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Iran's Supreme Leader Rules
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 1, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Supreme Leader in Iran is the Ayatollah Khamenei.
Ahmadinejad is simply a puppet, remember that always.

Ahmadinejad has assumed a belligerent stance against the West and against the United States regarding his country's nuclear program.
But now we are hearing other - and different voices.

Ali Larijani, chief nuclear negotiator for Iran, is assuming a more conciliatory stance.
Last week even the Supreme Leader made comments indicating that he is expecting that the entire nuke situation "will be resolved peacefully."
And Iranian reformers and arch conservatives have begun to question Ahmadinejad's position and the significant blow he received in the local elections.

The truth is these popular voices and even Ahmadinejad's voice do not matter.
In Iran only the views of the Council count, particularly the views of the Supreme Leader.
Nothing else matters at all.



THE VOICES OF NON-EXTREMIST ISLAM
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 28, 2007

Column:

I strongly believe that the only voices capable of challenging extremist Islam are the voices of non-extremist Islam.

I strongly believe that the only pressure extremist Islam will succumb to is pressure exerted by non-extremist Islam.

I strongly believe that the-non Muslim world must step back and gently encourage non-extremist Islam to stand up to their extremist Islamic brothers.

The overwhelming majority of the Muslim world is not extremist -neither is it moderate, it is mainstream, mainstream Islam. Until now, in modern history, mainstream Islam has remained a very silent majority. By virtue of their silence and inaction the majority Muslim world has allowed the extremist world to hijack Islam.

But now, stealthily, slowly, mainstream Islam and mainstream leaders within the Arab world are beginning to speak up, to stand up, to take a stance against extremist politics, rhetoric and actions. We are starting to see important, indigenous movement against Islamic extremists. We are witness to the first steps towards the redemption of Islam.

What do I mean? Here are several examples:

EGYPT recently convicted and sentenced a simple soldier to six months in prison for refusing to take up his post as a guard outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo. The incident has now been made public, covered in the Egyptian press.

At another time this request would have gone unchallenged. This time the guard was publicly charged and held up as an example. It is a significant step for Egypt, a country that as recently as a year and a half ago aired a multi-part modern Egyptian made-for-TV movie of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and aired one segment while United States President George Bush was in Egypt at a Summit.

More significant than the fact that the soldier was imprisoned is that the Egyptian press has now published the story. The press in Egypt is government controlled. Nothing makes it into the Egyptian press unless it fits into the larger political philosophical gestalt of the government.

In printing this story the government of Egypt is signaling the citizens of Egypt, alerting them to a new reality. Israel is an ally, not an enemy. Egypt is a member of the greater international community, Egypt is adapting to the attitudes of that international community, the government of Egypt is striving to better the future of Egypt's citizens. And - Egypt is not afraid to make a public statement and take a public stance contrary to the basic belief system of extremist Islam.

MUSLIM FOREIGN MINISTERS convened a meeting in Pakistan. Two foreign ministers were glaringly off the list of invitees. The foreign minister of Iran and the foreign minister of Syria were dissed, specifically not invited to meet with their colleagues.

At the meeting the attending foreign ministers clearly articulated a new political stance. They demanded that the Hamas-led Palestinian government honor international demands regarding Israel. They demanded that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist, that they fight terror and that they respect previous treaties with Israel. This meeting of Muslim foreign ministers was a precursor to the upcoming meeting of the Organization of Muslim Countries. The foreign ministers of non-extremist Islamic nations showed that they were not afraid to make a public statement and take a public stance contrary to the basic belief system of extremist Islam.

THE ARAB QUARTET is emerging and it is a strong and unified voice and active player in the Islamic world. Egypt, Saudi Arabia Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are the four most significant Arab players in the Middle East. This new Arab Quartet has announced that the Palestinians must recognize Israel, that recognition of Israel is crucial to future stability in the region.

This is one of the first times in modern Middle East history that major Muslim and Arab leadership has publicly, in the international arena, sided against other Arabs and other Muslims. This is one of the first times that major Muslim and Arab leadership has sided with the West, with the United States and with Israel, over other Arabs and Muslims.

Arab Quartet leadership has no fear of being labeled collaborators, of being called anti-Muslim or anti Arab. They know that they are doing the right thing. The challenge before these leaders now is to convince their respective masses to think and act the right way. They need to convince their masses to accept Israel's right to exist not because the United States and the West demand them to do so but because Israel is a fact on the ground and that fact must be dealt with in a serious, realistic, forward-thinking way. They need to convince their masses that it is okay to disagree with extremist Islam.

It is ironic that while neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates have official relations with Israel they are imploring Hamas to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. These are leaders who are not afraid to make a public statement and to take a public stance contrary to the basic belief system of extremist Islam.

KING ABDULLAH OF JORDAN was just interviewed on Israeli news, on Israel's Channel 2. In an interview intended for the Israeli public the King of Jordan spoke about how important it is for Hamas to accept the terms of the international community. The King of Jordan was not afraid to make a public statement and take a public stance contrary to the basic belief system of extremist Islam.

