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Bibi's Ploy
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 31, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's ruling Likud party is being put to the test.
Will they emerge smart and savvy, or will they sink fast and foolishly?

The Likud party, it seems, wants to replace the party leader, Ariel Sharon, with Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu. Party apparatchiks are still livid, furious with Sharon for proceeding with the Gaza disengagement despite their protests.

Here's the catch:
Sharon may not be popular within his party, but he is overwhelmingly popular among the general voters.
Netanyahu is the flavor of the month for Likud members, but not at all popular among the general population and could not win a national election.

Is Likud mature enough to put the party before intra-party politics, or will they commit political suicide to get revenge for Gaza?
If Likud ousts Sharon the voter alternative is not Netanyahu, the alternative is the Labor party and that would probably mean giving Shimon Peres the premiership.
Right now, Labor is floundering with only 17 Knesset seats. The best thing that could happen for Labor (not Likud) is the ousting of Sharon.

This is not rocket science, it is simple straightforward analysis.
My suggestion to Likud members: GET OVER IT, and by the way, the settler community doesn't vote for you anyway.

Security Snafu: Who is In Charge?
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 30, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Post 9-11, Americans have been conditioned to accept and expect adequate and appropriate security measures
We expect that those responsible for our safety exhibit mature thinking, accountability and responsibility.

So explain this:
On Saturday August 27th a ticking package, wrapped in duct tape, was discovered by TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) workers in their confiscated items bin at JFK airport in New York. Two entire terminals were evacuated. Departing planes were pulled back from their gates and arriving planes did not approach their disembarking arms. Thousands of passengers were stuck for three hours, from 11am to 2pm. The TSA sounded the alarm and the NYC Bomb Squad was summoned.

What did the Bomb Squad find?
They found that the package was an IED, an Improvised Explosive Device.
It was not a hoax. It was not a drill. It was a mistake.

The TSA intended the device for training exercises and left it there by accident.
Mistakes are excusable. What is not excusable is that the TSA refused to accept that it was their fault. Something is wrong when the people we empower to handle our security lack quality of character. That does not make me feel safe.

In issues of security we must know with confidence where the buck stops.

By Micah Halpern

Monday August 29, 2005


On Sunday morning, during the morning rush, outside the Central Bus Station of the sleepy, desert, southern Israeli city of Beersheba a suicide bomber detonated.

The attack marked the first suicide terrorist bombing since Israel redeployed from Gaza.

Islamic Jihad immediately claimed responsibility for the terror attack. They said that a twenty-five year old male named Ayman Zaqiq, from the village of Bet Umar, just south of Bethlehem, was the suicide bomber. The problem with this claim is that Ayman Zaqiq was picked up by Israeli security several days before the attack.

Does that mean that Islamic Jihad is not responsible, does it mean that they just messed up on the name? It probably means that several suicide terrorists were dispatched to Beersheba and only one made it while the others were intercepted. It means that Israel has intelligence information, once again, that terrorist organizations hedge their bets by sending out more than one operative per attack. It means, as far as Israelis are concerned, that while some terrorists do slip by, Israeli security forces are doing their job.

But one terrorist did slip by and he did detonate. And now lots of people are nodding their heads, wringing their hands and saying "I told you so." But I am telling you that there is no connection between this bombing and Israel getting out of Gaza.

Those same people are saying that terrorists feel bolstered and terrorist morale is boosted by Israel's very public leaving of Gaza. Well of course it is. But those people just do not understand terrorist mentality and actions. If they did, they would know that the kind of terror that struck Beersheba will be with Israel for many years to come and it has very little to do with Gaza.

Everyone involved in security knows that terror is not going to end even if Palestinians and Israelis settle their differences. Terror attacks will continue for a very long time into the future. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not about to relinquish their raison d'etre. They are committed to the total annihilation of Israel without compromise and with or without a peace treaty. The hope is that the Palestinians will try to prevent terrorists from attacking Israel. The hope is that using their own mechanisms and intelligence tools and police Palestinians will be able to persuade terrorists from attacking Israel.

The significant impact that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza had on terrorists is only psychological, not practical. That should be obvious. And terrorists will parlay the psychological factor and use it as a marketing tool. They will convince themselves and their followers and their new recruits that their methods are effective. They will use the Gaza withdrawal as proof that if Israel is hit often enough and hard enough they will succumb, they will change policy and evacuate from all "occupied territories."

But they are wrong.

Past history proves exactly the opposite. The reality of Israeli policy and decision making and even the attitude of the average Israeli is that when Israel is hit by terror Israelis become more and more intransigent and hardline. Under direct pressure from terrorists, Israeli moderates and the left swerve towards the right and become steadfastly anti-negotiation and anti-Palestinian.

Look no further than the recent Intifada. The vast majority of those labeled as peace camp rejected any compromise first with Arafat and now with Palestinian President Abbas during the height of the Intifada. The tide has not turned for the Israeli masses, Gaza withdrawal notwithstanding. Israel will continue to reject any agreement until Palestinian leadership begins to act against the terrorists and shows some signs of success.

Israel withdrew from Gaza because it was an untenable military position, because there was no way to shield soldiers and settlers, because they were the proverbial sitting ducks. Israel did not withdraw from Gaza because terrorists successfully infiltrated and perpetrated their deadly, dastardly acts.

Beersheba is not Gaza.

The Synagogues in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 28, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The Israeli Supreme Court just passed an injunction preventing twenty synagogues in Gaza from being destroyed.

