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Arab Leaders To Visit White House
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 25, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will visit the White House and meet, face-to-face, with US President Donald Trump in March and April.

There is no doubt about the agenda for these meetings. The White House wants to try to smooth over tensions between Sunni states and bring some calm back to the region. Qatar has been rocking the boat and aligning with Iran and that has caused a serious backlash in relations.

The White House also wants to enlist these leaders' assistance in hammering out a Middle East peace plan with the Palestinians. The strategy is part of a larger plan to widen the influence and the participation of nations involved in the peace effort and leverage pressure on Palestinian leadership to accept a deal.

More important than the leverage is the looping in of major Sunni states and their leaders. This will lend credibility to an agreement and obviate any direct responsibility for a peace plan, a significant factor hindering progress, that so frightens Palestinian leaders like Abbas.

If the White House can bring everyone together, an agreement can be cobbled out, supported and underwritten by the major Sunni states. Ideally, that plan will make a deal with Israel easier for the Palestinians to swallow - and ultimately sign.

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Abbas Hospitalized in Baltimore
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 23, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

On Tuesday and Wednesday websites were chattering away about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' health. Rumors spread about his weak heart. Some concluded that a health crisis was related to decades of heavy smoking.

The Palestinians were mum - but their president did not look good or sound healthy when he spoke at the United Nations.

The most convincing evidence that something was wrong with Abbas was that, since his presentation to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, there was no media coverage of him. After such an important event, Mahmoud Abbas fell off the radar.

Suddenly, he was spotted in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University Hospital -- but according to his travel schedule, Abbas was supposed to be in South America.

Official Abbas spokesmen said that the Palestinian president was in the hospital for routine checks.

Finally, Abbas spoke to Wafa, the official Palestinian media outlet, and said, "Our presence here was a suitable chance for us to make some medical checks." "We actually made those checks and we are out now and, thank God, all results are positive and are assuring. This is God's blessing on us."

Abbas is 82 years old. He has had cardiac catheterization to unblock clogged arteries. Abbas has a worrisome health history - and no one is speaking about succession. No one is discussing the democratic process of transition in Palestine.

This is a crisis waiting to happen.

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Iran in Syria to Attack Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 22, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

The New York Times published a report which has been rewritten - with interesting additions, in the Israeli press.

The article in the NYT explained that Iran is not simply advising in Syria, but rather Iran is entrenched in permanent bases in Syria. One can count 28 fixed Iranian camps running north to South in Syria. There are also a handful of temporary Iranian bases that have been established.

These bases are proof of Iran's real agenda in Syria.

Iran is not in Syria as advisers for the short term to help fight ISIS and anti-Assad rebels.

Iran is getting into position to best strike Israel and to best help others strike Israel.


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Abbas is Too Weak
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 21, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday and called for an International Conference to solve the issue of Palestinian Statehood. Abbas wants to sideline the US and place power into the hands of more Palestinian friendly allies.

A conference is a good idea for the Palestinians.

Also on Tuesday, Heather Nauert, US State Department spokeswoman, gave a hint of what might be part of the US peace plan for the Palestinians. She said that other regional countries might be called upon to take a role in the peace process.

"If at some point we believe that other countries could be helpful to the peace process, we would certainly be willing to bring them in." ... "Is the time right for that right now? I'm not sure we've decided that, but that is certainly something that could happen in the future."

For a significant time smart analysts have said that one of the best ways to obviate Abbas' weak position would be to have regional countries support or accept the peace process so it does not appear as if Abbas is abandoning the cause by creating a deal with Israel.

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Israel Signs Deal to Sell Gas to Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 20, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli energy company Delek, which is owned by Nobel Energy, signed a $15 billion deal with Egypt to provide the Egyptians with natural gas over the next 10 years.

This is the largest contract yet for the off shore, natural gas fields that the Israelis tapped and have been operating since 2016.

Jordan also has an agreement with Israel. Israel will deliver natural gas in exchange for $10 billion over a 15 year period.

Israel is becoming a regional provider of natural gas. Arab nations are signing up for their natural gas. It is another one of those counter intuitive situations. Israel is now supplying the Arab world with energy.

Arab countries are already importing Israeli energy - other countries and other products are sure to follow.

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Iran's FM Says Myth Of Israell Shattered
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 19, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that when Hezbollah downed an Israeli F-16, it shattered the myth of Israel's invincibility. He said that now when Israel attacks its Arab neighbors the neighbors can attack and defeat them.

"Israel uses aggression as a policy against its neighbors," Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Munich Security Conference. He also accused Israel of "mass reprisals against its neighbors and daily incursions into Syria, Lebanon."

According to Zarif, "Once the Syrians have the guts to down one of its planes it's as if a disaster has happened."

In response to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's remarks after the Feb. 10 downing of the Israeli F-16 jet, Zarif had this to say: "What has happened in the past several days is the so-called invincibility (of Israel) has crumbled."

Iran is stoking tensions with Israel in order to provoke responses in the Middle East. Israel needs to watch Iran very carefully.

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