What does all this mean? What can be learned from these examples?

It means that finally, mainstream leaders of non-extremist Islamic countries are acknowledging the double standard under which the Arab world has been functioning. Pay respect to the Western world in order to obtain economic aid, disregard the West on issues of world politics.

Let us not be fooled. These leaders are standing up not for a philosophical, democratic reason. They are standing up for a practical, self-serving, self-motivated reason. But they are standing up and they are speaking out. These leaders know that their society is a risk from within by homegrown extremists. They know that their countries gain strength and courage from extremists across the Arab and Muslim world. They know that the influences of extremist Islam will eat them up alive - personally and culturally. They know that the time has come to put extremist Islam down.

And they are not afraid.



Egypt and Her Nukes
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 27, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

For the past few months Egypt has been advancing a plan to go nuclear.
Now Egypt has now decided to drop the plan.

Why the change?
First, because the United States has brought an enormous amount of pressure on Egypt not to go nuclear.
Second, because the cost of starting a nuclear program is significantly greater than Egypt had anticipated.

This is very good news for the West, it means that Egypt will be very upset when Iran becomes nuclear ready.
Speaking of Iran, the Arab League recently passed a resolution underscoring that all of members have the right to develop nuclear energy.

So what is Egypt to do?
Now Egypt will improve their old, small, experimental nuclear reactor.
Now Egypt will pro-actively step forward to help stop Iran from becoming a nuclear powerhouse.



Iran Understands
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 26, 2007

I'm Predicting:

Iran has a far better understanding of the United States and of the West than the United States and the West have of Iran.
I have been saying this for over a year. Here is another example.

Referring to the blustering of the US Vice President and other sources in the administration about US plans and options regarding Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki recently said:
"We do not see America in a position to impose another crisis on its taxpayers inside America by starting another war in the region."

The Iranian foreign minister is flat out saying that internal issues and politics within the United States will dictate the foreign policy of the lame duck president.
Now he may very well be right.

The United States will probably not invade Iran.
However, the foreign minister is totally misreading the situation if he thinks that the US will not launch air attacks striking strategic targets in Iran.
The US will attack targets near the Iraqi border used to aid Iraqi terror groups and/or nuclear sites that are close to the point of no return in building Iran's bomb.



Jordan Says: Tow The Line
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 25, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The King of Jordan was interviewed on Israel's news station Channel 2.
His comments were forthright, analytical and surprising.

"There's international common ground - not just Western but also Arab and to an extent Muslim - that believe that there have to be certain criteria that the new government has to accept if we're going to move the process forward."

"You have a president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is your negotiator, who ... is prepared to be able to move the peace process forward, and a government that's going to be formed that will have to adhere to the Quartet conditions."

He said that the Arab Quartet - Jordan, Egpyt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates - all agree that the Palestinians must accept the Quartet's three guidelines: accept Israel, firght terror and accept preexisting conditions.

Abdullah King of Jordan, a legitimate, recognized and respected leader within the Arab world is siding with the West over another Arab country.
That doesn't happen very often.

If only ... if only a respected Arab leader would stand up and be this critical of Iran.



China Speaks-Iran Listens
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 24, 2007

I'm Predicting:

Xinhu, the official Chinese news agency, reported on Friday that Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing has placed a call to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Motteki.

The report emphasized that China wants to resolve the nuclear issue "peacefully."

For over a year I have been hammering away on just this issue.
The solution to Iran is China. The solution to Iran is China. The solution...
And now I am glad to say that it appears as if China is moving on this issue.

Iran respects China. Iran needs China in the international community.
Iran needs to maintain good relations with China, their biggest energy customer.
China is the only real political power that can check the United States.
China does not ask how high when the US says jump.

China is beginning to let Iran know that they do not want a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
China does not want the price of energy to spiral up.
When China makes a suggestion, Iran pays attention.



Rapes in Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 23, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Horrible accusations of rape are flying around Iraq, fanning the flames of an already explosive environment.

Iraq's Shiite-dominated police have been accused of perpetrating several rapes, including the rape of a 50 year old women and her two daughters.
The Sunni population is in an uproar.
Sources say that hundreds of Sunnis have volunteered as suicide bombers expressly to wreak havoc and revenge on the Shiites.

The hatred between the Shiites and Sunnis of Iraq continues to escalate.
Unless and until this visceral hatred is curbed the chance of establishing a central government is minimal.
Unless and until this visceral hatred is curbed Iraq will never be transformed into a state that respects law and maintains order.



Hamas Breaks Ceasefire
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 22, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

An official statement made by Hamas spokesman Abu Obaida said that "the truce with the Israeli occupation is no longer valid."
Hamas has, officially, called off their ceasefire against Israel.