Wasn't the synagogue issue resolved from the outset? A promise had been made that all Gaza synagogues were to be relocated inside Israel.
Well, that was the original intention.
That was before the structural engineers were brought in and it was determined that only 2 small structures could withstand, the move the other 20 had to be destroyed.

Now that there is an injunction against destroying the synagogues, the only alternative is to keep them where they are.
But is that in Israel's best interest?

The Rabbinic Court has just stepped in with a ruling prohibiting the destruction of any synagogue.
The Rabbinic Court has said synagogues may not be destroyed. That just because a synagogue is not being used and there are no longer Jews in the region, no local government should be allowed to destroy a compound or structure. No government, not even Israel.
Imagine the precedent that it would set in Eastern Europe and across the world if Israelis were to destroy synagogues.

Israel's Rabbinic Court wants the synagogues to remain and to be preserved - even under Palestinian control.
Israel's Supreme Court agrees.

Democracy in Egypt?
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 27, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

September 7th. The first presidential election in Egyptian history.
Ten candidates will vie for the position.
Ten candidates who have no chance at all of winning.
The # 1 spot will certainly remain with the incumbent, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president for the last 24 years.
But it's a start, a step in the right direction, for Egypt's 72 million citizens.

This election does not mean that Egypt will suddenly become a Western democracy. It does not mean that Egypt will embrace the values of debate and freedom and cast off a long history of dictatorship.
This election signals that change is happening. Slow change. And that is the best way to accomplish true reform in the Arab world.

If you are hoping for success, introduce change in the Arab world through internal reforms created and initiated by the leaders themselves, not by ousting the leaders.
As time goes on the dictator "moves on" in a natural non-violent way and the country inherits a better, freer society.
Then and only then will changes be internalized by the people and integrated into the fabric and values of Arab culture.
True and lasting change in the Arab world will not be due to America's intervention but to internal local transformations.

Marx was wrong.
Revolutions create crisis and catastrophe, never better societies.

Gaza Follow-up: Cruel, Thoughtless
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 26, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and Northern Samaria was textbook perfect from the military standpoint.
But their follow-up, the human interest element, is another story.

Criminal. Negligent. Thoughtless. Cruel.

The final details, the what-happens-next to Israelis citizens deported from their homes to other parts of Israel were never straightened out, in fact, they were probably hardly thought about.

I'm not just talking about money, about being compensated for their homes. And by the way, renters living in Gaza and Northern Samaria will receive nothing.
Residents were charged for their move.
Residents received electric company bills for disconnecting their service.
Residents are squeezed into fleabag hotels, whole families in one room.

The government must pick up the moving charges.
The government controls the electric company and should receive all bills.
The government provided 1000 rooms for 1700 families, each family averaging about 7 people.
The army is counseling all soldiers regardless of whether they suffer from redeployment related trauma, but no social workers or psychologists have been assigned to help the now former residents of Gaza or Northern Samaria.

This is unforgivable. These are people deserving of respect.

Iraq's Constitution
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 25, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

All this critique of the future Iraqi constitution shows how little people really understand the region.

On the issue of Islamic law--
No evolving democracy in Iraq, or anywhere in the Arab world, could be transformed into a Jeffersonian democracy.
Islam is not just a religion- it is a culture, a worldview, the basic unifying force for believers.

The drafters of the Iraqi constitution will base their document on principles held sacred by Islam just the way Jefferson did. The role of Christianity is implicitly understood in the establishment of America and it is for that reason that the official day of rest became "Sunday The Sabbath Day" and that principles like "in God we trust" resonate so prominently.

On the issue of the Islamification of Iraq -
I just do not see it happening.
The vast majority of Iraqi people, even clerics, do not want an Iran in Iraq.
Neither do they want a totally secular state.

The task confronting Iraq today is meshing Islamic cultural ideals with democratic doctrine. It can be done. That is how Judaism informs Israel's democracy. It is the way Christianity informed the founding of the United States.

Iraq's success depends on the blending of the best of both worlds -- not the worst of each.

Lesson From Redeployment
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 24, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

There are important lessons to be learned from Israel's redeployment from Gaza. Tactics applied during this massive withdrawal will be studied in FBI, police and rescue academies around the world for decades to come, much like the lessons learned after the Six Day War.

Lesson #1 -- Vox Populi. The masses backed the redeployment despite the very loud protestations of a small but vocal minority. The mood of the people speaks volumes.

Lesson #2 -- Looks can be deceiving. The world was bombarded with images of the settlers as extremists. They were just citizens exercising their democratic right to protest.

Lesson #3 -- Outsiders do not speak for insiders. They are in and out, single issue instigators, concerned with their own agenda oblivious to the larger picture.

Lesson #4 -- Well trained forces can defuse the most explosive situation. Proper training can turn an ugly situation into a publicity success. Training in psychology and social work are as important as military training.

Lesson #5 -- People will see what they want to believe. The United States still thinks this is about peace. Palestinians see the redeployment as their success.

Lesson #6 -- Patience and perseverance pay off. Ten days later, it was all done.

Why? 4 West Bank Settlements
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 23, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Sa Nur & Homesh are being dismantled.
These Israeli settlements are situated in the very northernmost part of Samaria. Homesh is high up, Sa Nur sits in the valley near an old train station originally built by the Turks.
They are both isolated, surrounded by Arab communities.

