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Dracula's Sister
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 1, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

During the Annapolis Conference Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni ran head first into one of the classic conflicts between East and West.

Livni was a woman in a man's world.
Unlike Rice who represented the host country, Livni represented "the other."

Frans Timmermans, the Dutch Minister for European Affairs, is the person who released this deplorable story.
Timmermans described the situation this way: "They shun her like she is Count Dracula's younger sister."
Timmermans actually heard Livni tell Arab foreign ministers to stop treating her as a pariah.
Timmermans heard Livni ask: "Why doesn't anyone want to shake my hand?" "Why doesn't anyone want to be seen speaking to me?"

Behavior of this sort is unacceptable.
Shame on all those people in attendance in Annapolis who witnessed these unjust acts and kept silent.
Shame on the perpetrators of these archaic and prejudicial acts and shame on those who let the deeds slide by in the name of international harmony.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Bin Laden's Message
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 30, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Another Osama bin Laden message was broadcast on al Jazeera yesterday.

This is the 4th message bin Laden has transmitted since September 7th.
This time the message was directed toward Europeans.
Bin Laden told Europeans to confront their leaders and to stop their countries from helping the United States in Afghanistan.

There are lessons to be learned about bin Laden from this broadcast:
Bin Laden feels secure enough to issue broadcasts with relative frequency.
Bin Laden feels that European involvement in Afghanistan is significant - and if it was diminished he might have a better chance at defeating US forces there.

Bin Laden knows that European leadership is on side of the United States against him, but he also knows that the masses might be swayed. That is why the used the argument that he alone was responsible for 9-11, that responsibility does not lie with the "innocent women and children that the US murders."

This tape, like with every other bin Laden tape has one objective: to influence opinion through propaganda and disinformation.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

China Was in Annapolis for a Reason
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 29, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Annapolis Conference was more than a peace summit.
It was an opportunity for countries that rarely exchange ideas to talk.
Like China and Israel.

The very fact that China, the most populous country in the world, even attended the Conference means that it was important.
The Chinese representative in Annapolis was a high ranking member of government. It was Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. And on Wednesday afternoon Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went over to Yang Jiechi's Washington hotel for a meeting.

On the agenda were two items, obligatory commentary on the Palestinians and the role that China plays with Iran.
Israel wanted China to know how important it is for regional stability to put a cork on Iran when it comes to nuclear weapons.
Israel wanted China to know that Israel knows that China is one of few countries in the world with influence over Iran.

An unstable Middle East means increased oil prices.
China is a $100 billion a year energy client of Iran.
China has no oil and every year China needs more and more.
China does not want oil prices to skyrocket.
Israel was asking China to take note and, even more, to get involved.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 28, 2007


Cogito Ergo Sum. I think therefore I am.

It is the simple reality of recognition. From the point of view of the United States and Israel it was the driving force behind the Annapolis Conference.

Countries, much like people, crave recognition. Even high-powered people. Even powerful countries. The United States convened the Annapolis Conference not to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but to gain recognition and acceptance by the very countries that had refused to acknowledge the greatness of the greatest country in the world. The United States wanted, needed, craved, recognition by Arab and Muslim countries. And the United States succeeded.

At the Annapolis Conference the United States changed long-held policy. When it comes to the Middle East the United States is no longer a defender of Israel, the United States is now diplomatically and officially an even handed deal maker.

This change is significant. It made all the difference in the world to the Arab and Muslim nations attending the Conference, it was why these countries attended the Conference. Yes, Arab and Muslim countries will always believe that the United States is a protector of Israel, but along with that belief comes a new view that the US will, when necessary, abandon a friend i.e. Israel for the greater good. It is a concept that Arab countries will applaud, but never adhere to themselves.

Arab and Muslim countries came to Washington and then to Annapolis in order to recognize the Palestinians. Amongst themselves, the Arab/Muslim world has no significant interest in the Palestinians or in Palestinians statehood. It is not high up on the general priority list. But amongst strangers, the outside world, the United States of America, they had to band together in recognition of brethren.