The question begs asking? Did Hamas ever really enforce their ceasefire against Israel?
Well, for the most part, Hamas has reigned in terror - and the horrific act of terror which took place on June 25th when a Hamas attack force struck an Israeli tank, killed 2 soldiers, wounded a 3rd and kidnapped the 4th, Gilad Shalit, who is still in the hands of Hamas and whom they refuse to release has not been repeated.
But in the true sense, it has never really been a ceasefire.

Hamas is sworn to the destruction of Israel and the cessation of fire they had with Israel was really a Hudna.
The literal English translation of Hudna is ceasefire, but Hudna is more a concept than a word.
A Hudna allows for a Muslim to enter into a truce with his arch enemy in order to regroup, rearm and rebuild. The truce may be broken when it meets the needs of the Muslim. It can last for a maximum period of 10 years.

This ceasefire/Hudna didn't make it very long.



Fireworks Btw Abass and Olmert
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 21, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The tri-party summit between Rice, Olmert and Abbas was much more exciting than we were led to believe.
Fireworks were sparking behind those closed doors.

Olmert to Abbas: "you cheated me" by coming into a unity government with Hamas that does not recognize Israel.
Abbas to Olmert: "you gave me nothing and didn't keep your word."
It was 45 minutes of yelling.

The polarization between the parties is dramatic, but when all was said and done, both sides agreed to keep the channels of communication open.
Their office spokespeople and aides have already continued the dialogue.

The United States and Israel are coming to grips with a new reality.
Abbas shattered any sense of trust by signing the Mecca Accord.
Abbas attempted to make Hamas more acceptable and his plan backfired.
Abbas is tarnished and he sits in a government that is antithetical to his promises to the US.

Sometimes the best laid plans go completely awry.



THE CHALLENGE OVER HISTORY
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 20, 2007

Column:

Who owns history?

The day that question is resolved is the day that - one way or another - the red hot tensions between Islam and Israel will be resolved.

If you own the history, you own the land.

If you own the land, you have rights over the property.

If you have rights over the property, you get to make the rules.

And right now the land in debate is the Temple Mount. And right now both Muslims and Jews claim the history. And ownership is fundamental.

The most striking difference between the arguments set forth by the Jews/Israelis and the Muslims/Palestinians is that, from the very outset, Jews have never denied that Muslims have history atop the Temple Mount. They certainly do have history, say the Jews, but our history pre-dates Muslim history. The Muslim's, at this stage in the argument, have adopted the stance that Jewish history does not exist, that Jewish history on the Temple Mount is a fiction. Period, end.

That is dangerous. It is also silly.

Sheik Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, is the most virulent public advocate of the Jews-have-no-history theory. The Sheikh asserts that Jews have no connection to either the Wall or to the mountain above the Wall. The Palestinian Sheik is not the only person espousing these ideas. We hear it coming from Iran and from Muslim clerics scattered around the world and even in the United Kingdom.

How could anyone rationally theorize away the Jewish presence in Jerusalem? Anyone, least of all a Muslim? Muslim history itself is replete with stories of Jewish Jerusalem. The answer is simple - there is nothing rational about this debate over the Temple Mount, it is all raw Muslim emotion.

A quick, cursory look at the Koran immediately refutes the Muslim argument. Islam recognizes that Abraham had two sons. From one son, named Ishmael, came forth the nation of Islam. From the other son, named Isaac, came forth the Jewish nation. The Koran goes on to describe the Temple of Solomon never disputing or refuting the truth of Solomon's lineage - Solomon, King of the Jews. And further, the Temple of Herod which is the expanded version of the Second Temple is mentioned as part of Islamic tradition. Within ancient Islamic history it is clear that the building atop the mountain was where the Temple once stood.

It is the modernists who are having a problem. It is several prominent and outspoken modern Muslim leaders who want to rip out the roots not just of Jewish history, but more significantly and more appallingly, of their own Muslim history. A history that clearly documents Islam as an outgrowth of Judaism.

Salah says that anyone "who says that the Jews or the Israeli establishment has any right to al Aqsa, even to just one stone-this is an abominable attack, a falsehood, completely baseless." Salah says that any person, "Palestinians, Arabs or Muslims who accept this, is a traitor to Allah and his Prophet."

Sheik Raed Salah has chosen his words carefully. Calling another Muslim a traitor is one of the worst curses a leader can invoke in his sermons.

So where does the Western Wall come from? Salah has an interesting answer. He says that the Western Wall "is part of the western tower of Al Aqsa, which the Israeli establishment fallaciously and sneakily calls the Wailing Wall." One part of his statement is definitely correct. Fallaciously. Salah's interpretation, his fabrication, his rationalization, his historic grasp of ancient architecture, is totally fallacious.

There was no western tower of the al Aqsa Mosque. And even if there were, the Western Wall would have had nothing to do with it. Most telling, however, is Salah's inclusion of the words "the Wailing Wall." Israelis have never referred to the Western Wall as the Wailing Wall, to them it is either the full name Western Wall or, simply, the Wall, the Kotel in Hebrew.