Sa Nur and Homesh were placed where they are in order to control access routes and to strategically separate Palestinian areas.
Removing these settlements (along with Gadim and Kadim) allows Palestinians total freedom of movement in the Northern Samaria.

Unlike any settlement in Gaza the evacuation of Homesh now provides Palestinians with an extremely important summit that can easily be used as a launching pad for missiles targeting settlements as well as Israel proper.

Gaza was Philistine.
Northern Samaria is where the Biblical prophets wandered.
Northern Samaria is Biblical Israel, it resonates with powerful historical significance.

By Micah Halpern

Monday August 22, 2005


The twenty-one Gaza Settlements slated for evacuation by Israel have received a lot of attention these past few days. But there are another four, lesser known, settlements also slated for evacuation. Settlements situated in Northern Samaria. They are Gadim, Kadim, Homesh, Sa Nur.

Of the Northern Samaria settlements, two are already empty. Residents of both Gadim and Kadim have moved out of their own volition. Over the last month the residents have slowly, probably painfully, found new places to call home. Some families remain neighbors even in their new community, others are striking out alone.

The other two Northern communities, Homesh and Sa Nur, are a different, evolving story.

Homesh began as a non-religious commuter settlement. About two years ago it became a community with a 50-50 religious/non-religious split. Over the past three months a complete shift took place and all non-religious Jews left turning Homesh into an exclusively religious settlement infused with outsiders coming to lend support.

Homesh sits on a summit that allows for a panoramic view of the entire region up to the Mediterranean Sea. Until he made the decision to evacuate, Ariel Sharon would invite people - like me - to Homesh. The prime minister would stand on an overlook in order to emphasize the view, proudly gesticulating, speaking of the history of the area and pointing out exactly how important this settlement, Homesh, was to the security of Israel.

Sa Nur was originally created as an artist colony. It fell on hard times and attracted people who were more self-sufficient and able to stay home and work inside the community.

Sa Nur is considered a radical place. It has also become a magnet for outsiders. On a visit to Sa Nur, after the evacuation had been announced but before plans were actually formulated, I was removed from the area by local residents. Several colleagues and I had been promised a walk and talk - meet the residents, tour their community, hear what they have to say about the impending evacuation. When it was discovered that among us were Arab journalists, our visit was shut down and we were put on a bus and evacuated out.

Gaza settlers are timid relative to those in the Northern Samaria settlement of Sa Nur.

Despite their natural proclivity for stern action, I do not anticipate an armed exchange between these settlers and the soldiers. Among the residents of Sa Nur is a member of the Israeli Knesset, Aryeh Eldad, and I credit this MK from the National Unity Party with impressing upon his neighbors the importance of conducting unarmed resistance.

The settlers of Sa Nur, like most of the Gaza settlement residents, will, I think, ultimately play by the rules of the game - but they will "take it up a notch." They will resist, but more forcefully. I have heard, for example, that they have collected stun grenades to use against the soldiers. They will display signs of public mourning. They will insist that they be removed by groups of soldiers. And then they will board the waiting busses for relocation.

Today's residents of Sa Nur are torn between being loyal citizens of Israel faced with the inevitable and an ideology of living out a dream and fulfilling a Biblical commandment. On the one hand they have already begun to take steps toward peaceful resistance in the face of inevitable evacuation by voluntarily giving up their weapons to the "good soldiers" - those charged with their protection versus those charged with their evacuation. On the other hand they have slashed the tires of the trucks that brought in the evacuation containers, the large boxes provided to each family to be used as packing crates for their belongings.

The residents of the Northern Samaria settlement of Sa Nur know that their days as a community within the State of Israel are ending. Most of Gaza has been emptied of Jews. In response to an evacuation that looms only hours away the Jews of Sa Nur held a dedication ceremony for a new building in their settlement community. A synagogue.

Abbas-Hamas Piss Match
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 21, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The response of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza is more than problematic. It is self-destructive.

Abbas has the need to claim credit for making Gaza Israeli-free.
So does Hamas.
That pits Abbas against Hamas in a pissing match.

Abbas should be emphasizing the positives like infrastructure, the future, a better life, more security, new jobs, education and unity, independence. If he were a world-caliber leader Abbas would be showering praise on Israel. Instead he continues to verbally attack Israel for not having done enough and for their continued settlement policy. His style will not win points around the world and, worse, it will probably fail even inside the Palestine Authority.

Abbas cannot out-Hamas Hamas. He needs to realize that.
His speeches have the distinct tone of election stumping against Hamas for the January 2006 parliamentary elections.
He needs to provide a serious alternative to extreme Hamas rhetoric.
He needs to speak of a positive future for the masses, for the salt of the earth Palestinians.

Without that he will substantially reduce his significant majority.

Palestinians want a change. Some have already chosen Hamas. It will be an inexcusable blunder and shame if Abbas himself pushes the others in the same direction.

The Gaza Script
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 20, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The evacuation of Gaza settlers from their homes and communities was a carefully choreographed production borne out of pain and compassion.

90% of the residents stuck to the script - they rejected any violence against the army while at the same time they tried hard to prevent themselves from being carried out by 4, 5 or 6 soldiers. In the end - with tears and public acts of mourning - they acquiesced and allowed themselves to be removed. The result was highly emotionally charged true-to-life theater.

But there were those who deviated from the production, who tried to grab headlines by striking out against the soldiers, by attempting to harm them.

Some of the adolescent kids who came to help bolster the numbers and strength of the settlers were out of control. Their actions were shameful. They broke the rules of the game. The damaged caused by these kids is immeasurable.

