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Terror Numbers Up?
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 30, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

This week the US State Department released terror figures worldwide for 2004.

Major terror attacks are up 30% in Iraq, 6% in Israel, and 4% in Afghanistan compared to the figures for 2003.

But really, the figures and these studies are misleading and silly.
They show just how little the people in charge know, and how cockeyedly bureaucrats look at numbers.

Using their logic, 2001 was a good year.
There were very few attacks.
But 3 of those attacks were on 9-11!

Numbers are not what is important.
One can get a much better understanding of the terror threat anecdotally.
Where and how severe was the attack? How bold was the target? How much planning was needed? How big an operation was needed? How many attacks were prevented?

Weigh each incident.
Devise a sliding severity scale.
Then analyze and compare.
Headway is slowly but truly being made in the battle against terror.
That needs to be part of the equation.

US Bias is Good
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 29, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

A former leading member of the US peace team for the Middle East, Aaron Miller, just stated publicly that the United States has a bias in negotiating between Israel and the Palestinians.

He said that at Camp David, in the summer of 2000, the US acted "like a lawyer for Israel." He said the US advocated in defense of Israel over the Palestinians and did not act as an honest, impartial, mediator.

Here is a newsflash:
The US is biased toward Israel. Just ask the entire Arab world and Europe.

BUT and this is a big but, that bias should not prevent the US from being an active and positive Middle East mediator. What that bias does, is prevent undo pressure from being brought against Israel, as is often the case in the United Nations and throughout the European community.

The United States is the only World Power capable of pressuring both Israel and the Palestinians into an agreement and holding both their proverbial feet to the fire to achieve a realistic and just resolution.

In the end it is not about the mediator.
It's about the parties themselves.
And Mr. Miller, to you I say that in 2000, at Camp David, no matter what transpired, Yasser Arafat was not ready for an agreement.
And that's what counts.

Ineptitude Not Security
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 28, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday. 10:35 am.
A blip on the radar.
President George Bush is whisked into the White House air-raid bunker.
VP Dick Cheney is relocated to a secure site outside DC.

The blip on the radar? In the end it was actually a flock of birds or a cloud.

Something is definitely wrong here.
I know that you have to guard the life of the President at all costs.
But to run into the bunker for a flock of birds flying 30 miles south of DC?

The best and the brightest, the most sophisticated technology in the world, all to protect the most powerful leader in the free world.
Mistakes like this should not happen. The distinction between birds and clouds should be clear, the distinction between birds, clouds and planes should be even more clear.

What a snafu!
This is not a case of "better safe than sorry." It's pure and simple ineptitude.

Israel Can Hit Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 27, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Israel will probably acquire 100 GBU-28 bombs from the United States.

GBU-28 stands for Guided Bomb Unit # 28.
It is better known as the "bunker blaster."
It was designed with the objective of destroying command centers and nuclear facilities buried deep underground.
It is a smart bomb that is launched off the American F-15.
This 27-foot, laser guided, smart bomb has an explosive of 5,000 pounds and cost about $30 million total.

The real purpose of Israel's acquisition of the GBU-28 is to seriously counter check the threat of nuclear development in Iran.

After Israel acquires the GBU-28's there is no doubt in my mind that Israel can and if necessary, will, attack Iran's nukes.
This will happen especially if Iran continues to threaten the region by completing its nuclear bomb production.

Obtaining the GBU-28 is the easy part. Once Israel gets the GBU-28 the difficult work begins. Israel must then locate Iran's top-secret underground nuclear bunkers.
My best intel says that Iran probably has several dozen of these sites around the country.

Lebanon Might Invite Syria Back
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 26, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Syria just pulled their last 300 soldiers out of Lebanon.
It's being called The End Of The Syrian Occupation Of Lebanon.

But do not get your hopes up.
The Lebanese may invite them back in.
That's right - invite them back in.
It's all a matter of politics.

More than half of Lebanon is pro-Syrian and actually welcomes Syrian involvement in their lives and politics.
It is very highly unlikely that a new Lebanese government will be formed without a pro-Syrian bent.
That means that once again, in the near future, there will be Syrian soldiers and Syrian intelligence personnel in Beirut.

The West, especially the US, has no idea of what is really happening in the Arab world. This is just one example.
The West wonders: How could Lebanon prefer Syria to freedom and to a better relationship with the US?
Well, they can.
My advise to the West is to wake up and smell the jasmine.

By Micah Halpern

Monday April 25, 2005



How can I best describe the Jewish residents of Gaza? As unrealistic.


How do the Jewish residents of Gaza describe themselves? As believers.