Israelis and Jews worldwide reject the notion of a "wailing wall." The concept of a wailing wall is a Christian - not a Jewish - notion and it is a very fatalistic look at a holy site in Judaism. Referencing the Wall as wailing would infer that Jews would gather at the site to bemoan the atrocities that had befallen them, to cry over their history, to hang their collective heads over the destruction of the Temple at the only remnant of the Temple. The truth is completely to the contrary. The Jewish historical conscience regards the second temple period as a pinnacle of Jewish history and the Wall as a symbol of Israel's return to great historical grandeur.

Rewriting history is very dangerous. And deracinating the Jews from Jerusalem is part of a larger more nefarious plan.

If Jewish history is eliminated, the Jewish claim to Jerusalem is irrelevant.

If the Jews have no history and the Jews have no claim, they have made no contribution.

If the Jews have no history, no claim, no contribution, then they have played no role.

If the Jews have no history, no claim, have made no contribution and have played no role, they can be eliminated.

The current conflagration in the tensions between Israel and her neighbors is about more than ownership of the Temple Mount. It is a challenge over history. It is a struggle of life over death.



Syria & Iran Again
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 19, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Iran just hosted a perfect guest. Bashar Assad of Syria made his 2nd trip to Iran since Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005. Last month Ahmadinejad visited Syria.

It is a short helicopter ride between countries and the two have much to discuss. Most importantly they need to figure out how to galvanize the rest of the Muslim world and how to move other Muslim countries into Iran & Syria's corner.

Right now a war is being waged for the hearts of Muslims across the globe.
On the one side are Iran and Syria working hard to create a situation where it is US VERSUS THEM, creating the impression that the United States is pitted against the entire Muslim world.

On the other side are the countries that totally reject Iran's role as a central leader in the Muslim world, not only the United States and allies but also Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Jordan and Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Syria needs Iran and Iran needs Syria.
And we need to isolate them both.



Presidential Candidates
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 18, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Two questions have been asked of me over and over as I travel the country speaking to groups and consulting with business leaders about the issues of terror and security:
Question # 1: Which candidate will best solve the problems of the Middle East
Question # 2: Which candidate is best for Israel

Answer # 1: I have not yet heard a clearly articulated policy about the Middle East from any potential candidate. When it comes to Iraq and Iran the would-be candidates have been taking an I-think- this-is-what-the people-want-to-hear stance, rather than a cold, calculated look at the entire Middle East picture.
The concept of "the law of foreseeable consequences" should not exist when talking about America's role in the Middle East, candidates should know and weigh all policy possibilities and all ramifications not just those that are easy to spin and to sell.

Answer # 2: No candidate, no matter which party, can run for president in 2008 without being pro-Israel.

The questions will continue. The answers will come.



Nasrallah Is Angry
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 17, 2007

I'm Predicting:

Hezbollah's Sheik Nasrallah is still angry with Lebanon.
This week he has taken that hostility and raised it a notch.

To recap:
Last week the Lebanese army confiscated a cache of weapons belonging to Hezbollah and Nasrallah immediately demanded that his weapons be returned.
The weapons have still not been returned.
From the time the weapons were sized until today skirmishes have left 8 Lebanese dead.

Both the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni, and Nasrallah, a Shiite, have said that their red line is civil war.
Events on the ground show that they are out to defeat each other using intimidation and military threats and force - stopping just short of civil war.

This is a first.
This is the first time that the Lebanese government has taken a stand in order to take back Lebanon. For years Hezbollah and the Shiites have ruled Lebanon even though they are only 1/3 of the population, a vocal and violent minority.

The Lebanese need to be applauded for their actions and strength.
They need emotional support and backing.
Taking control of their own destiny is not in character for the Lebanese.



Syria Convicts 9-11 Friend
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 16, 2007

I'm Predicting:

Several months ago I predicted that Syria would convict Mohammad Haydar Zammer, a dual citizen of Germany and Syria.

Haydar Zammer knew and associated with Mohammad Atta while in Germany. The Germans arrested him, but did not have enough evidence to try him.
After 9-11 while traveling in Morocco he was picked up and sent to Syria to stand trial. The arrest was probably done at the urging of the United States.

Haydar Zammer received a lenient sentence, he got 12 years.
He admitted to being a member of The Muslim Brotherhood, a crime which is punishable by execution in Syria, because The Brotherhood wants to oust Assad.

Syria has a strong hatred for the US and Israel.
Despite that they must protect the regime especially from Sunni religious extremists and terrorists like Al Qaeda and The Muslim Brotherhood.

As Machiavelli said: "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
If only for a split second.



PA Does Spin
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 15, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Azzam al Aham is a name to remember, he is a man to be reckoned with.
Azzam al Aham is an advisor and aide to Abbas, he is frequently the Palestinian point man between Abbas and the US and even Abbas and Israel.