Greater Israel may still have respect for the settlers, but they lost respect for some of today's youth, the kids who were intended to be the hope of tomorrow. And that is a sad final act to play out on the world's media stage.

Al Qaeda in Jordan
By Micah Halpern

August 19, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The first missile attack from Jordan to Eilat since 1968 took place today.
Al Qaeda is responsible, almost without a doubt.

Three Katyusha missiles were shot inside the port city of Aqaba, Jordan today.
Two of the missiles were directed at US vessels in the Red Sea Port.
One missile targeted the Israeli international airport in the city of Eilat, just over the border.
The two missiles missed the US targets, the third fell 15 feet short of the airport.

Jordanian intelligence recently interrogated several al Qaeda members who confessed to a plan to fire rockets at Israel from Aqaba.
The spent rocket launchers were discovered in an Aqaba warehouse that was rented last week to four foreigners holding Egyptian and Iraqi passports.

Both Egypt and Jordan have serious al Qaeda cells working and planning and attacking, we have witnessed their work. Both countries are working hard to confront al Qaeda, but the threat is far from over. For these two Western-leaning Arab countries, like for all Western countries, this is only beginning.

There is one redeeming point: al Qaeda terrorists are terrible shots.
But we cannot expect ineptitude forever.

Lone Jewish Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 18, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The Shin Bet, the Israeli Internal Security Forces, is scouring the entire country of Israel. They have been combing the country for many weeks now.
For whom are they searching? Lone extremists.

Lone extremists like Asher Weissgan who demonstrated his opposition to the Gaza Withdrawal by picking up a weapon and murdering 4 Palestinians after having lunch with them.
Lone extremists like the woman who set herself on fire as her form of protest.
Lone extremists like AWOL soldier Edan Natan Sada who randomly murdered Israeli Arabs in the village of Shfaram.

Lone extremists are the bane of security teams and theorists.
Unlike organizations with leaders and members, lone extremists are difficult to predict and almost impossible to locate and catch in advance.
Fortunately, lone extremism is not catchy, the cry of one does not stimulate others to act.

Lone extremists act in order to call attention to their cause, not themselves.
The reality is that their actions, while often deadly, are misplaced.
The reality is that their actions do not further their cause.

Did You Know That in Gaza...
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 17, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Did You Know:
That the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is called "Operation Brotherly Hand."
That the army and police are unarmed and not about to use weapons on settlers.

That every single Gaza settler/resident I spoke with assured me that they would not fight the army because they or their children are soldiers.
That they describe themselves as good citizens of Israel who just vehemently disagree with this decision by the government.

That over 4000 outsiders have infiltrated into Gaza over the summer.
That almost all of them are religious high school kids on the summer vacation and they call the activity "The Summer of Disengagement."
That the kids outnumber the settlers in many places and that they, these kid/infiltrators, are setting the tone.

That these high school kids are ignoring their rabbis who have asked them to stop any physical violence, not to slash tires, not to throw or burn things, not even push.
That the rabbis are deeply concerned because the kids are smoking cigarettes and illegal substances and are "fraternizing and more" in ways that are natural but inappropriate for religious kids and especially inappropriate given the cause that brings them together.

That the tensions and conflict brought about by the Gaza Withdrawal has impacted the lives of almost every Israeli.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 16, 2005


For much of my professional life I advocated for activating youth. I educated, I mentored, I took pride in watching sixteen and seventeen year old kids blossom into twenty-one year old men and women. I believed that it was important to get them involved, to encourage our youth to care about the world around them. I said energize youth, enable them to challenge and improve society, allow them to take an active role in the world they will inherit.

I have always believed that it is important to "challenge authority." More than a phrase, it is a philosophy, an obligation, a rite of passage that, hopefully, the best and the brightest of our youth will embrace and act upon throughout adulthood. Leadership does not always see things correctly and sometimes our leaders need to be challenged, confronted, channeled.

Israel is filled with kids who embrace the philosophy of "Challenging Authority." They are the creme de la creme, they are movers and shakers at fifteen and sixteen and they will be the future leaders of Israeli politics and Israeli society. They are members of youth movements and youth movements are a respected and integral element of Israeli society.

Youth movements are the greenhouse for productive Israeli adults, a precursor to the army and a bond that lasts a lifetime, somewhat akin to Eagle Scouts in America. Youth movements teach kids to accept responsibilities, to volunteer, to raise their voices and be heard on national and local causes. It teaches kids the power of group action and the importance of retaining individuality, a delicate balance.

Members of Israeli youth groups are truly perfect potential citizens and future leaders. They are people who believe the country needs them and are committed to holding and raising their country to the highest possible level.

They are the kids whose faces we are seeing on our television screens and front pages. They are the face of the Gaza Withdrawal.

The most prominent among the youth movements whose members have come to the Gaza Withdrawal is "Bnei Akiva" the sons of Akiva, a renowned Jewish scholar and leader from the Talmud. Bnei Akiva is a religious youth group open to boys and girls that is dedicated to Israel - not just the nation of Israel but also the Land of Israel, the Holy Land of Israel.

Look carefully at the faces.

Most of the people we are seeing on TV and in photos are not residents of Gaza but youth movement kids who have entered Gaza in order not to leave. They are fifteen, sixteen and seventeen year old young men and women who chose to spend their summer vacation in places like Morag and Dugit and Netzarim and Neve Dekalim fighting the redeployment. Look behind the beards, beyond the screaming, struggling torsos and you will see angry, determined kids.

