Anshel Pfeffer

How Iran's secret A-plant was exposed

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Israel’s military intelligence chief, Major General Amos Yadlin, has confirmed that Iran owned up to its secret nuclear facility in Qom only because it discovered that Western intelligence services were already aware of its existence.

According to other intelligence sources, several months ago, Iran captured a spy operated by MI6 and discovered that Western intelligence services knew about Qom.

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Israel severs link between religious school and IDF

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to end the Har Bracha yeshivah’s hesder arrangement — which allows 18-year-olds to combine Torah studies with army service — has sent reverberations through the IDF and the network of yeshivahs which have, for decades, enjoyed close relations with the military.

“This isn’t about just one yeshivah,” said a senior rabbi this week. “This is a battle for the soul of the next generation of the national-religious community.”

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Syria and Israel may restart talks

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Israel and Syria are inching back to the negotiation table, although both sides are still not quite ready to sit down. In a number of statements in recent weeks, leaders and senior officials of both countries have indicated that they are open to resume talks that took place while Olmert was prime minister.

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Mosque attackers want a new intifada

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

There was something almost too neat about the arson attempt at the mosque in Yasuf on Friday morning. The nearby settlement of Kfar Tapuach, the graffiti in Hebrew, the choice of target. The Palestinians certainly had no trouble pointing out who they thought were the culprits. It was their neighbours, they said, who have been harassing them, they claim, for years.

But a week has gone by and the police and Shin Bet security service have yet to arrest any suspects.

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Jerusalem mayor attacks ‘ghost flats’

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 10, 2009

Jerusalem’s Mayor, Nir Barkat, has launched a campaign against the “ghost flats” in the city, owned by Jewish tourists who use them for a few weeks a year and leave them empty for the rest of the time. City Hall is trying to persuade the owners to rent the flats out to young couples.

Last week, Mr Barkat sent a personal letter to 9,000 flat owners in which he described the consequences of having so many empty homes in the central neighbourhoods of Israel’s capital.

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Analysis: Israel’s environment will remain a mess as long as security is the priority

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 10, 2009

It was only on Wednesday that Binyamin Netanyahu’s ‘will he, won’t he go to the Copenhagen climate conference?’ was finally decided. He won’t.

His office has said a number of times over recent weeks that he would like to be there, but every time they also leaked pressing reasons why he would not be able to.

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Chief Rabbi vows to help converts wed

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 10, 2009

The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Yonah Metzger, has announced a new move designed to alleviate the problems faced by gerim (converts) wishing to marry in Israel.

In a letter to the chairman of the Knesset’s Aliyah and Absorption Committee, MK Lia Shemtov, Rabbi Metzger promised that converts would be able to register for marriage in every city in Israel.

If the local rabbi who issues marriage permits refuses to recognise their conversion, an alternative marriage registrar would be appointed.

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Ethiopian aliyah may restart

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 3, 2009

The lobby calling for the renewed emigration of the Falashmura to Israel scored a significant victory this week after the Jewish Agency confirmed that it would support bringing more than 8,000 members of the Ethiopian community to Israel.

The Jewish Agency chairman Nathan Sharansky will ask the Israeli government to renew its efforts to bring over the members of the Falashmura currently living in a compound in the Ethiopian city of Gondar. This is a reversal of the agency’s previous policy and of the government’s decision that all Falashmura emigration was to end in 2008.

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Crackdown on 'Orthodox' women who shirk IDF

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 3, 2009

A law enabling the IDF to crack down on women who defer army service fraudulently “for religious reasons” has become a political hot potato and may cause a coalition crisis.

Coalition partners Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) have said they will be voting against a government-approved law that will enable the IDF to send investigators to check whether young women who do not join the army claiming they were religious are indeed leading a religious life.

If they are not, the IDF will be able to draft them immediately.

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Details of Shalit deal slowly become clear

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 3, 2009

Israel will free 980 Palestinian prisoners in two stages in return for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. That is the broad framework of the prisoner exchange which is expected to take place in the next few weeks.

While the leaders of Hamas spent this week debating the details of the deal in Damascus, the public debate in Israel over the pros and cons of the exchange has gathered pace.