At a press conference in Ramallah yesterday this influential man made very clear how great the division is between the West and the new Palestinian Authority.
He said, "The {Mecca} agreement meets the conditions of the Quartet 100%." He said the Palestinians will contact the Americans and explain each point.

The agreement is only 9 sentences. It is too short to be misunderstood. On all three of the Quartet's requirements it falls short.
The agreement does not recognize Israel.
The agreement does not say that the new government will condemn and fight terror.
The one ray of hope is that it does say that the new government will honor previous international agreements, but the essence of this requirement was to honor the previous agreements signed with Israel.
The agreement does not even mention Israel.



New Plane Defense
By Micah Halpern

February 14, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

As of May, all pilots flying over Israeli air space will carry a new identification system called "Code Positive."
"Code Positive" identifies the pilots themselves, not the planes.

No airplane will be allowed to approach Israeli airspace if the pilot is not carrying this new form of identification.
If a plane should enter Israeli airspace without the proper ID, even by accident, it will be shot down or escorted out.
"Code Positive ID" is non transferable, it cannot be used by someone in duress and it will show if an identified pilot is or is not in control of the aircraft.

The skies over Tel Aviv are especially worrisome for authorities. Tel Aviv is located on the Mediterranean Sea coast and because of the number of skyscrapers Israel's most modern city could easily be a target. Planes hijacked from nearby Ben Gurion airport would be in the heart of Tel Aviv in just moments.

This new ID was developed after 9-11. The Israeli defense establishment wants to make certain that a 9-11 type scenario does not threaten their skies.



Bashing Israel Week
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 13, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

University campuses in the United States and Canada have joined together in a week-long event called Israel Apartheid Week.

Israel Apartheid Week is a seven day festival centered on Israel bashing.
The goal of the organizers is two-fold:
to instill anti-Israel sentiment in the minds and hearts of university students
to invest time and energy proving that the United States policy of befriending and supporting Israel is a mistake

Rebutting anti-Israel myths on university campuses is an on-going, not merely a week-long, process. This year, however, the task has become even more difficult because support for the anti-Israel/United States movement has been bolstered by prominent, public enemies of truth. Most prominent are former US president Jimmy Carter and the authors of the Baker Report.

The Baker Report actually makes the claim that there is a direct correlation between Israel and the Palestinians and the war with Iraq. The Carter book suggests, even through its title, that there is a fundamental injustice in Israel.

These are tough days for the United States and Israel in university corridors.
The future leaders of our country are being put to the test on their own campuses.



MYTH, CONSPIRACY, HOAX
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 12, 2007

Column:

On the one hand - there is reality. On the other hand - there are myths. In the Muslim Middle East it is hard to tell which is which. Myths, in the right hands, can have a powerful effect on the people. Reality, truths, is more easily sloughed off.

Often, myths beget conspiracies, conspiracies beget hoaxes. Right now, today, a hoax is brewing in the Muslim world.

Muslim leaders and their disciples, the Arab press, have several pet myths, stories that they perpetuate and perpetuate and perpetuate. One myth tells of the dangerous encroaching West out to destroy the entire Arab world. Another tells of dangerous Israel, a threat to the very foundation of Islam. Most modern Muslim myths center about the intent of the rest of the world, the non-Arab world, to annihilate the entire Muslim Arab world.

Often, hoaxes beget violence. Often, hoaxes get out of control and the result is mayhem - political and physical mayhem. Right now, today, we are on the verge of mayhem. Right now, because of the myths perpetrated by Muslim leaders, Muslim religious adherents are on the verge of rioting and rioting in the Muslim Middle East leads to deaths.

The hoax that is now fueling the fire of the Muslim world centers on the ramp or bridge to the Mugrabi gate.

The rubble ramp was constructed by Israel in 1969 as an access approach for curious non-believers wanting to visit one of the sites holy to both Muslims and Jews. Composed of earth and stones, it was the passage way to the mount top. Once upon a time, the gate was at ground level. But after 1967, when control of the area was in Israeli hands, Israel lowered the ground to the level it had been at 2,000 years ago and new access to the gate was required. And so, voila, the ramp was built.

The ramp leads to the place Genesis 22 calls Moriah, it leads to the Temple Mount where the Temple of Solomon, the first Temple, once stood and where the remains of Herod's Temple, the second Temple, still stand. Today, atop the Herod-made platform is the shrine of The Dome of the Rock and the al Aqsa Mosque. The ramp sits above the Western Wall.

Lowering the ground and leaving the ramp allowed for an awesome view of the walls of the Temple that Herod built. The dimensions of the Temple were 250 yards wide by 500 yards long and as high as 11 stories. When the Israelis lowered the ground they created a large public forum exposing the Western Wall and showcasing a building that was constructed with stones weighing as much as 200 to 400 tons. Even average size stones used in the building weighed in at 70 tons and small stones are a mere 5 tons.