The Jewish community in Gaza today is still living an unrealistic dream. For the most part, they are unprepared to leave. They believe in their mission. They believe that, somehow, a miracle will occur and save them from the evil that everyone else predicts will befall them. They actually pray that God save their country from its leaders.

I've been to Jewish Gaza many times. I was there before it was a flourishing series of communities. I was there when Bill Clinton came to visit. I was there during troubled times and I've been there to vacation on the beach.

What I experienced just a few days before Passover on what will probably, necessarily, realistically, be my last trip to Jewish Gaza was different from all other visits. Each visit is like a slap in the face. Those people who have chosen to live in Gaza have done so because of their faith, because of their commitment, because they believe in their mission of settling the land. I have always found these pioneers to be truly inspiring.

This time, when all their hope should be lost but isn't, rather than inspire me, the Jewish residents of Gaza saddened me.

Their mission is now futile. They are doing way too little and doing it way too late. The die has already been cast. The meetings in Washington and Jerusalem have been concluded. They will be leaving their homes. Ready of not, reality is coming.

Had the men and women now clinging to their homes, their land, their businesses, the graves of their loved ones been more realistic they might have been able to mount a serious campaign. Had they been more realistic, they might have been able to open the eyes of many Israelis to their pioneering mission. But they didn't. And now, despite the millions of donor dollars, mainly US dollars, flowing in to support their right to continue living in their homes they will not to continue to live there.

Pe'at Sadeh is the exception to the Gaza rule. The residents of this community have agreed, with one voice, to evacuate and receive a relocation settlement. Do they want to leave? No, they do not. But if they must, they will. And they will be properly compensated for their loss. In the words of one Pe'at Sadeh resident, the settlement is the life insurance policy they are leaving for their children.

Iris Hamo, a 40 year-old mother of four showed tremendous maturity and heroism by taking this deal. She is not only leaving the home she has built for her children, she is leaving the original burial plot of a fifth child child, a four year-old killed in a car accident. Her baby will be re-intered in Israel proper after the redeployment. Preparing to forcibly leave your home is heart breaking, exhuming the grave of your child is soul wrenching.

The rest of the Gaza settlers see the Hamo family and their Pe'at Sadeh neighbors as traitors to the cause. Everyone else believes that Pe'at Sadeh has negotiated a deal with the devil, with the government that is deporting these families from their homes. Note the use of the word "deporting", it is not lightly chosen. It is precisely and deliberately used to invoke historical memories of Germany.

I'm always aware of security and possible terror. It's my job. And on this, my last trip to Jewish Gaza before the redeployment begins, all the proper safety precautions were in place for me and for my travel companions. An illusion of security was created for us by David Bedein and by his organization, Israel Media Resource Center.

But I know the truth. And any visitor to Jewish Gaza can see the tanks and armored personnel carriers planted on corners. So was I surprised when one very vocal resident proclaimed that Palestinian terror was not her inconvenience, but having to wait for secure army escorts in order to enter or leave her community was what inconvenienced her? No, I wasn't. This women is and will continue to be convinced of her right to live in Jewish Gaza.

She has faith in God. I found that to be very striking.

Each community representative I met with vowed not to resist or fight the army. Each representative also made it clear that they really did not think they would be relocated. Like Hannah and her father Hannan who was evacuated from the Jewish Sinai settlement of Yamit in the 1980's, they each refused even to confront the possibility that they were going to be forced to leave their homes in the name of an international treaty.

But they will.

Uprooting people from their homes in the hope of peace pulls at your heartstrings. Uprooting them without a peace agreement is an act of faith.
It is an act of faith that the government of Israel has agreed on. It is an act of faith that the majority of Israel supports.

PA: A Banana Republic
By Micah Halpern

April 24, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

It's outrageous. It's shocking. Things like this should not happen.

There was a prison break in the Palestinian Authority.
Two terrorists murderers escaped from prison.
They are nowhere to be found.

The escapees are Palestinian terrorists suspected of planning and training and activating the suicide bomb attack that blew up the Stage Night Club in Tel Aviv on January 25th. The attack murdered 5 people.

Their names are Shafiq Abdel Ghani and Ahmed Zaki of Islamic Jihad. They were being held in a prison in Tul Karam awaiting trial.

What is happening in the PA? How could this happen? How can the PA government be taken seriously? Does the Palestinian Authority hope that we will not notice that they just walked out of prison?

This is real life, not a movie set.
But I wonder, is this the Palestinian Authority, or is it a banana republic?

Gaza Is Not Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 22, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

A senior rabbi in Israel made his opinion clear about the status of Gaza.

