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By Micah Halpern

Monday May 1, 2006


Most Westerners share certain beliefs. Most Westerners believe that the world is flat, that Elvis is alive and living a wonderful life somewhere in the Bahamas, that the Muslim world is a united entity.

Well, most Westerners are wrong. Elvis is dead.

And while the Muslim world is united against the United States and the West, the Muslim world is definitely not a united entity.

In fact, the Muslim world is fraught with internal conflict and individual state-by-state worries and woes. The only unification within the Muslim world is Muslim belief in two conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories that rock Muslim societies. Conspiracy theories that Muslim leaders force feed their citizens. Conspiracy theories that deflect Muslim attention from the many, real problems plaguing each individual country and that unite all Muslims, no matter where they may reside, in hatred and fear.

Conspiracy Theory # 1:
The United States is conspiring to destroy all Muslim countries and all Muslims.

Conspiracy Theory # 2:
Israel is a threat to Muslim existence and was created by the Western world to compensate for the guilt that the West felt over the Holocaust.

Muslims are wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The big problem facing the West, however, is not that Westerners hold one set of erroneous beliefs and that Muslims hold to another set of erroneous beliefs. The big problem facing the West, specifically the United States of America, is that the West does not understand Muslim thinking. And because they do not understand Muslim thinking the West, again, specifically the United States cannot predict or anticipate Muslim behaviors or reactions.

Let's look, for example, at the synapse between the United States and Iran. The United States does not understand Iran. Iran, on the other hand, totally understands the United States. Iran understands that the United States does not understand them and that plays directly into Iranian hands.

Iran is playing a two-track game of US VESRSUS THEM. Track # 1 has US, Iran, versus THEM, the rest of the Muslim world. Track # 2 has US, Iran, versus THEM, the United States. And Iran is using the United States to help them win in their game against the rest of the Muslim world.

The main objective, perhaps the sole objective, of Iran is to galvanize the entire Muslim world placing Iran at the center of this new united world. But Iran cannot possibly realize this objective alone. Iran knows that. The reality is that Iran is only of marginal interest to the rest of the Muslim world, far, far away from the Muslim epicenter. In fact, in almost every meeting of the Muslim League the Iranians and their agenda have been sidelined.

For the past millennium Iran has been the pariah of the Muslim world. Iranians are not Arabs and they are despised by the Arabs. Iranians are not Sunnis and they are rejected by the Sunnis. As the only Muslim Shiite regime these Sunnis are seen as heretics.

Iran wants to prove that the Western world is even more anti-Iran than it is anti-Muslim and that, because of the special distinction awarded them by the West, the only chance of Muslim survival is to unite under Iranian leadership. So Iran condemns all Muslim countries attempting to appease the West as traitors to the Muslim cause. Included in the Iranian list are the real leaders of the Muslim world Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Iran believes that one of the best ways to be propelled directly into the epicenter of the Muslim world is to become the target of the United States. That is the reason for all the vitriol, for playing up all the anti-Western and anti-Israel and Holocaust rhetoric. And the United States and the United Nations are, unknowingly, unwittingly, playing right into Iran's hand. Of course, Iranian leadership hates the US and Israel and would love to see an earth void of both countries, but in actuality, annihilating those countries is way down on their actual agenda. Exalting their own country is top of their list.

Other Muslim countries have no interest in Iran's agenda. Muslim countries do, however, approve of using anti-West and anti-Israeli rhetoric. That rhetoric is the backbone of Muslim Conspiracy Theories. And Muslim Conspiracy Theories are the best tools any Muslim country has for side tracking the masses and deflecting anti-government feelings. So Iran needs to move Muslim Conspiracy Theories from the theoretical into the practical.

Will Iran be successful? Will Iran ever become a player in the Muslim world, let alone the key player in the Muslim world? Unlikely. Iran might as well take up the search for Elvis. But what is likely is that the Muslim world will perpetuate the Conspiracy Theories, ratcheting up the vitriol every now and again in response to actions taken by the West.

The Western world is correct to be concerned about Iran. And the United States had better catch on to Iran's game.

Surprise - Hezbullah Is A Terror Organization
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 30, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Every year, the US State Department produces a report on terror worldwide.
Every year, Hezbullah is included in the report.

This year, Hezbullah lashed out at the report saying that it is the United States that practices state-sponsored terror. Excuse me?!

Hezbullah may operate real soup kitchens, real medical clinics and legitimate day care centers, but that does not make them any less a terrorist organization. A professional assassin can be a doting, loving father, but that does not make him any less an assassin.
One of the chief objectives of Hezbullah is to destroy Israel through any means. They target innocent people to achieve their goal.

It does not matter how much good Hezbullah does.
It does not matter what claims Hezbullah makes.
Hezbullah is a terrorist organization.
Make no mistake about it.

Iran is Playing A Game
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 29, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The Iranian nuclear confrontation is reaching a new plateau.
The IAEA came out with its report - no major surprises there but a few worrying terms like "matters of concern."