From 1969 until now the path to the Mugrabi gate had an earthen ramp sloping down from the gate creating an access to the al Aqsa mosque. The path is falling apart and the Israelis decided that repairs to the walkway are called for and so they consulted and coordinated with the Wafq, the Islamic Trust that is in charge of religious activities at the Temple Mount and even with Jordan. And now Muslim leaders are calling for their people to ready themselves for war in order to protect Muslim holy sites.

Muslim leaders have morphed the repair of a well-traveled walkway into an excuse to revive the myth of dangerous Israel threatening the very foundation of Islam - this time not just figuratively, but also literally.

Truth is, Israel is not even touching the outer walls of the Temple Mount let alone the mosque. Israel is simply building a more stable ascent to the Mugabri gate. Actually, nothing is simple when it comes to building or changing or leveling anything in the ancient city of Jerusalem. Even though revamping the ramp is not a conventional archeological dig, it is a salvage dig, all the earth that is moved must be sifted and photographed and documented. This ground has not been disturbed in 2000 years. And while the intention is not to dig and learn about the past but rather to improve the current above ground situation, standard rules of archaeological digs must be followed to make certain that nothing significant from the past is lost or destroyed.

But truth has very little to do with this. Myths and hoaxes are what the people believe. The myth surrounding the Mugrabi ramp will unite the Muslim world in anger against Israel. It is being used to foster hatred not to encourage hope.

This same myth turned hoax has been revived and resurrected several times in recent years. This is the myth of the tunnel wall excavations of September 1996 that sparked riots when the Muslim world falsely accused Israel of digging under the Temple Mount and eroding the foundation in order to find the secrets buried below. This is the myth of the 2000 Sharon visit to the top of the Temple Mount, the myth that ignited the second Palestinian Intifada with claims that the soon-to-be prime minister was on top of the Mount in order to stake Israel's claim over the Mount when really the Intifada had been planned and the Sharon visit gave Muslim leadership the excuse they had been waiting for.

And this is the myth of the cartoon depiction of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in the Northern European press and rocked the world. Muslim masses were fomented into anger and violence and riots by their leadership. Most of the people rioting had never seen the so-called sacrilegious depictions, many rioters were not even literate. Embassies were burnt, people trampled to death. Evidence of the hoax is that the caricatures appeared in the press on September 29 and Muslim news agencies did not send out the call for revenge until January.

Once a myth has been disseminated there is no taking it back, no changing it, no correcting it. No evidence to the contrary and no testimony will ever persuade a believer that he has been led astray. Refuting a myth heightens a sense of conspiracy which fuels the intensity of the hoax. And that is what keeps Muslim leaders in power.



Seizing Weapons in Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 11, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Things are in full swing in Lebanon.
And that is good news.

The Lebanese army stopped a truck filled with weapons and ammo headed for Hezbollah.
The truck was stopped outside of Beirut, it was coming from the Beka Valley.

Now Hezbollah is demanding the return of the munitions.
Hezbollah says it is their right to have and use the seized weapons because they were to be used in freeing their land from the occupier, i.e. fighting against Israel.

This is not an isolated case.
The Lebanese have stopped and confiscated several arms shipments in the past few weeks.
The Lebanese are finally stepping up to the plate.
The Lebanese are finally fighting to save Lebanon.



Attack vs Invade
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 10, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Spain on Thursday.
Gates said that the United States will not attack Iran.

The United States will not attack Iran.
What a strange choice of words. Attack.
I would have agreed with Gates had he used the word "invade" not "attack."
Now two things are abundantly clear:
A United States attack against Iran is not imminent
The United States has contingency plans that include various attack scenarios.

The only way to force Iran to act responsibly is to couple strong diplomacy by neutral countries and by countries that Iran sees as allies with the threat of a missile strike.
Iran knows that the threat of a missile strike hovers over them.
That is why on that same Thursday the Iranians publicized the successful testing of their new Russian TOR-M1 anti-missile system.

Once again, I have the feeling that the Iranians "get it" we're the ones who don't.



Hamas Abbas Deal
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 9, 2007

I'm Predicting:

The ceasefire just signed between Abbas i.e. Fatah and Hamas will not last.

Reason # 1: Hamas is not capable of recognizing Israel
Reason # 2: Too many Palestinians are angered by the violence and those hateful feelings will not easily disappear

The specifics of the treaty itself will only briefly appear in the press, most of the coverage will deal with the implications of the deal, not with the details.
The agreement is all of 9 sentences long.
It contains very few details - but it does allow for a restructuring of the government with 9 Hamas representatives and 6 Fatah representatives. It also allows for several very important independent ministers - most importantly the Foreign Minister, Finance Minister and Interior Minister which includes security.
The agreement was hammered out because Abbas and Hamas both want the embargo against them lifted and Saudi Arabia has pledged $1 billion if they actually fulfill the agreement.

I do not see them reaching the bar and fulfilling the 3 essential points the Quartet required: Recognizing Israel - Accepting previous treaties - Fighting terror.
Hamas may let Abbas do his own thing, but they will not let him change the Hamas point of view.
The Quartet and others, however, might just lower their bar.