The Great Rabbi Kadouri, over 100 years old and recognized as a world famous Kabbalist and mystic, has said that Gaza is not part of holy Israel and, therefore, can be given to the Palestinians. NOT part of Israel.

This is enormously significant. Rabbi Kadouri speaks to a significant percentage of religious Israelis and an even higher percentage of non-religious Israelis.

The rabbi qualified his statements by saying it is never ideal to remove Jews from their homes. But again, he said, Gaza is NOT Biblical Israel.

There is a serious issue at stake.
Does the fact that Jews live in Gaza make it Israel? Does the fact that Gaza residents vote and pay Israeli taxes make it Israel? Does the fact that Israeli law is applied in Gaza make it Israel? And what about the fact that those Israelis who live in Gaza call themselves Israelis ... does that make it Israel?

Is the issue now resolved for all Israelis? No. Certainly not for ideologues.
But Rabbi Kadouri has taken a giant step towards resolution and, perhaps, offered peace of mind to many conflicted Israelis.

AIPAC Finally Makes A Move
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 21, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Lobby organizations are among the most powerful of forces in the free world.
In Washington D.C. there are 4 extremely powerful lobbies:
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
National Rifle Association (NRA)
The Teamsters Union
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

AIPAC has been under a cloud for the past few months.
Now, finally, they have decided to take action and clear their name.
AIPAC has fired two of their senior people for meeting with Larry Franklin of the Defense Department and for then passing on sensitive information to Israel.

A deal will be struck.
All three people involved in this action will plead guilty.
Franklin will plead guilty of transfer of sensitive material.
Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman will plead guilty of receiving classified material.

Now AIPAC must move on, resuscitating their name and reputation.
Public Action Committees can be disgraced just like any powerful person or organization.

This Pope Will Fight Islam
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 20, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

This new Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, really understands Islam.

I have been catching up on his writings and speeches from the past few years. To put it succinctly --- Pope Benedict sees radical Islam as a serious threat to the world, especially as a threat to Catholicism.

Pope Benedict believes that there is an existential threat to the very existence of Christianity.
Pope Benedict perceives a systematic assault on Christians from the Muslim world.

Actually, in the year 2003 he articulated this thesis in a pseudo-official journal of the Church, La Civilta Cattolica. It was a serious divergence of opinion between the new Pope and his predecessor John Paul II.

Believe me, this is a good sign for the Church and especially for Europe.
Islam and Radical Islam are making a serious play for control that, if unchecked, will envelope Europe in the very near future.

The New Pope
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 19, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

A new Pope has been chosen.
Pope Benedict XVI has a very mixed history, a varied and interesting past.

For instance, Josef Ratzinger
Was 6 years old in 1933 when Hitler rose to power
Joined the Hitler youth at 14, even before it was obligatory
Was drafted into the German Army at age 16
Was assigned to an anti-aircraft battery guarding the BMW plant that made
engines for German planes.
Was sent to Hungary to lay tank traps
In Hungary he witnessed Jews being sent to their deaths
In April 1944 he ran away from the German Army and then spent weeks in a prisoner of war camp

He is a strong conservative.
I hope he proves to be an effective leader and influential diplomat.

Foreign Relations: Money Uberalis
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 18, 2005


If the nations of the world were siblings, we would call the interaction between them family relations. But the world is not a family. It is a conglomeration of different, disparate, at times warring, often in conflict nations with varying needs, wants and realities. And so, we call the interaction between nations foreign relations.

Step back and ask yourself how nations really make decisions about important internal matters and international affairs, about foreign relations.

Very often, too often perhaps, decisions are based on a process called quid pro quo. And the biggest uncle of all nations when it comes to quid pro quo is the United States. In official foreign relation-ese quid pro quo has another name it's called "bundled into a US aid package."

I am referring to the "aid" that Uncle Sam, the United States, gives to countries for behaving in a certain way. The incentives and rewards they hand out for creating and implementing policies that the United States appreciates.

This "aid" action by the United States (or by any nation) could easily be interpreted as just a big bribe. But in the polite world of foreign relations it is simply seen as motivation "to do the right thing." By any objective analysis it means Doing The Right Thing By US Standards.

For many countries the sad truth is that issues are not as important as the aid they will receive and the promises that come along with it. These nations are eager and willing to accept the money and change their policies. They are convinced that the money will help solve internal problems and that the United States really wants to provide assistance on the most basic level. US aid to the countries hit by the tsunami is a perfect example.

There are, by all objective standards, significant problems when another country receives "aid" food, dollars, technical assistance, from the United States.

The United States offers aid because it is in its own best interests. It may be seen as altruism but the best interests of the United States are not necessarily the best interests of the recipient country. There is always an American interest at stake. That is something we should never forget.