AP quoted the report, "Iran declined to discuss these matters" and "Iran continues to decline the agency's request" for a copy of the document.

This is neither a scathing condemnation nor a crescendo to military strike.
And Iran knows it.

Iran says the document proves that the IAEA still has jurisdiction over their programs and that, therefore, the issue should not be put before the Security Council. Iran is not surprised by the report or by the threat of sanctions.

The West has yet to catch on to them, but Iran is playing a game.
It is a game of "us versus them."
Iran is acting like a cocky adolescent, all bluster no concerns.
Right now Iran is winning and the West is losing.
The West is playing a different game - the game of intimidation.

Hamas' Double Standard
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 28, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

When it comes to terrorist attacks, Hamas clearly has a double standard.

Attack against innocent Israelis in Tel Aviv - no problem with that.
Attack against innocent Egyptians in Sinai - a "criminal operation that cheapened our region" and "a war against Arab interests."

The Palestinian Crime Minister (yes, Hamas has appointed a Crime Minister) called the attack in Dahab a "crime."
Why is it a crime to blow up a beach resort in Egypt and an "honor" to blow up a bus or a cafe in Israel?
Because for Hamas killing Israelis and Jews is an honor while attacking a corrupt Western-oriented Arab authority is a crime.

The distinction between al Qaeda and Hamas is huge.
Al Qaeda believes in blowing up, in executing, in destroying non-believers.
Al Qaeda believes in toppling non-believing governments through murder.
Hamas wants to convert non-believers.
Hamas wants non-believers to become fervent believers.

That is how Hamas has a double standard.
That is why Hamas is not al Qaeda.

Iran's Nukes
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 27, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

An "interested" intelligence agency has just made the following revelation:
Iran has successfully enriched uranium to a level of 4.1%.
Until this information was released Ahmadinajad had said that Iran’s uranium enrichment level was at 3.5%.

There are different levels of uranium enrichment.
Low level means anything lower than 20%.
Slightly enriched uranium is between 0.9 and 2%
Nuclear energy reactors use uranium enriched between 3% and 5%.
Research reactors use between 12% and 19 %.

Highly enriched uranium is 20% and higher.
Usable for weapons, but not very efficiently, is 20% enriched uranium.
Weapons grade is 85% and higher, typically over 90%.
Nuclear subs use 50%, but the most efficient subs use close to 90% uranium.

Iran is making the transition.
They are almost out of the low level, light water commercial reactor range and into the experimental range. From there it's the submarine and then bomb range.
Iran has a significant way to go, but they are moving ahead efficiently.
Iran's efficiency - that is the real worry.

Israel's New Satellite
By Micah Halpern

April 26, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Israel just launched another satellite, the Eros B.
Israel contracted the Russians and they propelled the Eros B into orbit.

Satellites are used for many reasons but their main function, we all know, is for security and intelligence gathering.
Intelligence is Israel's life blood.
Only through intel can Israelis be truly protected from real threats against their very existence.
Today the main threat to Israel comes from Iran.

Israel cannot rely on anyone else - not for protection and not to provide valid, accurate intel. Even the great United States fails when it comes to gathering real intelligence about Iran. Even according to Congress, US decision makers still do not have a clear understanding of Iran's path or potential.

That leaves Israel on its own collecting satellite and local intel.
Intel that allows Israel to create a series of plans that will repel any threat from Iran. Or from anywhere else.

Palestinian Pariahs
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 25, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Jordan recently convicted nine al Qaeda operatives.

The nine men were planning a prison break.
They were trying to break one of their "colleagues" out of prison.
The prisoner was doing time for planning an al Qaeda terrorist gas attack.

The nine men are all Jordanians of Palestinian descent.
Palestinians in Jordan are not welcome citizens, they are pariahs.
Four men are still at large.

We now know that:
al Qaeda continues to operate in Jordan and their plans are grandiose
the Jordanians are searching and finding these terrorists
these Jordanian/Palestinian/pariahs are actively plotting the destruction of Jordan

The significance of this information is enormous.

By Micah Halpern

Monday April 24, 2006



That is the best way I can describe the situation in the Palestinian Authority with Hamas at the head and with Abbas and the remains of his Fatah party nipping at their heels.

When Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down. Now that Hamas is waging the battle - a battle for the hearts of the Palestinians, for Jericho, and Nablus and the West Bank and of course Gaza, more than walls are about to tumble down.

We are beginning to see cracks in the very thick walls of self-aggrandizement that Hamas erected to boost their image as civilized political leadership. One of the cracks is opening up to reveal a very strong possibility of civil war that will tear through the PA in the next two months. If civil war does erupt, it will begin in that hotbed of constant unrest called Gaza. Gaza, that spot on the map where real power struggle is played out nearly every minute of every day on almost every street corner.

Money. Weapons. Most of all, honor. The power struggle in Gaza is classic, only in this case "weapons" are to be understood in the literal and definitely not in the figurative sense. It is a struggle for the honor of Hamas versus the honor of Fatah. Hamas has taken their campaign to the Gaza streets to convince the masses that the leaders of Fatah are both corrupt and collaborators with Israel. Hamas is saying that Fatah has given up on the fight. They are saying that Fatah followers are defeatists. Fatah needs might, not diplomacy, to prove Hamas wrong. And the fight will go on 'til the last man falls down.