Then look at the numbers.

The Israeli Army thinks that 4,000 to 5,000 Jewish infiltrators have made their way to Gaza in order to bolster the cause over the past few weeks. Those are the kids. They came because they were taught to care, to work for change, to follow their beliefs. They came because this is a once in a lifetime experience for them. The Gaza Withdrawal unifies all the issues that are important to Bnei Akiva youth - the country, the land, a government with which they disagree. They organized, demonstrated and petitioned, they eventually hope to change policy.

Look at the radical settlement Morag. There are forty-two families who live in Morag and sixteen have agreed to leave. On the first day of the disengagement there are over 400 people in Morag. Who are they? They are the kids, the youngsters, the Bnei Akiva members.

The army has said that they will treat the settlers with kid gloves, that they recognize and acknowledge the pain and difficulty the settlers are experiencing. But that begs the question of the kids, of how the police and army will deal with these kids. These kids are in Gaza illegally. Over the past few weeks several hundred have been detained and placed in prison holding cells. Israel's Attorney General, Manny Mazuz, has ruled that the police must release these kids and that they cannot detain others. That means that the only avenue left to get the kids out of Gaza is force.

We've taught them to support causes in which they believe. We've encouraged them to challenge authority. They are young enough to believe that they can change the world. What lessons will today's youth take away from the Gaza Withdrawal? I hope their hopes remain intact.

Gaza Violence--Maybe?
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 15, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The international press sees blood in the Gaza Withdrawal.
The potential for violence playing out right before our very eyes is what makes it a good news story. A civil war could erupt right there on live TV.

Here are today's numbers for Morag, a Gaza settlement with a reputation as being religious extremist and ultra nationalist, one of the settlements everyone assumed would refuse relocation:
42 families are there
16 families have already agreed to leave
400 young kids have arrived to bolster the community
The 400 are labeled "infiltrators" by the Israeli Army and by extension, the press.

If there is Israeli violence during the withdrawal process, it will be instigated not by longtime residents, but stimulated by outside activists.
Israel's police and army are prepared, in the words of the commander their job is to "take it and not dish it out."

We need to wait and see, not speculate. Mass violence is possible but unlikely.

The Gaza withdrawal is reality TV in the very real sense.

Gaza Misunderstood
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 14, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Most Americans misunderstand Israel's reasons for withdrawing from Gaza.
Most Americans, including President Bush, see the withdrawal as a step toward peace.
Some Americans think that there should be Palestinian reciprocity for the withdrawal.
Some Americans see the withdrawal as the "carrot" in international affairs lingo.
All this is to misunderstand the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

The withdrawal has nothing to do with peace.
The withdrawal was not decided upon for the good of Palestinians.
The withdrawal was undertaken for the sake of Israelis.
Sharon is exiting Gaza to remove Israeli soldiers and settlers from the center of Palestinian terror, so that they are no longer sitting ducks in the terrorists' backyard.

Bodies re-interred. Lives uprooted. Ideology re-directed. Crops abandoned.
But the government, the courts and the people have all spoken.
The vast majority of Israel favors this wrenching act.

Will it make Israel safer in the long range? Will terrorists find a new firing range?
For now, withdrawing from Gaza removes Israeli targets from point blank range.

Arab Mentality
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 13, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

According to the Arab world view, everything is a conspiracy. Everyone is always plotting against them. But for the Arab world, that is not necessarily a negative because it means that nothing is their fault.

Think I'm kidding?

Just the other day residents of the Palestinian city Jenin attempted to break the world record for the largest sandwich. The record now held by Portugal is for a sandwich 1900 ft long.

The people of Jenin planned on making their sandwich 2000 ft long with 400 lbs of meat and 1300 lbs of vegetables.

In the end, fearful of spoiled rotting meat, the Palestinian Department of Health cancelled the venture citing the sweltering summer heat.

Here is the response of sandwich organizer, Ahmed Nazal:
We planned to add the meat at the last second to avoid any risk of it rotting. I am certain the other competitors plotted against us.

If you understand the Arab world, you understand the response. It was classic.

Something is definitely rotten in the State of Palestine.

FBI Warns LA, NY & Chicago
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 12, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Ports. Gas stations. Large transport trucks.
Trigger words for terror alerts.

Los Angeles was just issued a warning about potential terrorist attacks. The alert came from the California office of the FBI. Other cities put on alert are New York and Chicago. They are to be on the lookout for gasoline tanker trucks.

Gasoline tanker trucks are the perfect weapon for terrorists.
Gas stations and ports are the perfect targets.

Some facts:
Many ports and most gas stations, even in populated areas, remain unprotected.
Many of the 9-11 terrorists had truck driver's licenses.
To drive a truck filled with gasoline or any hazardous material, all you have to do is know how to drive. You don't have to be a US citizen, you don't have to clear security.

In a recent undercover terror sting operation in San Diego one cell member had a trucker's license. Every day he drove his weapon, his truck filled with fuel, into the assumedly secure San Diego Port, an area teaming with highly explosive materials, gasses and chemicals.

We must better protect ourselves. That means making sure that our ports and gas stations are better secured and better situated. That means revamping the trucking industry. Before it's too late.

English Imam in Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 11, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Lebanon just arrested Omar Bahkri, the notorious, extremist London cleric.