Letter Bombs in England
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 8, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Seven letter bombs in three weeks in the United Kingdom.
The most recent injured four people.

Technically, these are not bombs - they are pyrotechnic devices.
They are designed not to blow up but to spark and light up.

It can safely be assumed that the sender wants to scare people and not kill them. That being said, these letter bombs are probably not the work of al Qaeda.
The al Qaeda handbook/ CD set contains a section on letter bombs, and they are most definitely designed to kill.

Some other movement is out there trying to get our attention.
It is probably an animal rights group.



National ID - Yes or No?
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 7, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

There is a heated debate going on over the issue of a national, uniform, driver's license i.e., a National ID Card. Again.

The idea of a National ID has already passed in Congress but has not yet trickled down to individual States.
Implementing a National ID means creating a national databank.
Some people just do not want to be tracked nationally.
Some States are reluctant, some are downright recalcitrant.
New Hampshire and Maine, for example, view the whole thing as an impingement of personal freedom.

The citizens of many European, Asian and South American countries have been carrying National IDs for years, it is a way of life for them.
In today's post 9-11 climate anyone wandering around those countries without valid national identification automatically arouses suspicion.
In today's post 9-11 climate a National ID is essential.

We have to balance our need for national security against our desire for personal freedoms.
And despite the outcry, the vast majority of Americans would probably trade a little bit of freedom for a little more safety and security.



No Nukes For Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 6, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

There was a huge debate in the Egyptian Parliament on nuclear weapons.

Representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood said the time has come for Egypt to build its own nuclear weapons.
Why? Because Israel has admitted to having nuclear weapons.
President Hosni Mubarak responded that, given the new facts on the ground, it might be time for Egypt to upgrade their defense systems, implying that nuclear weapons was taking it a step too far.

Here are the real facts on the ground in Egypt:
The Muslim Brotherhood has very little power to decide anything.
The Parliament has very little power to decide anything.
Mubarak has all the power and decides everything.

And Mubarak is far more afraid of Iran than of Israel.
And Mubarak knows that the Muslim Brotherhood gets support from Iran.
And Mubarak knows that is why they are pushing an anti-Israel line while Egypt's/Mubarak's real agenda is anti-Iran and anti-Iranian nukes.



MAKING LOVE NOT WAR, PALESTINIAN-STYLE
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 5, 2007

Column:

Everyone in the Arab world is calling for Fatah and Hamas to unite - to make love not war, Palestinian style.

The Jordanian foreign minister is bemoaning the fact that there is violence and internal fighting between Palestinians. The Arab League is lamenting the shame the Palestinians are bringing upon themselves by fighting amongst themselves when they could be uniting and fighting their common enemy, Israel. The powers that be in Egypt have called for the Palestinians to stop their feuding and begin work on solving the bigger problems that they confront.

But it will not happen, it cannot happen - at least, not now. There is no such thing as Palestinian unity. It is one of those huge myths like the myth of Arab unity, like the myth that all Jews are smart. And Arab leaders know that it is all a myth, but they are afraid to say so out loud, so they go through the motions. They push, they prod, they make proclamations - knowing that they are making empty gestures, that their words are spoken into the four winds.

Was Palestinian unity ever a reality? It was. But Arab unity died with Yasser Arafat. When Arafat was around he spoke for every Palestinian and intimidated, arrested or forced into poverty any Palestinian who dared to disagree. In their hearts, they might have disagreed with the first Palestinian leader, but no words were ever uttered, no actions ever carried out. If it wasn't unity under Arafat, it was, at least, a single Palestinian voice. Tyrants can do that.

Even after the first Palestinian Authority elections, when Arafat was duly elected, he did not let the voice of Hamas emerge. Arafat kept Hamas in check, he kept Hamas compliant, he made them fearful of raising their voice. And fear, as Arafat knew, is a very powerful political tool. Abbas never learned that lesson in Palestinian leadership.

Mahmoud Abbas, heir to the kingdom of Palestine, purposely refused to mimic Arafat's style of leadership, pointedly refusing to continue with some of Arafat's tactics. Abbas refused to rule by force. And he refused to keep Hamas in check. He thought that by limiting Hamas he would be instigating a civil war between Palestinians. He calculated that by allowing Hamas not only free speech but also free reign he would be deemed an enlightened ruler and the Palestinian people would flourish. It was a major miscalculation. And in the next election Hamas was democratically placed in power and civil war ensued.

Power and politics, however, are not the only sparks that ignite the Palestinian civil war. Hamas and Fatah have locked horns over their respective visions for the future of the Palestinian people. Vision, more than power, fuels this war.

Hamas sees a world without Israel. Hamas believes that they can create that world. Fatah, in the person of Abbas, understands that Israel is here to stay - at least for the short term. And Abbas believes that before he can accomplish anything productive or positive for the Palestinian people he must recognize Israel, and recognize Israel openly and diplomatically. Arafat knew what Abbas has only lately come to understand.