Arab and Muslim nations needed to cross the world and come to Annapolis solely to bolster Palestinian credibility in the international arena. Along the way, they paid tribute and respect to the United States by offering recognition to an outsider, non Arab/Muslim country, showing interest in the Palestinians. As for the Palestinians, they are too insecure and too insignificant to advance on a peace initiative without the supervision and approval of mainstream leadership.

Without that recognition, Palestinians cease to exist. Lucky for them, one of the holiest sites in the Muslim world, al Aqsa, adorns the city of Jerusalem. It is because of al Aqsa, because the Palestinians are the gate keepers of al Aqsa, that the Muslim world takes interest in and partial responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians.

The most obvious Muslim Arab country not in attendance in Annapolis, not even invited to Annapolis, is Iran. The Annapolis Conference was a direct assault against Iran. One of the foremost goals of Iranian leadership is to drive a wedge between every Muslim and Arab nation and the United States and to build bridges between Muslims world over to unite against both the US and Israel.

The Annapolis Conference was a major setback for the Iranian agenda. Future US success with the Arab and Muslim world vis a vis Iran is not immediately quantifiable, but for the moment, the success was significant. Iran was not only not recognized, it was dissed. Iran was not only not recognized, it was minimized. Iran was not only not recognized, it was neglected.

Because of the US Sponsored Annapolis Conference Israel, a country that craves recognition from the Arab and Muslim world received de facto recognition from the Arab and Muslim world. That so many Arab countries sat together in a room with Israel discussing Israel and the Palestinians, discussing rapprochement, discussing borders and discussing the future means, de facto, that they recognize the very existence of the Jewish state in the Middle East.

Syria attended the Conference specifically to make certain that such policy not apply, it was a condition for Syrian attendance. They wanted to make certain that their issue, the Golan Heights, be dealt with. But what they really wanted was to make certain that the recognition of Israel not be discussed.

In the end, Israel was recognized, but Israeli recognition came with a price. Recognition is all that the Arab and Muslim world can give Israel. The United States gave Israel friendship and support. That friendship can no longer be taken for granted, the United States has new friends to play with.

Friends come and friends go. And in Annapolis Israel was sent up the Severn River without a paddle.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Annapolis Gets a Bad Rap
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 27, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Annapolis is getting a bad rap.
True, the initial plan for the Conference is a major flop.
The dual declaration, endorsed by Palestinians and Israeli, was pie in the sky.
But to the credit of the Americans, the Annapolis Conference has been reconfigured and, despite it all, there might be some positive long term ramifications.
The question is, are they worth it?

Positive ramification # 1:
The idea of the United States heading a coalition of Arab and Muslim countries, galvanized around helping the Palestinian Arabs, is a huge feather in America's diplomatic cap.

Positive ramification # 2:
Syria has openly declared, even published in a Syrian national newspaper, that their express purpose in attending is to put the breaks on an over all acceptance of Israel by Arab and Muslim states. In that, they will fail and failure for Syria is good for the rest of the world.

There is one great, big, major negative ramification of the Annapolis Conference.
The United States is leaving a long time friend and ally out to dry.
Israel is on its own among enemies.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Why All the Others Are in Annapolis
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 26, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Why were more than 40 countries invited to attend the Annapolis Conference?
Why are so many of those countries Muslim?

Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, answered that question.
En route to Washington, Livni explained to the press corps traveling with her that the Palestinians are unable to close on a deal with Israel without the support of the other Arab and Muslim states.

The job of Arab and Muslim states in Annapolis is to support the Palestinians.
Their job is not to drive the negotiations or to set the terms of the negotiations. Their job is to give power and credibility to an agreement when it is reached.
Their presence provides the Palestinians with the ability to decide on peace.
Neighboring countries, especially Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan need to sign off on an agreement.