The struggle in Gaza will be the beginning not the end of the power struggle cum civil war in the Palestinian Authority. The streets of other Palestinian cities and villages will be called in to the fray. Honor everywhere must be defended. The end results will be the same. Internicide.

Another peek through the cracks in the Hamas-built wall reveals the Hamas of old. Damn diplomacy. Gone is any facade of political correctness. Hamas, strong and powerful. Hamas the defiant. Hamas the unbending and uncompromising.

Now is the time to make clear demands, Hamas is saying. We will not collapse under international pressure. We will not come to a peace agreement with Israel. We, Hamas, are in charge, not weak Fatah. Peace with Israel, in any form and for any reason, is against all we stand for. And we will not let it happen. To Fatah, those are fighting words.

Following the recent suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terror and said that this action did not help the Palestinian cause. His condemnation was met with real revulsion by Hamas. Khaled Mashal, the political head of Hamas, countered saying that the statement by Abbas was contemptible. Mashal said that Fatah leaders were corrupt crooks and that Fatah security people were hooligans and hoods.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Jamal abu Samhadana, the new director general of the Hamas-led Interior Ministry practically laid out Hamas' plans. He said that the resistance must continue. He said: "We have only one enemy. They are Jews. We have no other enemy. I will continue to carry the rifle and pull the trigger whenever required to defend my people."

Samhadana, incidentally, is wanted by Israel for his involvement in numerous bombings and for organizing the rocket launchings from Gaza. Samhadana is also the mastermind behind the attack that killed two United States consular employees as they traveled by convoy in Gaza on the way to interveiw potential Palestinian Fulbright scholars.

Riots and fighting and lawlessness overwhelm many Palestinian cities right now. Army, militia, street gangs, they are all busy warding each other off. And Fatah, Fatah evolved a platform of concessions, recognizing Israel, Palestinian-style. Fatah cannot possibly allow Hamas to throw their orientation by the wayside. Not if they can help it - but that, once again, is in question.

What should Israel do? Should there be intervention by Western nation? Israel and the West should do nothing. Israel and the West should stand silently by and listen to the sounds of walls cracking. And wait. And watch. Implosion.

The entire Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Fatah, is on the verge of implosion. The only thing stopping this form of destruction is another form of destruction, internicide. One way or another, Palestinians are on the way to killing each other.

And then Israel and the West will pick up the pieces.

EU: It's Either Or
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 23, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The hallowed halls of European diplomacy seem to be cracking under the weight of a double standard.

On Friday the European Union said that aid to the Palestinians has been cut indefinitely. Period. No caveats.

But at the same time the European Union issued a statement urging Israel to pay the Palestinians the taxes which they are holding for them - amounting to somewhere between $30-$40 million a month.

And at the same time the Hamas Foreign Minister, Al Zahar, sets off on a trip to the Persian Gulf where he says he will be meeting with European diplomatic representatives.

It's either or. Europe cannot have it both ways.
Yes Hamas or No Hamas. Make a choice and adhere to it.

Hamas Versus Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 22, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian Authority President Abbas has declared that two decisions made by the Hamas appointed Palestinian Interior Minister - are illegal.

One decision was truly ridiculous.
It was the appointment of a leading Hamas terrorist as director general of the Interior Ministry.

Far be it from me to say that Hamas had a good idea.
But the second decision was actually very important and it was thinking like this that ousted the Fatah and brought Hamas to power in the first place.
The proposal was to create a new, volunteer, civil police patrol to keep order and try to curb the anarchy on the streets of Gaza.

The only way to stop the escalation of terrible violence on Palestinian streets is to activate locals to stand up and say "enough." The situation is way out of control and short of martial law, amassing the masses is the only way to stem the anarchy.

One of the greatest strengths of Hamas is evaluating and answering the needs of the Palestinian people.
One of the greatest weaknesses of Abbas is understanding and meeting the needs of the Palestinian people.

Egypt: The Power in The Middle East
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 21, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Egypt is a country to be reckoned with in the Middle East.
Often, Egypt is an accurate barometer calibrating the mood of the region.

Right now, however Egypt is embarking on two futile attempts to reconcile Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
Right now Egypt's efforts are doomed to fail.

Egypt is trying to get Israel to meet with Abbas.
But Abbas is irrelevant and meeting with him means nothing.
So Israel has nothing to gain - they will not meet.

Egypt is trying to get Hamas to accept the 2002 Arab League Peace Plan that recognizes Israel within the pre-1967 borders.
But Hamas will not accept Israel under any circumstances.
So it does not matter who composed the plan - Arab league or European Union.

Right now, Egypt's agenda is to exert enormous amounts of pressure on Hamas to get them to change.
Over time, the Egyptian plan might even work or maybe even force Hamas out of power.
But not now.