This is a story full of weird twists.
Somehow, Bahkri got out of England and ended up in Lebanon.
England could not and did not arrest him, but Lebanon could and does.
Lebanon will return the cleric to England. It will be interesting to see how the authorities handle him on home turf.

Omar Bahkri is one of the many British clerics who stimulate and embrace terror, one of the people Tony Blair was referring to when he delivered his zero tolerance speech.
Omar Bahkri is quoted as saying that even if he knew that a future attack was imminent he would not tell the authorities.

Another twist: Bahkri says he planned to return to the UK anyway because he is scheduled for an operation - paid for, of course, by National Health and the tax payers of England.


Most Want Out Of Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 10, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

According to the latest poll Israelis are split almost 60-40 on the Gaza Redeployment issue.
57% of Israelis support withdrawing from Gaza
37% of Israelis oppose it
23% of those who oppose believe that the withdrawal will be considered a victory for the terrorists.

Surprised? Given the press coverage surrounding the Gaza withdrawal, most people probably are. But they should not be. These poll numbers have been pretty stable over the past 4 months.

Why the skewed assumption and perception? Because the media loves to focus on extremists - better pictures, better sound bites, better ratings and larger readership. Resisters are loud, boisterous, colorful, they grab headlines. They speak in exaggerated terms and they threaten gross responses.

But it does not change the reality on the ground.
A clear majority of Israelis support the Gaza Redeployment.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 9, 2005


The Gaza Redeployment is not just about Israel's withdrawal from the area. It is not just about the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. It never was. Israel's withdrawal from Gaza has always been a measuring stick, a marker, a barometric tool to determine the winds of change in the region. The fateful day approaches. There are many interested parties and many agenda. Let's examine them.

The most important agenda to examine is that of the United States. Plain and simple, the United States needs this redeployment to happen and they are exerting a tremendous amount of energy to make it happen. The United States is pressuring Israel not just to leave but to also offer aid to the Palestinians on their way out. The United States is pressuring the Palestinians to let this happen and to stop any provocateurs, any acts of terror, from dismantling the process.

The United States envisions peace between Israelis and Palestinians. They see the Gaza Redeployment as a massive step towards the fulfillment of that vision. Today Gaza, tomorrow the West Bank. And they want to make certain that the transition takes place quietly.

The United States needs to prove that they can make good on their promise. They promised to support Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas, they want to secure his position. They believe in him, more than do many of his local Palestinian constituents. They believe that Abbas wants to bring peace to his people. They want the Palestinian people to view Abbas as a strong leader and they think that the Gaza Redeployment will bring proof to the people that with peace comes good, that if peace emerges and liberalization occurs, their lives will be improved, their voices will be heard. The United States also believes, I would say naively, that the best tactic against Palestinian extremists is pelting them with examples of the good that is gained through peace.

The United States believes in good will gestures. Egypt, on the other hand, wants to regain partial control of the area.

The Egyptians are lying low during this process of withdrawal and, as a result, nobody is watching them very closely. They have issues and their own very strong agenda for the Gaza Redeployment.

Gaza is an area that for many years was under Egyptian control. That control was vanquished by Israel. The Egyptians do not see the Palestinians as strong and do not believe that they will ever gain strength, even under the leadership of Abbas. And that pleases the Egyptians. A weak Palestinian government leaves the door open for more experienced Egyptians to enter in a pseudo-advisory capacity and wield power in the area. With the Palestinians "in charge" and with the Israelis out of the area, the Egyptians become the doorkeepers, literally and figuratively, of Gaza. It is the Egyptians who will control the border. It is the Egyptians who will observe from the outside what happens on the inside of Gaza, and then determine their next moves.

In the Palestinian world, Egypt, not the United States, is big brother.

The Palestinians themselves are split into two groups. There are those Palestinians who hope and those Palestinians who hope to sabotage the Gaza Redeployment.

One group of Palestinians believes strongly in Abbas and they are hopeful that he can and will create a better life not just for their children, but also for themselves. They are the silent majority of Palestinians, not just silent, but silenced by the other group of Palestinians, their louder, more enthusiastic brothers and cousins. This group wants the withdrawal to fail and they intend to use the failure as a metaphor for the leadership of Abbas and as a tool with which to topple his government. This group thinks of Abbas not as their leader but as someone who has sold them out, who by virtue of accepting this unilateral withdrawal is collaborating with the enemy. And they want an all-out war with Israel.

The rest of the Arab world is watching, quietly, carefully offering no support, no advice, no encouragement, no words of warning. They are fearful of civil war.

Obviously, the greater Arab world is pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, there is nothing that will ever change that agenda. Right now they cannot fathom how the Gaza Redeployment will impact on the lives of average Palestinians. So far, and time is running short, they have offered almost no post-withdrawal aid commitments to the Palestinians. They do not know how to approach this unilateral action taken by Israel. They do know, however, that with the withdrawal comes the threat of a Palestinian civil war. If the Gaza Redeployment fails, they will surely, publicly, blame Israel.

There are others who are looking to place blame. And the blame will fall squarely on the broad shoulders of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon expects, truly believes, that this withdrawal will help protect more Israeli lives, that it will save soldiers and settlers and all citizens from unnecessary death due to terror. He undertook the Gaza Redeployment as a unilateral action for the sake of Israelis, that was his agenda. The prime minister set into action not a negotiated settlement but a unilateral move because he saw it as being in the best interests of Israelis.