Palestinians are too insecure to make their most important decisions alone.
Having Muslim and Arab countries in attendance at Annapolis is a benefit, not a drawback, to the Conference.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Hamas Insult
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 25, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas is shocked by the Arab Leagues endorsement of the Annapolis meeting.
Hamas interprets the endorsement as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

Actually, I am not shocked that Hamas is shocked.
Hamas has never been able to read the political map and Hamas has no understanding of regional politics.
If Hamas could read the map they would never have thrown out Fatah while taking over Gaza.
Yes, Saudi Arabia sponsors Hamas and yes, Syria both houses and sponsors Hamas but the Annapolis Conference is not about Hamas.

The reality is that The Region disapproves of the actions and activities of Hamas in every area with the exception of terrorist acts against Israel - and even that is no longer fashionable in some quarters of Muslim leadership.

Hamas and religious extremists are real threats to everybody.
Hamas does not represent Palestinians.
Hamas should not be surprised to discover their budget and future contributions further reduced.
Hamas needs to get with the program.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Annapolis, Anchors Away
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 24, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

I sure hope they are using pencil to keep track of which countries are and which countries are not planning to appear at the US Naval Academy for the Annapolis Conference.

The Conference begins Monday night in DC before moving on to Annapolis proper on Tuesday morning and many countries are still waffling.
Some countries are predicating attendance on topics that are relevant to them, topics that they want included on the agenda.
Other countries want to be assured of the conclusions the Conference will come to even before the Conference starts.

Saudi Arabia has said yes.
Syria will not attend unless it is clear that the Golan Heights will be one of the topics receiving top priority.
The Arab League will be there only if there is promise of al real solution to the Palestinian/Israel situation. If they attend we will know, in advance, that progress of sorts has been made.

The United States is scrambling - making promises and luring regional partners. They are working the phones non-stop.
They probably have a better chance of pulling a rabbit out from a hat.

Whatever happens, happens.
Monday night it's "anchors away" any which way.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

In London
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 23, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Next week as the world's attention focuses on the happenings in Annapolis there will be another meeting taking place.
That meeting takes place in London.

In London. the new Iranian nuclear negotiator, Saed Jalili, will be meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
The objective of the London meeting will be to work out a new angle with Iran in an attempt to stop Iranians from moving into the arena of irresponsible nuclear behavior.

The notion is to create a joint international nuclear project.
By making it a joint project other countries, like Russia or like Germany, will be involved together with Iran. Cooperation by its very nature means that the countries will be open to inspections and other outside observers and influences.

It is a brilliant concept and one that may very well work out.
International peer pressure may actually force Iran to act responsibly - at last.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

A Joint Something
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 22, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The centerpiece of the Annapolis Conference was to have been a joint declaration, Palestinians and Israelis openly declaring shared intentions and commitments.
According to leaks seeping out about the Annapolis Conference, that declaration is not to be.

Instead of calling it a "declaration" the word "document" is now being used.
Instead of calling it "joint" initials are being inserted in order to identify the authors of each paragraph, "P" for Palestinian authorship, "I" for Israeli authorship.
The most glaring omission in the entire document is Gaza, not a word about the Palestinians living in Gaza.

According to one of the "P" paragraphs, the lifetime of this document extends for only eight months.
Eight months is a comfortable period of time for the Bush administration to flex before the second and final term of this president is over.
The "I" paragraph, by the way, specifically states that there is no deadline.

The Palestinians and Israelis seem to have one point of agreement.
They have agreed to disagree.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 21, 2007


The whole Annapolis Conference scene is getting way out of hand. This is not, as the saying goes, brain surgery. It is diplomacy. And the men and women arranging, re-arranging, negotiating, not negotiating, grandstanding, foot stomping and name calling are all supposed to be diplomats. Not just diplomats, seasoned diplomats.

So what's the problem? Emotion has gotten in the way of sound diplomatic reasoning. Hopes have replaced reality. Expectations have exceeded the norm.

So who's to blame for the problem? All three parties are to blame. The United States for setting out goals which are doomed to fail. The Palestinians for not taking any of this seriously enough to actually make either commitments or concessions. Israel for going along with this charade in the first place.