Iran Opens a Car Plant in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 20, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Iran-Khodro is the Iranian equivalent of Ford Motors.
They make a car called the "Samand."

The Iranians just sent out a press release announcing that Iran-Khodro has finished building a plant in Syria and, in a few months, they will move toward their goal of producing 5,000 Samands per year.
Iran also has a plan to expand their Samand regional export to 30,000 annually.

Imagine Volkswagen opening a plant in Mexico, or a Cadillac rolling out in Germany. This is an enormous step by Iran.

Syria benefits tremendously by this arrangement.
Syria is in great need of industry and the Syrian Prime Minister has already ordered that State facilities buy the Samand cars.

Why is Iran building a plant in Syria? Iran is an industrialized country with sophisticated hi-tech and low-tech industry.
Here's why: If Iran can provide much needed inexpensive goods and services to the region then Iran becomes the most important link in the process of raising the regional standard of living.

In this region, a little economic assistance translates into enormous political power.

Egyptian Paper Praises Terror Attack
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 19, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

O.K. so Hamas praises the terror attack in downtown Tel Aviv that took nine lives and wounded over sixty people.
But when an Egyptian newspaper editorial praises the attack we need to seriously evaluate the situation.

All press in Egypt is State run.
There is no independent thinking. There is no freedom of the press. There is no freedom of expression. When a State-run paper runs an editorial the day after the Tel Aviv terror attack saying that the mass murder was an act of "martyrdom" and "an act of sacrifice" red flashing lights go off.

Egypt is supposed to be a friend of Israel. They are supposed to be a friend of the United States and a supporter of the battle against terror.
Why would Egypt condone this brutal inhuman act of mass murder?

Three reasons:
Politically, it is good for internal consumption - they are speaking the mind of the people.
Politically, most Arabs do not believe that murdering an Israeli is actually wrong, they believe it is a justified act of self defense, not the mass murder of innocents.
Politically, Egypt wants to curry favor with Hamas so that they can later make demands on them.

The United States will not be happy. Egypt knows that. Egypt is playing a very dangerous game.

Hamas Can't Spin
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 18, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Hamas called it a "legitimate act of self defense."
Hamas said that "Israel was responsible" for the terrorist bombing in downtown Tel Aviv that murdered 9 people.

These Hamas statements do not surprise me.
But they do damage, real damage, to Hamas' bigger agenda.

Hamas knows that they must not be seen as a terrorist government if they want to receive the financial assistance that the Palestinian Authority so crucially needs.
Hamas knows that many countries have taken a clear stand on financing terror and they will not give to a state that so blatantly embraces terror. Even Saudi Arabia and Qatar will have difficulty justifying their gifts.
Hamas knows that they need to put their best foot forward - but they simply can not, Hamas lacks all social graces.

Hamas will not change, they will dig themselves deeper and deeper into the abyss - financially, politically, diplomatically.

By Micah Halpern

Monday April 17, 2006


Focus on the short term.

Opt for a one year plan.

If I were advising Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Olmert, I would sit across from him in a comfortable easy chair, light up two good cigars, brandy snifters at our side, and say take it slow.

Slow is what Israel needs right now. Slow is what will keep Olmert in position. Slow is what will keep Kadima alive.

Politically-inclined Israelis are not used to doing things slowly. Modern-day Israelis are not a very patient people. They want action. But right now, action is not what Israelis need.

Right now, Israelis need well-thought-out plans. Discussions. National consensus. They need to make decisions that will affect the long term and they need to talk these decisions out.

Only one government in Israel's history has lasted a full four-year term, that was the government of Yitzhak Shamir. Olmert is not about to re-write history. But, if he plays it smart and takes it slow there is a chance that this Kadima government can be the catalyst for unification that the country so desperately needs. If he rushes and lets the party win go to his head, Olmert and Kadima will be doomed to repeat the pattern that so often characterizes Israeli politics. If he rushes, he will succeed at only one thing - perpetuating divisiveness in a country prone to impatience, debate and political squabbling.

The most important part of Kadima's victory and the ascent of Olmert to the prime ministry is the move by Israelis away from the extremes, the move to the center. And that move signifies the maturation of Israeli politics. Israeli voters have come of age. They are making their own political decisions. They are no longer following in the footsteps of the past which was the way Israel's political system operated for so many years, in so many previous elections. The passion of the extreme, right of left, which pervaded Israeli political discourse since the inception of the State has been toned down. With this election, Israeli's have put an end of ideology.

The center is a much less vocal, much less animated, much less energized place to be than the extreme. The center, as Kadima proved in this election, is a very popular place to be - at least with the voting public. If Olmert wants to hold on to this middle he must make it popular with potential Knesset Coalition partners. He must make his government an attractive place to be. The way to succeed is for Olmert to shoot for the short-term coalition.

Ehud, I say, set up a government that is focused on a one year term. Yes, a one year term. If you're polite, you'll call this idea radical. If you're not so polite, you are probably calling it crazy. I'm calling it rational, exciting and an invitation for success.