There are times when the recipient country actually makes the calculus between their interests and the package they anticipate receiving from the US. That very calculus is a cost benefit analysis of the situation. But unfortunately it is often a short-term analysis for the country while the United States self-interest-analysis is projecting long term.

It's happening today.

The United States wants a Palestinian State. The United States also wants Israel out of Gaza.

In return for implementing the wants of the United States, Israel will certainly receive some form of United States aid. But questions remain.

What will Israel get out of these huge concessions? Will they live with more security or will their lives be in more danger? Will there be more terror? Will the Palestinian State serve as a safe refuge for terrorists? How will these moves impact on the daily lives of the citizens of Israel?

What will Israel receive for these actions? That, too, is still as yet undetermined. Certainly money. Much good will. Some in high places have even mentioned the freeing of the famous US spy for Israel, Jonathan Pollard, as a part of the aid bundle if the redeployment goes through.

Is it worth the price for Israel? Few are even talking about it.

The US thinks it is worth every cent. But that is exactly the point. What the United States thinks may not be what is best for the region.

Quid pro quo. You figure it out. And remember, the biggest uncle, Uncle Sam, is urging and watching.

China - US - Israel Arms Trade
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 17, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The United States has just ousted Israel from working on advanced technology for the new F-35 fighter jet.
You might ask: WHY?

Why? Because the United States fears that China might get their hands on some of the sensitive material surrounding the F-35 and that, in turn, would alter the qualitative advantage that the US has over China.
How? The US is afraid that Israel will transfer military secrets to China.

China is the only true enemy of the United States. China is the only serious threat to the US. China is the only country that still seriously embraces vestiges of the cold war.
The United States has forced Israel to abandon arms trade with China on several occasions. The US has also forced the European Union to pull back on arms deals they have had with China.

Here's an interesting factoid: Most US aid packages, especially military and research oriented aid packages, contain a Chinese caveat.
Nothing may go to the Chinese.
The Chinese are the real enemy.
The US would rather have something leaked to Castro than to Communist China.

What's the Israel connection?
The United States knows that Israel is embarking on a big business deal with China - arms trade.

This is truly a case of seller beware.

Lebanon's Chance
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 16, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Things are moving along in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Parliament just appointed a new prime minister.

His name is Najib Mikati. He is a 49 year old, Harvard educated, multi-millionaire. He has extensive contacts and business dealings in Syria including a friendship with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Despite being pro-Syrian, Mikati was a compromise candidate.

I think the new prime minister just might have what it takes to succeed.
Here is an example:
When Lebanon's previous prime minister, Karami, attempted to form a government, Mikati boycotted the process. Instead he went to pray at the grave of assassinated leader Rafik Hariri.
It was an extremely important gesture that was not lost on the opposition.

Mikati knows that it is impossible to cut off all contact with Syria. The future Lebanese PM should also know that he must be a unifying force between those wanting to sever all contact with Syria and those who want continued interaction.

Najib Mikati has a difficult challenge ahead.
He is certainly giving it the old college try.

Postpone the Elections
By Micah Halpern

April 15, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Fatah wants to delay the next round of Palestinian Authority elections. As of now elections are scheduled for July.

Why the delay? Because Fatah, the official ruling PA party, reasons that they would suffer a serious defeat. They fear, correctly, that Hamas and other Islamic parties would take over.

Here is the dilemma:
The feeling on the street is that the priority of the current Palestinian leadership has not changed, that the priority remains personal gain and corruption.
Islamic parties, on the other hand, provide essential local services that the PA has never considered important. Soup kitchens. Day care. Medical clinics.

The Fatah/PA needs time to beat the negative reputation - it is the only way to win against the Islamists.
The Islamic parties have been hammering away at the corruption - past, present and future.

If the PA and Fatah do not clean up their act their biggest fear will be realized.
It won't be an assassin's bullet.
It won't be pressure from Israel and the US.
It will be losing an election and that means losing the entire the country.

Lebanon Needs Stability
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 14, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

This week Lebanon's pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karameh resigned.

This is bad news.
It's bad for Lebanon.
It's even worse news for stability.
Remember, there has not been a government in Lebanon since February, not since the assassination of Rafik Harari in a massive bombing in downtown Beirut.

Lebanon needs stability. Lebanon needs a government. Lebanon needs to free itself from Syria. Now, especially, there is little chance of that happening.

As of today there is a split in Lebanon.
The majority of Lebanese seem to want at least a close relationship with Syria, if not an official alliance.
Syria sees Lebanon as a province and would be happy to have that happen.

