Hamas until Shalit is freed

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 19, 2009

Israel will refuse to agree a new truce with Hamas unless the release of captured soldier Gilad Shalit is part of the deal.

The decision, approved unanimously by a cabinet vote on Wednesday, came as both Israel and Hamas appeared to toughen their negotiating positions.

The indirect talks over a ceasefire, mediated by the Egyptian government, reached an apparent impasse this week despite an earlier agreement by the Hamas leadership in Gaza to link a prisoner exchange deal to a two-year truce.

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Analysis: Lieberman could still lose

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 12, 2009

President Shimon Peres, during his visit to Britain three months ago, spent a good deal of his time reassuring senior British politicians and opinion-makers that a Likud government with Binyamin Netanyahu at its helm would not automatically mean the end of Israel’s involvement in the peace process.

That was before the surge of Yisrael Beitenu in the polls and Avigdor Lieberman’s emergence as the new kingmaker of Israelis politics. Now the urbane Netanyahu with his American-accented English seems almost cuddly by comparison.

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Analysis: Should Israel swap one man for many?

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 12, 2009

The impending deal over the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners — many serving life sentences for terror — to secure the return of Gilad Shilat, touches upon one of the most sensitive points in the collective Israeli psyche.

It also an issue with immense political, security and social ramifications, whether in terms of the price being paid for his release, or the implications of allowing him to continue languishing in captivity.

Rami Igra, the former head of Mossad’s Prisoners and MIAs department, opposes such deals.

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Breakthrough in deal to free Shalit

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 12, 2009

The political turmoil in Israel and the pressure on the Hamas leadership following Operation Cast Lead have brought about the first major breakthrough in talks over the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the main broker between the two sides, has said that an agreement could be achieved by next week.

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Seeds sown for a Green surprise

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 5, 2009

Every Israeli election throws up a host of unlikely political mutations — the result of attempts to cross the electoral threshold and gain a seat in the Knesset. Next week’s polls will be no exception.

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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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