Make it public. Announce that you are interested in only one year. Explain that what the country needs now is a real national consensus. Make your government a welcoming forum for those parties who would otherwise gain media exposure by rankling you. Make your government the place where would-be opposition parties can join, without compromising their own party principles. Make your government a government that other parties can sell to their constituencies precisely because it is only a short-term commitment. Create a government that pledges to think through, discuss and debate life-defining issues. That is the way to make your mark on Israeli history. That is the way to avoid the fate of Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu. That is the way to insure that, one year from now you-by then a proven leader in your own right - you will be re-elected.

If, during the coming year, Olmert can orchestrate a national discussion on the issue of security a national consensus will clearly emerge. If Olmert stays the course of the center, Kadima will maintain its overwhelming majority. If Olmert knows what the people of Israel want, especially when it comes to the issues of further redeployment and the relocation of Israelis, then the one-year term idea will have paid off handsomely - for Olmert, for Kadima, for the people of Israel.

Any party wanting to be part of the debate should be welcome. Most parties, with the obvious exception of the Arab parties and the far-right still-extremist parties, will want to join. At the end of the one year, each party and each party leader - not only Olmert and Kadima - will be able to take stock of their status and the perspectives of their constituencies. At that point parties will once again split-off or join the next term government. At that point they will be making decisions informed by national consensus.

If, however, Olmert runs to action and redeploys quickly, thinking that his plurality equals majority backing, he will be making a fatal mistake. He will be ousted in the first year. The framing of the debate will not be about the future of Israel but about the elimination of Olmert. One of the lessons taught by Olmert's mentor, Ariel Sharon, is that national discussion is more important than political jargon and political leadership.

Right now, national debate is enormously important for Israel. Israelis are willing and, more importantly, able to make the sacrifices for a safer and a better Israel. All they need is the proper plan, the plan that will convince them that Israel and the lives of their families, now and tomorrow, will truly be safer. To deny Israelis a national debate is to deny Israelis a safer Israel

Ehud, Mr. Prime Minister, I have some great brandy. I trust your taste in cigars.

Every Inch
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 16, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Marwan Barghouti, the convicted leader of Fatah, now sits in an Israeli jail.
Even from jail, when Barghouti has something to say - pay attention.
In an interview with the Palestinian newspaper al Ayam, Barghouti said that when Israel withdraws from the West Bank it will further "the occupation."

The Western mind needs to understand Barghouti Logic.
How will Israel further the occupation by leaving - Israel will be getting out, not staying?
It furthers the occupation because Barghouti wants it all - every centimeter of the pre '67 border, Jerusalem and every settler bloc, he wants it just the way it was 40 years ago.

So, according to Barghouti Logic, he is correct. When and if Israel does unilaterally pull out of certain areas of the West Bank it will be to secure a permanent presence in other places, like Jerusalem, and to create other big settlement blocks.

Rumors are that Barghouti may be part of a prisoner swap - with convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, now sitting in an American prison.
Keep watch as the situation worsens in the Palestinian Authority over the next few months.

China and Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 15, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

China is the best fulcrum to apply pressure on Iran. That is clear.

And recently, China's Ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, held a press conference about Iran's nuclear development program.
People "in the know" had their ears piqued.

China said that Iran's nuclear behavior "is not in line with what is required of them by the international community."
This is an enormously significant statement.

China is a permanent member of the Security Council.
China is the only country that can be an honest broker with Iran because they are seen as a country that does answer to the United States on these issues.

Iran needs China.
Iran wants China to continue to be one of their largest oil clients.
So when China talks - Iran listens.
At least, we hope they do.

Bring Hamas to Their Knees
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 14, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's economic/diplomatic war against Hamas is waging strong.
The Israeli Prime Minister opened his cabinet meeting this week by declaring that the purpose of the boycott against Hamas was to "bring them to their knees."

He means what he said.
The new world plan for the new Palestinian government is to force the government aka Hamas:
to change policy about Israel
to change policy about terror and violence
to make certain that they accept agreements accepted by the previous government

Hamas will respond in the way they do best.
They will blame it all on Israel and then they will blame it on America.
Hamas has never yet accepted or assumed responsibility for their own actions.
So the Palestinian people continue to suffer and Hamas continues to blame Israel.
The cycle does not end.

Even The UN Understands
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 13, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Even the United Nations is beginning to understand the danger of Hamas.
Finally. (except UNWRA of course)

On Tuesday the UN directed its people on the ground in Gaza and elsewhere in the Palestinian Authority not to speak with any Palestinian leaders - including government ministers. They may only speak to technocrats and they may have contact with personnel who actually run the food programs.

Why the change in the UN?
Because this new Hamas government is not even pretending to acknowledge the principles of cooperation and mutual respect that underscore the foundation of the United Nations.
Because the UN now sees Hamas for what it is, a terror organization cum political party.

So now the UN must treat Hamas as a pariah.
So the UN will continue to provide humanitarian assistance, but will not aid Hamas politicians.
Well done.