Former ministers and members of the Sharon government, Benjamin Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky, accept that the withdrawal is now fact, but want payback for Israelis. They are shouting that now is the time to make demands on the Palestinians. Use the leverage, they say, tie the withdrawal to action against terror or to education or to democracy. Turn this into a big agenda item, not a throw away. Some of their followers, the people in orange, want to topple Sharon for selling out, for selling his soul. It is unlikely that they will bring Sharon down over the disengagement.

Sharon's opposition party, Labor, has similar thoughts but they are more subtle in their actions. The liberal Labor party is hoping to support Sharon in the government during the Gaza Redeployment and then bolt. Labor intends to use the redeployment as a way to resuscitate itself. Before they joined Sharon's government, they will claim, the Gaza Redeployment would never have happened. They joined and the national agenda changed so it is only fair that they take credit for the withdrawal. They want Sharon to stick it out for a few more months giving them the time they need to build themselves up and catapult back into the first leadership chair. Failure will belong to Sharon, success belongs to them.

Failure and success are not at issue when it comes to the European Union and the United Nations. The Gaza Redeployment has been on their agendas for a long time.

The European community and the United Nations believe that the Israelis are doing what they should have done years ago. They believe that they are not doing enough. The EU and the UN do not see the Gaza Redeployment as a unilateral initiative undertaken by Israel. They see it as an entitlement of the Palestinian people and as the correction of Israeli human rights violations. Israel should not be congratulated, it should be apologizing for not withdrawing from Gaza long ago. Their agenda is very different from that of the United States, but their wish is the same, today Gaza, tomorrow the West Bank.

As we all know, a lot can happen between today and tomorrow.

Bibi's Big Mistake
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 8, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, "Bibi" Netanyahu resigned as Israel's Finance Minister.
He is no longer a member of Prime Minister Sharon's cabinet.

Netanyahu explains the resignation by saying that he can no longer be part of the government because of the impending unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
Netanyahu says that the redeployment will result in more terror and that the entire idea goes against the principles of their party, the Likud party.

Bibi Netanyahu is a political animal. He was once prime minister and planned to challenge Ariel Sharon for party leadership and then run again for the premiership. That is why I am surprised that he made this move.

By resigning Netanyahu destroys his ability to get daily media coverage. As an outsider, he must precipitate an event, hold a press conference or grant an interview. As an insider, all he had to do was do his job. It is easier to challenge from within, it is the outsider who needs to work hard to keep in the public eye.

If the redeployment goes relatively smoothly, Sharon wins the popularity polls and Bibi is out of the party mainstream. He becomes the leader of the extreme right not the center, the masses, the nation and he will need to create another political party. And it is not the extreme candidate who gets elected prime minister. If it goes poorly, it still leaves him with the extremes.

I respect Bibi the person for following his conscience -- but it was a poor political move.

Take Israel's Lead to Fight Terror
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 7, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Western countries must take Israel's lead in the offensive war against terror.

For example: Israeli police detained a Muslim preacher, an Imam, yesterday. His name is Hamad Bitawi and he preached at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, also known as the Haram el Sharif in Islam.

Why was the Imam detained?
First, because of his preachings in earlier sermons. Authorities said that he was inciting violence.
Second, because he was in Jerusalem without the proper permits.

One day earlier, on Friday, Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke out and declared that Great Britain was changing the rules. They were going to start cracking down on clerics who incite terror.
Bravo! Good for them!

There are limits to free speech.
One of those limits is incitement to mass murder.
We must re-interpret incitement as support of mass murder and terror.
Many terrorists have received enthusiastic recommendations for their deeds by local Imams and that behavior must be stopped.

Anything less will assist terrorists in their mission to destroy our societies.

Canada No Fly List
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 6, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Canada is going to institute a No Fly List. People considered to be high risk or potential terrorist material will find their names on the list.
Well excuse me, but where has Canada been until NOW?

And why NOW? Because the United States has requested the manifests of Canadian planes that cross into US space and having to say "no" would cripple the Canadian airline industry.

You are probably asking: How can Canada even function without a list? How can they even assume to pretend that they are protecting their people and their skies? Why hasn't their airline industry been crippled already?

The truth is that Canada is just about one of the worst Western governments when it comes to implementing laws and policies to prevent terror. Even this list will have a "made in Canadian approach," that means not like the US. That is their style in international diplomacy.

The result is that Canada has become a haven for terrorists.
In Canada potential terrorists can meet and plan with almost no fear of being caught. The US is trying to monitor Canadian borders and airports, but it is almost impossible to do because Canada allows asylum and protection to anyone arriving on Canadian soil.
Even NOW.

It's Terror Even When It Is Israeli
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 5, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Terror is terror. It doesn't matter who the perpetrator is, it doesn't matter what the ideology is
An Israeli Jew dressed up as a soldier in order to gain easier access to his targets is a terrorist.
Shooting up a bus filled with Israeli Arabs in Shafram, murdering 4 innocent people, is an act of terror.
Perpetrating the act in the name of sabotaging the Gaza redeployment is terror.

Jewish/Israeli terror is rare, but it exists.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish terrorist.
Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslims in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs.
The Jews who tried to blow up the Temple Mount were planning an act of terror.
Now add AWOL Israeli soldier, Eden Natan-Zada, to the list.
His actions, random killing of innocents, and motivation, hoping to create a civil war and prevent the Gaza redeployment, fit the classic terrorist profile.

Prime Minister Sharon immediately called this horrific act terror. As he should. The Israeli press called it a "shooting" or "killings" an "incident" or "act." This is just wrong. I am disappointed in the collective Israeli media.

