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Israeli defense chief wounds relations with U.S. ally

By Jeffrey Heller JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon is in hot water again with the United States for caustic criticism of his country's main ally that has put more strain on already testy relations with the Obama administration. And the hawkish former general, widely popular in Israel for being an apparent straight-shooter who does not shy from speaking bluntly on issues of war and peace, seems reluctant to beat a full retreat from his tough words toward Washington.

Israeli troops kill Palestinian teenager in the West Bank

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian youth on Wednesday in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian officials and the Israeli military said. The dead teenager was named as Youssef Shawamra. His family said he was 16. An Israeli military spokeswoman said that three Palestinian suspects were seen tampering with a security fence near the West Bank city of Hebron, and did not heed the soldiers' call on them to stop and move back.

Israel says might not carry out Palestinian prisoner release

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday it might not carry out a final stage of a Palestinian prisoner release unless he commits to prolonging peace talks beyond a U.S.-set April deadline for a deal. Israel's chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, issued the warning just a day after Abbas, at a White House meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama aimed at keeping the talks alive, voiced hope the prisoners would go free by March 29.

Israel's defense chief says U.S. projecting weakness

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's defense minister has accused the United States of projecting weakness internationally and said Israel could not rely on its main ally to take the lead in confronting Iran over its nuclear program. Moshe Yaalon, whose remarks were reported in the Haaretz daily on Tuesday, caused friction with the United States only two months ago when he described Secretary of State John Kerry's quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace as messianic and obsessive.

Israel MPs pass law to conscript ultra-Orthodox Jews

Israeli MPs on Wednesday voted through a law which will compel ultra-Orthodox Jews to either serve in the military or perform civilian service. The bill was voted through by 65 to 1 in a poll broadcast on Israel's parliamentary television channel. The lone dissenting vote was cast by an MP from the far-right Jewish Home who broke coalition discipline to oppose the law. Opposition parties within the 120-seat parliament had earlier announced they would not participate in the vote.

Israel raises vote threshold for parliament seats

Israeli lawmakers approved Tuesday a controversial bill raising the threshold of votes political parties need in elections to gain representation in parliament. Parties must now obtain 3.25 percent of the vote in elections, instead of two percent, in order to obtain seats in the Knesset. The bill was introduced by members of the Yesh Atid party and Yisrael Beitenu faction, which are part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition.

Israel ups threshold for Knesset seats despite opposition boycott

By Maayan Lubell JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel approved a change to electoral law on Tuesday that raises the percentage of votes needed for seats in parliament, an amendment that critics said targets Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish minorities.

'Iran weapons ship' arrives in Israel

A ship allegedly carrying advanced rockets from Iran to Gaza that was intercepted by the Israeli navy was escorted into the Red Sea port of Eilat on Saturday. Israeli naval commandos seized the vessel on Wednesday in the Red Sea between Eritrea and Sudan, with the military saying it was carrying an Iranian shipment of M-302 rockets destined for the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The Panamanian-flagged Klos-C was escorted into Eilat port by two Israeli warships. Thousands of Israelis gathered on a hill overlooking the port broke into applause when the ship came into view.

Israel seizes arms shipment

By Dan Williams JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli navy seized a ship in the Red Sea that was carrying dozens of advanced Iranian-supplied rockets intended for Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza Strip, the military said. The disclosure came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the United States to press his case for tougher international action against Iran over its disputed nuclear program and support for Islamist guerrilla groups.

Israeli minister attacks Kerry over boycott warnings

By Jeffrey Heller JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is holding a gun to Israel's head in peace talks with the Palestinians by warning it could face international isolation if negotiations failed, a senior Israeli cabinet minister said on Sunday. The remarks by Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed recent accusations by Israel's defense minister that Kerry was being "messianic" in his pursuit of a peace deal.
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