The vocal but growing minority in Lebanon want independence. They have so far succeeded in preventing a pro-Syrian government from forming. It is unlikely that they will be capable of forming their own government.

If Lebanon does not achieve stability quickly, these are two likely scenarios:
# 1: another civil war
# 2: Syria will invade and take charge.
Neither is good.

Lebanon is no stranger to internal conflict.

Turkey - Syria Nexus
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 13, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Today's visit of Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer to Syria is raising eyebrows in certain diplomatic circles.
The visit also has the United States up in arms because it publicly demonstrates that Turkey is not towing the line on isolating Syria.

Turkey understands what is going on. Turkey is doing what it must do.
Our leaders and diplomats, however, do not realize what is happening.
This visit could very well have positive repercussions.

Turkey, under its current Prime Minister Tayyip Erodgan, is Islamist oriented. In order to keep the government together, some very important and powerful Muslim forces must be wrestled with. This is the very government that refused to allow US airplanes to take off or fly over Turkish air space during the Iraqi War.

But this is what is most important:
Syria and Turkey share a problem - a large Kurdish population.
The Kurds want to carve their own independent state out of parts of Turkey and Syria and Iraq.
Such a move would be interpreted as an act of aggression against Turkey and Turkey will do almost anything to prevent it from happening.

So what is the positive side of a good relationship between Turkey and Syria?
Turkey combines a very strong Western orientation with longstanding democratic institutions and a strong tradition of Muslim values. As such, if allowed, Turkey can easily function as a liaison between Syria and the West. Turkey can be an excellent vehicle to get messages directly from the West into the ear of the Syrians.

A word to the wise: Do not underestimate the power of intermediaries as a method of exerting diplomatic pressure.

By Micah Halpern

Monday April 12, 2005


Success or failure. Truth or dare. The future of the Palestinian Authority lies in the hands of one man, President Mahmoud Abbas.

The decisions that Abbas makes will shape the future, long term and short term, of the Palestinian people. The choices are his to make. The commitments are his to undertake.

Some decisions, like cracking down on terror, like taking control, are actually, physically difficult. But Abbas must tame the Palestinian Wild West or it will consume him. And if or when the first democratically elected president of the Palestinian Authority falls, anarchy will set in. And if anarchy enters, any chance of a decent life for the people of Palestine disappears. And when Abbas falls, any chance for rapprochement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel fails. If Abbas is consumed, Palestinian society will never flourish, it will become, instead, a Nicaragua or a Belfast.

How does one tame the lion?

Disarming the gangs of hooligans that roam through the cities and towns, imprisoning, cutting off funds, making it unlawful to incite, all those are obvious ways to recapture control. Physically difficult, but possible.

Convincing the masses of the importance of the mission, that's much, much, more difficult. And the reason it is more difficult is because re-education requires much more than a physical commitment, it requires an emotional commitment. And here, Abbas has failed miserably. Abbas has barely even attempted to re-educate the Palestinian people.

Education, or re-education, is central to the success of President Abbas. It is an essential tool for the implementation of a democratic, economically sound and productive future for his people. And yet, Abbas has not even begun to put in place the easiest of educational reforms. There are concrete actions that take no time to put in place and require no energy to implement. There are actions that take almost no money but which would have serious short and long term impact for the future of the Palestinian people.

All Abbas needs to do, as a first, simple, crucially important step is take one book off the school reading list. If Abbas is really committed to peace with the Israelis, if he is being truthful when he speaks of peace and progress in international diplomatic circles, he will push forward on the process of re-education now. He is already late, any later will be too late. But does he dare?

Israeli Minister Natan Sharansky has just sent an emergency letter to Israel's President Ariel Sharon and to United States President George Bush.

This is his issue:
The official 10th grade Palestinian school curriculum teaches The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion. The edition used in the schools is published in Syria. The curriculum never mentions that the Protocols are a forgery of the Russian secret police created by the Czar in order to generate the notorious myth that the Jews control the world.

One must ask:
Why teach The Protocols if not to expose the work as a conspiracy theory of Antisemites? In any other context, what is the educational purpose behind teaching The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion to impressionable 10th graders given today's social and political climate?

In order to perpetuate the myth. We all know the answer. The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion has not been removed from the Palestinian school curriculum, the book has not been removed from school library shelves, only, ONLY, in order to perpetuate the myth!

The Palestinians continue to teach The Protocols because they are not yet committed to the reforms. And Mahmoud Abbas, as president, is the man responsible for re-educating or not re-educating his people, for implementing reforms or for letting them linger, ignored if not forgotten.

There's more. There are the maps.

In no official Palestinian Authority map is Israel identified. Not just school maps - any and all maps.