The Palestinians are at an impasse. They continue to fight. The gulf that divides them continues to grow. The people continue to suffer. The Palestinian people are strangling themselves. And the groups most interested in solving the inner Palestinian conflict are not the Palestinian leadership. The groups most interested in solving the inner Palestinian conflict are Egypt, Jordan and Israel. Each country has much to lose as this discord continues and each has much to gain if calm should fall over the Palestinian Authority.

Egypt and Jordan are investing huge amounts of time, money and diplomacy trying to oust Hamas from the Palestinian Authority. They see Hamas as irresponsible. They see Hamas as a threat - to their own countries, to their individual rule, to the region. Egypt and Jordan, respectively, are fearful that Hamas extremism will spill over into their societies.

Egypt is a powder keg of insurrection, the lid being held tight by the sheer force of will of Hosni Mubarak, but ready to erupt at any point. Egypt must make certain that the Palestinians stay in Gaza, that they do not leave. That they do not cross over the border into Egypt.

Jordan is a country composed of a majority of Palestinians. There are more Palestinians in refuge camps in Jordan than there are in any other country. And those refugee camps are hotbeds of anti-Jordanian sentiment. The Jordanian Hashemite Monarchy is walking a very thin tightrope and needs to make certain that the extremism exhibited on the other side of the border does not seep into their soil.

Israel is hoping that Hamas will step aside, that Abbas will take over and that the Palestinians and Israeli can move ahead towards normalization - or some semblance of normalization.

Everyone is starting to ask for moderation. Moderation is a euphemism for ousting extremists. Finally, according to internal Palestinian surveys, average Palestinians are also asking for moderation. The average Palestinian citizen is asking for an end to their internal conflict and for a resolution of the conflict with Israel.

The people want it to happen, but I am not convinced that Palestinian leadership is capable of making it happen. I think, unfortunately, that things will have to get worse within the Palestinian Authority, before anyone is capable of making anything better. War, not love, will win out in the Palestinian Authority. At least, for now.



Hezbollah PR Again
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 4, 2007

I've been Thinking:

For the past two weeks an ugly canard has spread through Lebanon that Israel has sent poison gas balloons to Lebanon.

The story has received press coverage.
The Hezbollah website in English and in Arabic carried the news.
Al Jazeera went with it on air and on their website.
I understand that.

What I do not understand is why the Associated Press ran with the story.
The gist of the story is that 8 people were hospitalized after 10 mysterious balloons flew over Southern Lebanon. They were "rushed to the hospital suffering from nausea and fatigue."
AP reported that "mysterious balloons drifting in from Israel to Lebanon are unnerving people, with some south Lebanon villagers reportedly feeling ill and authorities warning residents against touching them."

There is usually some truth in every fabrication. This is what happened: Ha Ir, a local newspaper owned by Haaretz, sent up green helium filled balloons with their named plastered across the balloons as a promotional gimmick.
The wind carried the balloons further than intended. Lofting these balloons might righteously raise the ire of ornithologists or environmentalists because they are a hazard to birds, but they are hardly poisonous to humans.

The Hezbollah PR machine goes at it again.



Israeli Film in Teheran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 3, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Sometimes, I think there may be hope.

The occasion of the 25th Teheran International Film Festival, for example, gave me hope.
The Festival organizers invited the Israeli movie "More Than 1000 Words" which is an Israeli-German collaboration about the war in Lebanon to participate.
What a brilliant idea, I thought, how clever.
Let a discussion about art elevate the dialogue between Israel and Iran.

Until Friday.
On Friday, the German distributor of the film received a letter saying that they were no longer invited. Why? Because there were not enough movies in the category dealing with the war in Lebanon.

The Iranian news wire service had even more to say about the cancellation:
"the Zionist film" was uninvited because they did not want the Zionist point of view in "a film dealing with the conflict between the Zionist regime and the Palestinians."

Sometimes, hopes get dashed when reality sets in.



Iran in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 2, 2007

I'm Predicting:

For 18 months I have been maintaining that Iran is trying to infiltrate Palestinian culture and religious life.

Most analysts disagreed with my thinking. After all, how could Shiite Iran infiltrate the Sunni Palestinian Authority? Hamas might take Iranian money and share Iran's point of view on the United States and Israel, but that was where it stopped.

Well, yesterday seven Iranians were arrested in Gaza. They were student organizers at the Islamic University, a Hamas haven. One of the seven even committed suicide during the course of arrest. One was an Iranian general.

Why were the Iranians at the Islamic University? To guide and to train Hamas:
Against Fatah - Hamas needs to fight better and be more highly motivated.
Against Israel - Hamas needs better guerilla tactics and long term strategies like kidnapping soldiers.
Against Egypt - Hamas is being pressured by Egypt and needs to know that Iran is behind them.

Iran is a much bigger player than we give them credit for.
Iran's influence is everywhere.





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