Anshel Pfeffer

Ceasefire emboldens Hamas to raise stakes

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 4, 2008

The fragile Gaza ceasefire and the prisoner deal with Hizbollah have emboldened Hamas to demand a larger number of Palestinian prisoners in return for the captured Israeli soldier Sergeant Gilad Shalit.

Sporadic firings on Israel from the Gaza Strip have not caused the ceasefire to break down, despite at least four occasions on which Palestinians have fired mortars and Kassam missiles since the ceasefire began two weeks ago.

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Kadima leadership battle starts early

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 4, 2008

The two front-runners in the Kadima leadership primaries, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, began trading barbs this week, even before an official date for the primaries had been decided.

The primaries are expected in September, after Kadima committed to them in return for Labour agreeing not to vote for early elections.

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A day of disbelief

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 3, 2008

Everyone agreed that it was a terrorist attack that could not have been foreseen.

The driver of the number 13 bus attacked by 31-year-old Husam Dwiat told reporters that his first response had been to harangue him for bad driving.

“When he first hit us,” said Assaf Nadav, “I opened the window to shout at him about his driving. I thought it was just a careless accident. Then he turned the bulldozer around and tipped us over with his shovel.”

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Palestinian brings terror to Jaffa Road

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 2, 2008

A six-month-old baby was saved by two passers-by on Wednesday moments after her mother was crushed to death as a Palestinian terrorist drove a bulldozer into Jerusalem traffic.

The mother, Bat Sheva Unterman, was one of three people murdered by 31-year-old construction worker Husam Dwiat in a bloody rampage.

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Diaspora ‘crisis’ plan

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 27, 2008

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a radical rethink of policy in Israel-diaspora relations this week, warning that “a serious crisis” of assimilation and alienation faces world Jewry.

In the keynote speech to the Jewish Agency’s board of governors in Jerusalem, Mr Olmert acknowledged that “the era of mass aliyah from countries of distress has come to a close”.

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Family fury as Olmert zig-zags on prisoner swap

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 27, 2008

The Israeli cabinet is to vote on Sunday on the prisoner exchange with Hizbollah, after a week in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert twice changed his mind on the deal by which Israel is to receive two soldiers in return for handing over five Lebanese prisoners.

The prisoner swap seemed imminent last week after Israeli and Lebanese sources both confirmed that a deal had been brokered by the German government.

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Israeli top brass split over plan to hit Iran

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 27, 2008

Media reports of a recent wide-scale Israeli military exercise over the Mediterranean — widely interpreted as a dry-run for a possible attack on Iran — have highlighted stark differences among the Israeli leadership over what action to take against Iran’s nuclear programme.

More than 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter planes, backed up by rescue helicopters, air-refuelling aircraft, command-and-communications and electronic-warfare planes, flew almost 1,000 miles simulating the flight-path which would be used to bomb Iran.

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Outrage in Knesset as Olmert avoids early poll

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 27, 2008

A last-minute deal between Kadima and Labour in the early hours of Wednesday staved off — for now — the threat of early elections in Israel, but may have hastened the political demise of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who committed his party to leadership primaries in three months.

The Knesset was to vote on a motion by Likud MK Silvan Shalom for bringing the elections forward two years to this November. Kadima’s two main coalition partners, Labour and Shas, announced at the beginning of the week that they were planning to support the motion.

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Hamas prisoner swap ‘on course’

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 27, 2008

The negotiations over the release of captured Israeli soldier First-Sergeant Gilad Shalit are expected to intensify this week in Cairo, a week into the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The ceasefire, which began last Thursday morning, has not been without its hiccups. Though both sides observed their commitments not to launch attacks on and from the Gaza Strip, Hamas did not prevent the Islamic Jihad movement from firing three rockets at Israel on Tuesday, in retaliation to one of its senior members being killed by the IDF near Nablus in the West Bank.