It is hard to imagine a civilized, long-term, interaction between peoples, between societies, between countries when the official maps of one of the partners still do not recognize the existence of the other.

Here's even more. Of the 160 schoolbooks the Palestinian Authority uses to teach from, not a single text refers to Israel as an independent state. Shocked? Not any more, I would think.

Yes, Palestinian President Abbas must break the backs of the terrorist thugs who might physically challenge his control over his society. But he must also transform an educational system, he must educate. Future Palestinian leaders should be groomed in schools, not in marauding packs.

One need not teach love, but neither should one perpetuate hatred.

Bush-Sharon Meet
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 11, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

About the Bush / Sharon Meeting.

Why GW needed the meet:
Bush needed a real honest update on the Gaza redeployment.
Bush needed a better understanding on the issue of "new" settlements outside of Jerusalem.

Why Arik needed the meet:
Sharon must state, in no uncertain terms that Gaza IS happening, despite the internal Israeli tension.
Sharon needs to give over that it is a very tense subject for Israelis, that it is very painful but that the majority of Israelis believe in it and in him.

Also, and very important:

Sharon needs to explain to Bush that PA president Abbas is teetering and about to fall.

Abbas must defeat the terrorists or they will destroy him.
Abbas must implement easy reforms, like the educational system. For example: the official 10th grade curriculum is still teaching the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that the Jews control the world. There are no maps that include Israel. No mention of Israel as a sovereign state. 160 school books not a single map with Israel on it.

If Abbas falls the result is total anarchy.
A war of gangs.
Think Nicaragua. Think Belfast.
Thugs will rule the streets, there will be no chance of a rapprochement.

Israel wants to live side by side and will take down illegal settlements and will redeploy and is committed to peace and an end to bloodshed.

Bush needs to hear all this and react. Sharon needs to say all this. Straight from the horses mouths.

Incitement in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 10, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

There has been much talk about Israeli incitement. Specifically, incitement as it relates to Jewish visits on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

The popular presumption is that if or when Jews ascend the Temple Mount the result will be an explosion in the Muslim world.
The Muslim world claims that the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount is what caused this last Intifada.

I highly doubt the veracity of these presumptions and claims.
It is unlikely that the entire region will go into tumult spontaneously.
It is, however, likely to happen if the public is arranged, organized, to do so.

The threats themselves are very interesting.

Jordan's King Hussein suggested that by ascending the Temple Mount Jews will destabilize the entire region.
Head of Hamas in the region, Hassan Yossef, in an interview on Al Jazeera from the Temple Mount, stoked anti-Jewish flames throughout the Arab world.
Egypt's Sheik Muhamed Sayed Tantawi, the Sheik of al Azhar in Cairo, has shouted that Jews cannot ascend the Mount.
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, said that 1.4 billion Muslims "should instruct (or clarify) to the Zionists."

At this junction it is probably not wise to have an organized Jewish ascent.
It will not cause World War III, but it probably will cause some local tension.
Honestly though, Muslim and Arab leaders should be calming their masses, not provoking them.
That is the true incitement.

Important Handshakes
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 9, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Handshakes are a powerful form of communication.
The importance of the handshake between Israeli President Katzav and Syrian President Assad, and the handshake between Israeli President Katzav and Iranian Prime Minister Khatami are not to be underestimated.

The handshakes were captures on camera at the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
The fact that the Iranian media, IRNA, denied that the handshake ever happened is irrelevant. We saw the pictures. As for Syria, official dialogue and negotiations with Israel over the Golan Heights have already taken place in Virginia.

The origin of the handshake is important here. In ancient Greece people would extend their right hand - their dagger hand - to demonstrate that one meant no harm to the other. The metaphor still holds.

The official funerals of world leaders are ideal venues for informally breaking down barriers. At international events, leaders can share and discuss potentially heated or explosive issues that they would not discuss in more formal settings.
Public exposure at public events makes it unlikely that anyone will "make a scene!"

But remember, this is the Middle East where just as the unofficial sometimes quietly becomes official, the official is sometimes silenced so as not to draw public attention.

Egypt's Terror
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 8, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Terror struck at the heart of Egypt yesterday. A motorcyclist threw a bomb in Egypt's historic bazaar. It landed near Cairo's famous and popular tourist attraction, the Khan al Khalili Souk. Four people were murdered and at least 20 wounded. Many of the victims were tourists.

Now let's see how Egypt handles the terror attack.
Egypt has extensive experience confronting extremist Muslims and terrorists. They will be quick to arrest and interrogate and discover who is ultimately responsible for this murderous act.
They will also make certain that those responsible will not perpetrate any further terror.