Hamas is Not Mohamed
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 12, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Six members of the new Palestinian Parliament are in Iran right now.

They are trying to get Iran and then the entire Muslim world all fired up about negative world reaction to Hamas and the resulting plight of the Palestinians.
They want the same Muslim energy expended on the Palestinians as was expended on the war against the caricatures of Mohamed.

It's not going to happen.
It won't happen because Iran promises big but delivers little for the Palestinians.
It won't happen because, quite frankly, Hamas is not Mohamed.

But they will settle for less.
They want Iran to pick up the slack economically where the West has stopped. They want to ask other Muslim countries to help economically.
They want to activate Muslim countries to start a series of protests on their behalf.

If Hamas can shape the entire package as an anti-West campaign, if they can present the West as out to destroy Islam, the mission to Iran may have some success.
But I doubt they can do it.
In the end, expect no more than a protest or two on Hamas' behalf.

The Music Returns to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 11, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Israel is returning to normalcy, or as they call it, status quo.
Life is not just getting back-to-normal, it is even better than it once was - at least when it comes to culture, music, youth.

Look at the musical tours scheduled to hit Israel over the summer.
Black Eyed Peas and Ziggy Marley both announced yesterday that they will be performing in Israel this summer.
Black Eyed Peas on June 3rd .
Ziggy Marley on July 27th & 28th.

For those not in the know - this is huge.
Black Eyed Peas is the hottest, Emmy winning, Hip Hop cross-genre group.
Ziggy IS reggae, bigger than his father Bob Marley the founder of reggae ever was.

Why is this even important? It demonstrates that world class entertainers believe that Israel has returned to normalcy. It means that the long hot days and nights of the Israeli summer will be filled, once again, not with fear and tragedy but with laughter, culture and great music.

That's the real Israel, great culture, great life, great creativity, and savoir faire. Israel is about life and not about death.
Book early, seats fill up quickly.

By Micah Halpern

Monday April 10, 2006


Israel has decided to torque up the pressure on Hamas.

Israel is suspending all interaction with the Palestinian Authority. Israel will boycott any country or individual entering into discussion with Hamas.

Israel has had enough of nothing.

Israel is not abandoning the Palestinian people, Israel is abandoning the Palestinian government. There will be one exception to the "no contact" decree. That exception is humanitarian aid. Humanitarian aid will be delivered directly by Israel to those agencies that distribute the aid to the people. As far as Israeli interaction with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is concerned, Israel is saying that all options will be kept open.

Israel is taking a risk.

Both in the short and long term, Israel wants to get rid of Hamas, to oust Hamas from political power. Israel will never completely eliminate the terrorist force of Hamas, Israel just wants Hamas out of the government. By enforcing a boycott against the Palestinian Authority the hope is that the Palestinian people will be fed up, rise up and oust the government themselves. But then what? Abbas is not a shining ray of light in the darkness. And it is not obvious to me that this tactic will work.

Israel knows one thing for sure, and with that I agree. Israel decided on this policy because they have come to the understanding that the Palestinian Authority is not a multi-headed animal but rather a single-headed beast. Hamas is the beast and Hamas is in control, not Abbas.

No other Western country understands the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel. No other country shares this new perspective with Israel, at least, not yet. Just as Israel is trying to influence the people of the Palestinian Authority to move for change, Israel is trying to influence world powers to change attitudes and behaviors towards the Hamas-led government.

The logic goes this way:
Abbas may have the right intensions but he holds no real power and commands no respect from the Palestinian people.

Hamas has control of the Legislature and that puts them in control of nearly every aspect of Palestinian political life.

Despite Abbas's best attempts to retain power he is virtually powerless to effect change or even to alter public opinion. His attempt to cede power from the Legislature is hapless and hopeless. His position has become almost exclusively ceremonial.

The Palestinian Authority is not the same as it was under Arafat. When Yasser Arafat deigned to accept the title of President of the Palestinian Authority he maintained all the power and panache that he had before assuming the title. It was Arafat's way. The power of his personality eliminated any possible threat to his position and leadership. The reason the United States insisted that there be a Palestinian prime minister was because the US thought it was the way to create a system of power sharing between the president and the prime minister. The US thought it would act like a check and balance system. The US was making an attempt to liberalize a dictatorship

Things don't always work out as planned in the Palestinian Authority. Israel is paying the price. The Palestinian people are paying the price.

Empowering the legislature and the prime minister widens the responsibilities of government sharing. Wresting control away from the legislature and the prime minister and passing it back totally to the presidency is a serious mistake. Trying to return power to the office of the president simply because Israel does not like the parliament and the prime minister is a huge problem. Politics is not ping pong.

The reality goes this way:
The Hamas government must be either reformed or removed. Israel knows that, so does the United States and most of Europe.

The Hamas government being what it is means there is very little chance of reform. The only option is removal.

Removing Hamas from power is a delicate and dangerous move. If Hamas feels too threatened, they will likely take total control of the entire government - eliminating the little democracy that actually exists.

That would be a coup for Hamas and a very ugly end game for the Western world. That would be serving up Hamas' greatest wish on a silver platter.