People in glass houses should not throw stones.

US Pressure for PA AMMO
By Micah Halpern

August 4, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The United States, in the person of Condi Rice, has given Israel orders to provide the Palestinian Authority with ammunition.

Rice is serious about this. She lost patience with Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz after he said that he would have to analyze the request and maybe even present it to the Cabinet. Reports say that she lost it and sniped, "just do it."

Well, Israel is not about to "just do it." They have said "no" to the request.

Historically, the last time Israel gave guns to the Palestinians was during the Rabin-Peres tenure. Arafat turned those guns against Israel.

What did Prime Minister Sharon say last time a similar request was put to him:
First, they have more than enough weapons and ammo in storage.
Second, if they need more, confiscate the illegal weapons from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Finally, this is too dangerous given how irresponsible the PA security forces are.

I ask, if this is so important, why is the US not giving the PA the ammo?

May I have the Missiles Back?
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 3, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The Ukraine sold 12 medium range missiles to Iran.
Israel is requesting that The Ukraine recall the missiles.

The sale went through under the previous Ukrainian government.
The sale was conducted by arms dealers.
The missiles are KH 55 and depending on the weight of the warhead, they have a range of 2,000 - 3,000 kilometers.

The Ukraine says the sale was illegal, they say the warhead was dismantled before sale. That's not much solace. The Iranians know the mechanics of attaching a warhead. For Iran the hard part is obtaining missiles.

Will The Ukraine ask for them back? Maybe.
Will Iran return them? No way!
Why would they? These 12 missiles immensely advance Iran's technology.
New intel says that Iran will be ready to launch non-conventional weapons as soon as 2007-'08.

P.S. It was also discovered that the Ukraine sold 8 of the same missiles to China.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 2, 2005


Once upon a time, many centuries ago, Persian culture was the most advanced in the world. Once upon a time, Persia was decidedly more tolerant of the minorities than Christian countries. Once upon a time, Persia was a beacon of culture and light. Once upon a time, Persians were more educated and more artistic than their Christian contemporaries.

That was once upon a time.

Times have changed. Today's Iran is neither enlightened nor tolerant. Today's Iran sees as its mission to eliminate, annihilate, decimate, anything that is other, different, non-Muslim, Western.
Today, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is Iran's new president. The president had a message to deliver to the West. The perfect opportunity presented itself in the form of the terror in London. This is what Iranian President Ahmadinejad said in an interview on Iran's official Channel 1 TV: "Is there art that is more beautiful, more divine, and more eternal than the art of martyrdom?"

"A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity. Those who wish to undermine this principle undermine the foundations of our independence and national security. They undermine the foundation of our eternity."

Yes, the official response of the Iranian government to the terror that rocked London was to glorify suicide bombing. It was no accident that Ahmadinejad equated suicide bombing with art. The Iranian president is a student of his country’s history. He has learned of the glorious days of Persia. Ahmadinejad wants to return that glory, in modern form, to the Islamic world.

And Ahmadinejad wants to spread Islam to the world.
"The message of the (Islamic) Revolution is global" he said "and is not restricted to specific place or time. It is a human message, and it will move forward. Have no doubt ... Allah willing, what will Islam conquer? It will conquer all the mountain tops of the world."

In a certain, bizarre, way Ahmadinejad is correct. Once you have committed to your own death, and through that act the killing of as many innocent people as possible, then there is "no captivity." No prison and no laws can constrain a person with those values. There are no limits, no boundaries.

If we understand what the president is saying, the message he is relaying, we can begin to understand his ideals and vision for his country and for Islamic society. We will never quite grasp the mindset that formulates these ideas, but we will know the path, the short and long term goals, that Ahmadinejad has set out for his followers.

He wants them to become martyrs. He wants Islam to conquer and control the world. He wants all societies to submit to Islamic principles. He knows that anyone who disagrees with these principles endangers the security of the entire society and therefore must be punished.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a powerful man. So is George Bush. When you listen to the President of the United States speak you hear about freedom and democracy. When the most powerful man in the Western world outlines his vision for the future you hear a dream to help liberate and empower people who are enslaved, his hopes of raising people out of squalor.

These two men, each a pillar of his own society, are at diametrically opposed ends of the spectrum. There is no middle ground and no possibility of reaching a compromise between them. The Iranian president leaves no room for negotiations. He is interested in total victory.

Ahmadinejad calls it "the art of martyrdom". What a fascinating choice of terms, what a mixed metaphor. How sad that today's Persia dreams of bygone days of martyrdom.

It was in the days of art and culture that Persia truly flourished.
Once upon a time.

King Fahd
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 1, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia died this morning.
He ruled for 23 years, ascending to power in 1982.
The transition of power in Saudi Arabia will be smooth.
The Crown Prince has been the effective leader for at least the past 10 years.
Do not expect any major changes in Saudi policy.

The Saudis have mastered the balance:
They satisfy the demands of the West
They sell as much oil as is possible
They support religious extremist Wahabi Islam from the inside.

The House of Saud is about stability and continuity.
It is not about change and revolution.

How do they do it? First they preserve power, next they maximize oil revenues, then they teach Islam.
The Islam the Saudis teach in schools stimulates and creates a religious environment that endangers both their own existence and the West.

Why do they do it? It is who the Saudis are, it is what they are made of.
Part special balance, part self-destruction, part true belief in Islam.

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