Tourism is Egypt's most important industry.
Tourism brings a large amount of foreign currency into the country.
Hitting the tourist market is a blow to Egypt's very existence.
Terror in this form is a direct attack against Egypt's economy.
Terror in Egypt is a strong statement against the country's Western leanings and non-Islamic government.

In the 1990's there was a rise in this type of terror in Egypt. In September of 1997, two men opened fire at a group of tourists in Cairo killing 10. Then again in November terrorists murdered 62 people in Luxor, the burial site of the Pharoah's. 58 of those killed were tourists.

Believe me. Egypt will respond with a strong hand.
Egypt understands the dangers of terror.

Quiet is Relative
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 7, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Perspective often depends on knowing and understanding the relative value of numbers and things.

For instance: the last 3 months in Israel have been termed "relatively quiet."

According to the Israeli security services and army, relative quiet means:
January - 405 terror attacks, 54 wounded
February - 116 terror attacks, 60 wounded
March - 126 terror attacks, 11 wounded

The total for 3 months was 647 attacks and 125 wounded.
Most of February's numbers came from a single terror attack on February 25th in Tel Aviv.

What a warped world we live in when a reduction in the number of terror attacks is cause for gratitude. What a warped world we live in when it can be said that there were "only" 647 terror attacks and that "only" 125 people were wounded.

Given the issues of the Middle East - despite the absolute numbers and this freaky reality - this is a good sign.

Sacking Abu Ala
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 6, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

It's a tough challenge figuring out what's really happening in the Palestinian Authority nowadays.

Yesterday, a story was leaked in the Emirates Daily saying that Abu Mazen was thinking about firing his prime minister and longtime friend, Abu Ala.
The two are at odds over the reforms and changes that must, must, must be made in the Palestinian government.

Abu Ala seems to be more Arafatesque in his perception, trying to stall and hold firm on the status quo.
Abu Mazen knows he needs to make the changes to stay in his job.
One major change this week is retiring 1000 senior police in order to clean house. Anyone over 60 is being retired.

Might Abu Mazen force Abu Ala out?
If he does, he would prove to everyone that he really is the boss.
But threatening Abu Ala's removal could achieve the same results.
If he does, it would make certain that the remnants of corrupt leadership know that their days too, are numbered.
By threatening or firing Abu Ala he regains his recently lost reputation on "the street."

Nowadays, Palestinian leadership is not simply about Israel.
Nowadays, Palestinian leadership is about monitoring and eliminating mafia-like behavior in a corrupt cleptocracy.
Nowadays, the most important issue for Palestinian leadership is that there be a consistent message about corruption and the need to clean house.

The Jews' Pope
By Micah Halpern

April 5, 2005


Some called him the "Jews' Pope" a title bestowed upon a much respected and admired religious leader.

John Paul II. He was the Polish Pope who visited Auschwitz in 1979, just after taking office. He was the Pope who, in 1986, visited the synagogue of Rome. He was the Pope who came to Jerusalem and visited the Western Wall in 2000.

The Pope actually liked Jews. As a young man Jews were his friends and colleagues. In his final years he had more to do with Jews than any other Pope before him. Much has been written about the Jews Pope's attitude toward Jewish-Christian relations. He has been credited as a hero and great humanitarian responsible for enforcing a change in the attitude of the Church toward Antisemitism.

On most issues the Pope was a theological conservative. When it came to approaching Jewish issues, he was a theologically visionary.

For the Pope, Antisemitism was wrong, plain and simple, wrong. Antisemitism symbolized the Dark Ages. Given his understanding of history and the Bible, the hatred of the Jew on the theological level was totally unjustified. Moving away from Antisemitism was moving the Church, finally, out of the Dark Ages. Theologically eliminating the hatred of the Jews was the perfect symbol of the modernization of the Church. It was a move toward modernity that neither touched nor eroded mainstream theological issues like marriage, homosexuality, and abortion, issues that might shake the foundations of Church teachings.

There is a parallel between the Jews and Europe and the Jews and the Church. The Jews were the only true minority in Europe. No European government could continue to restrict Jewish rights and confine Jews in ghettoes and call itself modern.

So, too, went the thinking and rationale of the Pope. Recasting attitudes towards Jews enabled the Church to cast off past hatred and propel itself into the modern world all in one big step. Most importantly for the Pope as well as the Church, it was done in the name of forgiveness. John Paul II asked forgiveness for the past actions of the Church throughout history.

On his visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall the Pope, as tradition dictates, placed a note between the centuries old stones of the Wall. The text of the note was later made public. This is what he wrote, please note that it was addressed to "God."

God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your name to the nations: We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.

Those few words explain it all.