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Analysis: Netanyahu will concede even more

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 3, 2009

No Israeli prime minister has ever announced an entire freeze of house building in the West Bank. Binyamin Netanyahu did it last Wednesday and despite the right-wing makeup of the Knesset and his own cabinet, he seems to have managed to get away with it. For now.

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No church or mosque for Ben Gurion airport

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 26, 2009

Plans to build a church and mosque at Ben Gurion Airport have been stymied by Charedi pressure.

The new Terminal Three, which serves 95 per cent of the flights leaving Ben Gurion, was originally planned to include prayer areas for all three monotheistic religions but when the terminal began to operate five years ago it included only a synagogue. In addition there is a booth operated by the Lubavitch movement.

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Israeli bomb experts help UK soldiers

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 26, 2009

British bomb experts have received training from the IDF’s central weapons laboratory on the types of bombs used by Islamist terrorists.

The Substances Laboratory, which is part of the IDF Ground Command’s Experiment and Quality Control Unit near Tel Aviv, is a mecca for explosives specialists from around the world. One of the main roles of the lab is to analyse all bombs and ammunition used against Israeli forces and civilians and devise methods of countering them.

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IDF cracks down on its settler rebels

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 26, 2009

Two political protests by religious soldiers in uniform have turned a spotlight on the divided loyalties of many yeshivah students who also serve in the IDF.

Last Sunday, a group of soldiers in the Nahshon infantry battalion hoisted a banner on top of a building on their base in the southern region of the West Bank, reading, “Nahshon also doesn’t banish Jews.”

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Mixed feelings from IDF over the Shalit deal

By Anshel Pfeffer in Hebron, November 26, 2009

Views among IDF soldiers this week over the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange broadly mirrored those among the wider public, but they had some unique insights of their own.

The younger soldiers, those who started their service only recently, were broadly in favour of the emerging deal. Uriya, a machine-gunner in the Golani Brigade who began his first operational posting last month, said: “From my point of view, what is important is how his mother feels. Nothing can compare to that. Any price is worthwhile, even 1,000 terrorists.”

His friend, Tamir, added a less emotional reason.

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Analysis: Bibi played his card well

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 26, 2009

One of the favourite labels Binyamin Netanyahu’s political rivals have tried to stick on him is that he is a “panickist”.

In the past, his hasty ill-advised style of decision-making has given them ample ammunition. But the timing of his announcement on a settlement freeze this week can hardly be faulted. He held on to his trump card despite intense international prodding, finally using it at the most opportune moment.

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Gilad Shalit's freedom 'will change the Middle East'

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 26, 2009

It is safe to say that the Gilad Shalit saga is now in its final stretch. Assessments by senior Israeli sources range between a prisoner exchange taking place sometime next week and sometime next month. What is clear is that both sides have reached the point of no return.

Too much is at stake for Israel and Hamas, both on the domestic front and in the international arena. Outside the direct mechanics of the negotiations, both sides made major concessions this week which will go a long way to enabling the deal to go down.

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Shabbat wars erupt over Intel Jerusalem factory

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 19, 2009

Attempts at mediation have failed so far to prevent another round of Shabbat protests in Jerusalem, this time over a high-tech factory working seven days a week.

The Intel plant in Jerusalem’s Har Hotzvim business park has carried out limited work on Shabbat for over three decades. The start of a new manufacturing process, which will greatly increase the work taking place on Shabbat, had sparked calls for renewed protests. It has been two months since the previous Shabbat protests against an open municipal car park petered out.

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Analysis: Why Bibi will not go to Copenhagen

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 19, 2009

Greenpeace Israel held an unusual demonstration outside the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem on Sunday. Dressed as El Al cabin crew, they held aloft a giant boarding card with passenger Binyamin Netanyahu’s name.

They demanded the government put the issues of global warming and protection of the environment higher up its agenda and, as a start, urged Mr Netanyahu to fly to Copenhagen next month for the global climate summit.

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Analysis: PA will not declare independence alone

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 19, 2009

Israeli politicians were up in arms this week over the stated intention of the Palestinian Authority unilaterally to declare an independent state in the near future.

Unilateral steps on the Palestinian side will be met by similar moves from Israel, they ominously warned, hinting at possible annexations of parts of the West Bank, as they did in east Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in 1967. Such a declaration, they promised, would mean an end to any diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

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