That's why boycotting is better. Even if I am doubtful that it will work.

Kudos to Norway
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 9, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Even Norway has frozen aid to the new-Hamas led Palestinian government.
Even Norway.

Norway is one of the most passive countries in the world. It is a country that rarely takes a stand on any of the many issues confronting the world. What makes it all the more surprising is that on this particular issue, one that might put them at odds with the entire Muslim world, Norway is being bold and pro-active.

Norway bought into Israel's argument against Hamas.
And do you know why? Because Israel is correct.
Because Hamas has not moved one iota, one centimeter, one stitch from their stance on terror, on recognizing Israel or on honoring previous Palestinian Authority agreements.

Norway wants two states. Israel wants two states. Most of Europe wants two states.
Hamas wants one state.
Kudos to Norway.

Don't Mess With Congress
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 8, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Congress controls the purse strings.
The world knows that and nobody wants to tick off the United States Congress.
Well, the Palestinians have ticked off Congress.

Congress passed a law forbidding the allocation of any funds to the Palestinian Authority unless it can be proved that the funds do not go towards sponsoring terror. But Congress also allowed for $400 million to go to the Palestinians for humanitarian aid.

But now things are different. Hamas was elected on January 25 and did nothing to alter their terrorist image. They were sworn in last week and still, Hamas is a terrorist organization. If Hamas is a terrorist organization, and if Hamas is the ruling government in the Palestinian Authority, then de facto, any money given to the PA is money given to sponsor terror or terrorist organizations.
As of yesterday Congress is suspending all but $100 million in indirect aid.

$300, 000,000 gone. The money was for infrastructure, information and technology, local governmental, judicial, communal and electoral needs and vocational training. The remaining $100,000,000 will be very carefully doled out and even that money may be pulled at any time.

The financial squeeze on Hamas just might have an impact.
We are starting to see some cracks in their once impenetrable wall.

Hamas vs Fatah
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 7, 2006

I'm Predicting:

Tension is high in the ranks of Palestinian leadership.
Who will control the security forces - police, civil defense and preventive security?
That is the big question.

Mahmoud Abbas, president and leader of the PLO, just appointed his loyal ally Rashid Abu Shbak, as head of security forces.
Ismail Haniyeh, the new Hamas prime minister, says he is going appoint Hamas people to head the security forces.

Abbas is isolated. He has very little power but is issuing presidential laws and acting on them. He wants to create a counter balance to the Hamas-led parliament which falls under the jurisdiction of Haniyeh.

Does Abbas have a chance at succeeding? He has a small and viable chance. Members of the security forces hold allegiance to Abbas and Fatah and would have difficulty following Hamas orders. If Hamas attempts to use force in order to take over, all three security forces may strike back.

Expect violence and gun fights on Palestinian streets as this is worked out.
It is the stronger man, not the better man, who will emerge triumphant.

Saudis Still Boycott Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 6, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

Congress does not often pass a unanimous bill. It did yesterday.
The bill urged President Bush to demand that Saudi Arabia live up to its commitment and drop the boycott against Israel.

Dropping the boycott against Israel was a condition the United States made before supporting the move enabling Saudi Arabia to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Members of the WTO are supposed to provide each other preferred treatment in trade and culture.
Israel and Saudi Arabia are both members of the WTO.

The US reminded the Saudis of their commitment six months ago.
In response, the House of Saud hosted a meeting of the parties who police and enforce the boycott.

The White House is ignoring the breached agreement.
Saudi Arabia is ignoring their commitment.

This is unacceptable - blame goes to both sides.

Saudi Prisoner in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 5, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

This is real:
Israel is holding a Saudi prisoner named Abdul Rahmna al Eiteiwi in Ramla prison.
Al Eiteiwi was caught crossing into Israel from Jordan in 2005 en route to perpetrate a terror attack.
Saudi Arabia wants him back.
They are petitioning the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and the United Nations.
Al Eiteiwi is on a hunger strike.
Two weeks ago a committee of ethicists in the Israeli Prison Authority determined that the prisoner should be moved to the infirmary and force-fed.

This is surreal:
Saudi Arabia is urging Hamas to warm their stance toward Israel, but the Saudis themselves will not even talk to Israel to get their citizen out.
Israel says that al Eiteiwa is seeking asylum in Israel, but in reality he is an enormous intelligence asset for Israel.
If the deal goes through and the Saudi is returned home, the deal brokers will want something in return from Saudi Arabia.
So will Israel, that's the way this type of back channel diplomacy works.

It's happening in the Middle East, but it's made for Hollywood.

US Bank Boycott
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 4, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

The United States and the West watched Hamas swear in its government.
Now what?

The US has suspended official relations with the Palestinian Authority.
But the US will still conduct discussions with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
And the US is still trying to pressure Hamas and the Palestinians to accept Israel and reject violence.

The United States has a new still undisclosed plan.
This time, the plan might just work.
Bank Boycotts.
The United States has a plan to boycott and sanction banks that hold Palestinian money.