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All hugs and no policy on Sarko’s Israel tour

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 27, 2008

“Anyone trying to destroy Israel will find France blocking the way,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared at a special session of the Knesset this week, during his three-day state visit to Israel. Mr Sarkozy’s visit was heavy on gestures, though rather light on political substance.

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Olmert talks tough as Gaza ceasefire begins

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 20, 2008

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made clear he would not shrink from a military response if Hamas violated the Egypt-brokered ceasefire with Israel due to begin at 6am yesterday (Thursday).

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The beginning of calm or another false dawn?

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 20, 2008

The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas which went into effect yesterday (Thursday) morning was reached via the Egyptians and is expected to culminate in a prisoner deal and the opening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

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Prisoner swap close as families cling to hope

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 20, 2008

A prisoner deal between Israel and Hizbollah is a “matter of days” away, according to Israeli officials, as the families of the captured israeli soldiers cling to hope they might still be alive.

In the deal, Israel will transfer to Lebanon convicted murderer Samir Kuntar and four Hizbollah members. Israel will receive its two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were captured two years ago. The unofficial assumption in Israel is that the soldiers are dead.

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Scrutiny of Claims Conference grows

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 20, 2008

The Claims Conference is facing a deeper scrutiny of its affairs, both from the Israeli Comptroller and the German Auditor’s Office.

The German investigation into the Conference’s accounts is the result of rising criticism of the lack of transparency of the body which transfers pensions to Holocaust survivors from the Berlin government.

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State and religion clash on converts

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 20, 2008

In an unprecedented clash between state and religion, Justice Minister Daniel Friedman announced this week that he will act to fire the Dayan (rabbinical judge) who ruled that all the conversions made over the last nine years by the special conversion courts were null and void.

The ruling has caused chaos in the already unsteady conversion process in Israel.

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Shalit ‘begs for life’ in letter to family

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 13, 2008

Hamas has heightened the pressure on Israel by releasing another letter from captured soldier Gilad Shalit.

In the letter, addressed to his parents, First-Sergeant Shalit begged for his life and urged the Israeli government to do everything in its power to secure his release.

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Olmert agrees to Kadima primaries

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 13, 2008

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert caved into pressure on Wednesday and agreed to his Kadima party preparing for leadership primaries at the soonest possible date.

Mr Olmert had tried in the preceding days to persuade his colleagues to wait, but the threats by coalition partners that they would support a Knesset motion for early elections forced his hand.

On Wednesday, Mr Olmert met MK Tzachi Hanegbi, the chairman of Kadima’s Party Affairs Committee, and the head of the party’s Knesset faction MK Eli Aflalo.

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No Gaza incursion — for now

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 13, 2008

A further round of bloodshed in Israel and the Gaza Strip and stalled  ceasefire talks has not given the Israeli leadership a renewed appetite for a large-scale military incursion into Gaza.

Amnon Rosenberg, a 51-year-old worker at a paint factory at Kibbutz Nir Oz, was killed in a mortar attack last Thursday morning and five others wounded. Hamas took responsibility for the attack. In retaliation, the Israeli Air Force attacked a Hamas position in Beit Lahiya.

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Minister’s threat of Iran attack ‘sends oil price soaring’

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 13, 2008

A weekend newspaper interview with Israel’s Transportation Minister, Shaul Mofaz, who threatened Iran with military action, has been deemed a major cause of the latest spike in oil prices.

Mr Mofaz’s threats coincided with the unofficial start of his Kadima leadership primaries campaign, but its reverberations were felt much further afield than Israel’s political scene.

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Kadima prepares for new party primaries

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 6, 2008

The countdown to the end of Ehud Olmert’s premiership will begin next week, when senior Kadima members will meet to agree upon a date for primaries for a new leader.

Mr Olmert has signalled that he will not oppose the move, though he is still maintaining that he has no plans to resign. Meanwhile, support is growing in the Knesset for bringing forward the elections.

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