In a few sentences the Pope transformed the Church's perspective of the Jew. Jews were moved from the world of persecution where it was accepted and even requisite to oppress them for their past and for what they had done and embraced in brotherhood. For the first time, Jews were recognized for their original contribution in setting the foundation of Christianity.

How amazingly simple and correspondingly profound.

The Pope was not only eliminating officially sanctioned Antisemitism because it is wrong. The Pope was bolstering, protecting and insuring the future of his Church. He was helping the Church confront future challenges.

John Paul II. The Jew's Pope. Everyone's visionary. May his memory be blessed.

Iran and Her Nukes
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 4, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has recently permitted 30 journalists to visit the place that was their once top-secret nuclear site, the Natanz.

The Natanz is situated about 150 miles south of Teheran. From the accounts of local and foreign journalists who visited the plant, it is surrounded by 10 anti-air batteries and is heavily enfenced. Clearly, Natanz is set up as a top secret and well-protected facility.

The US and the EU have, early on, identified this facility. From the very onset of the conflict with Iran and Iran's continued march towards nuclear proliferation the Natanz plant has been a big agenda item.

The journalist were actually treated to the real plant - not some facade. Why?

Because the Iranians see it as a safe place to showcase.

The work done at the Natanz plant is enriching uranium. It requires centrifuges that quickly spin uranium transforming it into a gas.

What happens after that, however, is that the gas can then be used in a nuclear bomb.

The Iranians are now saying, you saw our facility, now leave us alone.

The problem is that Iran has many, many more facilities

Mixed Messages
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 3, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

There are mixed messages coming out of the Palestinian Authority.

That's now new.

The problem now, however, is that it is becoming more and more difficult to decipher those voices that are to be believed from those that are pure propaganda or gobblygook.

Al Quds, a London based Arabic newspaper, reported that Palestinian President Abbas successfully negotiated with Hamas to join the PLO and renounce their battle to liberate all of Palestine.

At the same time, Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala has been publicly saying on Palestinian radio that this current cease fire agreement with Israel does not negate the ultimate objective of a greater Palestinian State in all of Palestine.

So how do we make sense of this?

The news about Hamas, even if only temporarily, is very good.

But the double message form Abu Ala is typical, almost Arafatesque in style.

We have to continue to watch - and listen - carefully.

Sham in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 2, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Remember the horrific terror attacks that shattered a vacation holiday on the Israeli border in the Sinai tourist resort of Taba this past October?

34 people were murdered, 12 of them Israelis.

The news is that Egypt has finally charged 3 people with the heinous acts.

Actually, only two of the three are in Egyptian custody. The third will be tried, but in absentia.

34 innocent people were murdered in that terror attack. All information, all intel says that the attack was planned with the assistance of Palestinians. Clearly, the attack required not only one, two, or three players, but multiple levels of planners. And yet, only two are in custody. What a sham!

Granted, two terrorists were killed in the explosion itself.

And two others, Palestinians, were killed in February in a police shootout.

But many more are still at largee.

What also really scares/perplexes/astounds/galls me is that the suspects have only been charged with murder and attempted murder and possessing automatic weapons. What happened to acts of terror?

Is there no law against terror? Is there no law against mass murder? How can we take this trial seriously?

This situation must be changed, in Egypt and internationally.

And it must be changed now.

PA Anarchy
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 1, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Anarchy now reigns in the Palestinian Authority.
Tawfik Tirawi resigned yesterday. This is cataclysmic!

Tirawi is the head of PA West Bank Intelligence. He quit because of anarchy and an inability to control the situation. He claims his underlings are not following through, he says that he receives no support from Abbas.
But Tirawi was one of Abbas' most trusted and closest advisors.

As part of the deal with Israel for regaining Palestinian control in certain cities - like Jericho and Tul Karum - the PA accepted the condition that they disarm and register those people that Israel called terrorists and Israel would refrain from "targeting" those individuals. This has yet to happen.

Is it possible that Abbas does not want to move ahead? Possible that he prefers this status of anarchy to an ordered and safe democratic society?
I think Abbas is afraid. I think he is scared to act. He must disarm the hooligans and the thugs, but disarming means shedding Palestinian blood.

When you become prime minister it comes with a price.
Abbas had to know full well that restructuring Palestinian society would cost the lives of some people. You can't do the job of prime minister and play chicken. If he does not succeed in squashing those thugs who are turning his Authority into anarchy, he will have a thug-run racket in every Palestinian city and he, the prime minister, will end up a corrupt politician paying the thugs "collection."

The going's on in the Palestinian Authority is beginning to remind of a child's tale -- the Emperor's New Clothes.

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