Arab banks have just gotten wind of the plan. Their preemptive response is to convince the Palestinians to bank elsewhere out of fear of being hit by US sanctions.

Banks and markets are very sensitive to reputations and to threats.
If the US has the guts to really go ahead and implement this plan they may accomplish far more than they would by cutting off aid to the Hamas-led government.

By Micah Halpern

Monday April 3, 2006


Today, everyday life in Gaza is akin to the goings-on in Sudan and the Ivory Coast. Gone are the good-old-days, the days when I was able to compare Gaza to the wild, Wild West.

Roving armed gangs roam through and control Gaza.
Moving from place to place requires paying tolls and passing through check points.
The tolls and check points are controlled by children (yes, children) toting machine guns.
Starting up a business is difficult to impossible, extortion is the rule and the cost of protection is sky high.
Kids with guns have more power than educated members of society.
Status is determined by the number of soldiers under your control and the quality of their weapons.

I am disappointed that anarchy now rules Gaza, but I am certainly not surprised. Palestinians are shooting at one another all over the Palestinian Authority. In Gaza they are killing each other off.

The Popular Resistance Committees is one of the stronger and better-armed groups living in and ruling Gaza. The organization was, originally, an offshoot of Fatah security forces. But in the January 25th elections they became a vocal supporter of Hamas and Hamas policies. Today the Popular Resistance Committees affiliates much more with Hamas than with Fatah and is in total sync with the Hamas approach to Israel.

A very powerful family from the southern part of Gaza controls the Popular Resistance Committees. The family is known as the Samahdneh Clan. They are responsible for many of the kassam rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. The head of the Committee has been on Israel's "target hit list" for a very long time.

Last week the head of the Committee was murdered. His white Subaru was blown up on Friday morning as he and an associate were traveling along a Gaza road. His name was Abu Quka.

Who killed Abu Quka?

Israel had no comment on the explosion. There was a time when Israel refused to acknowledge any attacks against Palestinians. Then that policy changed. Today official Israeli policy is to claim credit/responsibility for all attacks against Palestinian targets - be they people or places or military installations. When Israel did not claim responsibility the Popular Resistance Committees members were forced to look closer at the murder and investigate whether it really was an Israeli attack or a local attack. They concluded that it was a local attack, or at least, an attack carried out with local support.

That explains why the funeral of Abu Quka, terrorist leader and Gaza gang lord, turned into a shootout.

At the funeral, members of the Popular Resistance Committees accused Palestinian Authority security forces of the murder. They had good reason. On Thursday, just the day before his car exploded, members of the Security Forces were seen spying on Abu Quka's home. The final claim was that the Palestinian Authority colluded with Israel in the assassination.

At the funeral, four people were killed and twenty-five, including two children, were wounded. One of the children is in serious condition. Most of the injured were hurt by the stray bullets that were being fired in all directions.

Palestinian Hamas leadership has called for an investigation into the explosion that killed Abu Quka. The government is also looking into the funeral melee which is a bit surprising since this is, after all, Gaza. But this time - officially the Hamas government can no longer let lords and punks set the rules and become the enforcers in Gaza. It is time for the Hamas government, at least officially, to step in and take control.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has pleaded for calm and instructed Interior Minister Saed Seyam to conduct an investigation. Palestinian Authority Information Minister Yousef Rizka formed a committee to look into the whole affair. He has said that the government has pledged "to remove all weapons from the street."

But the problem is larger than a single assassination or a one-time fight-it-out funeral.

The problem is that Palestinian groups need their guns to protect themselves and their families from one another. The problem is that it is through their guns that Palestinians get respect. The problem is that the problem has been going on for too long and that Hamas cannot just remove all weapons from "the street."

The problem is not the people, but Hamas. Hamas will not give up their own weapons and they will certainly not be able to enforce a demand that others turn in their weapons.

The problem will only escalate and Hamas will be weakened. The Hamas-led Palestinian government is facing a substantial decrease in international aid and a substantial increase in international pressure. The armed thugs will not receive salaries, but they will get their bullets. The armed gangs will not go away, they will use their weapons to assert power, to control others and to extort money from innocents with less power.

I predict more internal violence in Gaza and much more killing. Gaza is a long term problem. Gaza is the place where Palestinians killing Palestinians is the norm.

Iran's New Missile
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 2, 2006

I've Been Thinking:

On Friday the Iranians tested a new rocket the Fajr-3.
Fajr means "victory" in Farsi Persian.

This rocket is said to be extremely special.
First, similar to a Russian missile, it is supposed to be undetected by radar. Second, it has multiple warheads and can hit several different targets.

If all this is true then, once again, Iran is proving how advanced they are in weapon development.

There is another possibility.
The Fajr-3 may not be an Iranian-developed missile at all, but a Russian weapon that Iran test fired.
If so, that means the Iranians have several sophisticated rockets but they cannot produce an unlimited supply of them.
A small consolation.

Either way, the nuclear issue is just one of the many activities taking place in Iran that we must carefully watch.

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