So why not just fix the problem? Because none of the parties will own up to the problem. Because each of the three principle parties has a private agenda and neither the United States nor the Palestinians nor Israel are willing to share that agenda with the others. Each country is guided by an unwritten, unarticulated and unannounced agenda. Until those agenda are given voice and shared there will be no progress between Palestinian and Israelis. Until a focused, agreed upon objective is put forth there will be no significant change in the in the status quo. No progress will be made, not in Annapolis, not in Jerusalem, not anywhere.

Let's begin with the United States, the host nation, the Conference sponsor. There has been a lot of talk about the need to create a Bush legacy, about the need to save face in the context of a failed Iraqi policy. If only that were so, if only that was the motivation behind the Annapolis Conference, expectations would have been lowered and goals might be realized. But all that has little to do with this Conference.

The most essential reason for the Annapolis Conference is the rebirth of the United States secretary of state. At long last, Condoleezza Rice is beginning to understand the region. She sees changes. She infers from those changes that this is the moment for greater change. She allows herself to believe that the time has come to create a solution to the years old and dragging on Israeli/Palestinian conflict. She thinks that she has regional support for the cause. She is wrong and with that as her goal she has set herself up to fail.

In an interesting aside, however, the Annapolis Conference will bring success of another type to the United States. More than the Israeli/Palestinian issue, the United States is concerned, nay worried, one might even say obsessive about the question of Iran.

In Annapolis the United States will be host to about forty other nations, many of them member nations of the Arab and Muslim world. This Conference will prove to the Iranians that the enemy United States can hold sway over those nations that Iran depends on most. That is success. Peace between the Palestinians and Israel will take longer to achieve.

Now let's look at Israel. The Israelis are in a very different situation. The Israelis are principle players at this Conference, but they are guests, not hosts, in Annapolis. They have nearly no leverage and almost no power. All the Israelis really want is peace, but this time around, Israel is not willing to give too much away in order to obtain that peace.

Israel has learned a lesson from previous peace summits and conferences. The more Israel gives away, the less Israel gets in return. Experience has taught Israeli leadership that their gestures have been in vain. Yes, they have won approbation from various other countries, but they have come not one bit closer to peace with the Palestinians. Israel is looking for a gentleman's agreement right now. A firm hand shake and the deal is closed. Peace for the sake of peace.

So why is Israel attending the Annapolis Conference when none of that is about to happen? Because Israel has no choice. When the United States extends an invitation, you respond and you respond positively.

Now let's look at the Palestinians. The Palestinians are in a win-win or loose-loose situation. The choice is theirs but they have not yet figured out how to play their own game. The Palestinians want everything and they have nothing to give in order to get it. They are making more and more demands and living up to fewer and fewer commitments.

So why are the Palestinians attending the Annapolis Conference? Not because they have to, because they want to. The Palestinians are hoping to take advantage of the other nations present at the Conference and enlist them in the effort to pressure the United States and Israel to make even more concessions. In short, the Palestinians want to take advantage of the situation to satisfy their own goal. And their goal is not peace.

The single, unanimously accepted, document that could bring the parties together - the document that the United States was hoping to produce in Annapolis, is not about to happen. The ultimate, unrealistic, hope. The ultimate failure. Are there any bright spots for Annapolis? I checked the weather forecast. They are not predicting snow.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Chavez & Ahmadinejad
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 20, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

On Monday Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, made his 4th visit to Iran to visit his friend and compatriot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In a joint press conference Chavez gleefully predicted that oil prices will hit $200 a barrel if the United States attacks Iran.

"Soon we will not talk about dollars," Chavez proclaimed, because the dollar is falling in value and the "empire of the dollar is crashing."
He said: "naturally, by the crash of the dollar, America's empire will crash."
Chavez was dovetailing on the statements made by Ahmadinejad on Sunday at the OPEC meeting.
Speaking about the US dollar, Ahmadinejad called it a "worthless piece of paper."

These two thugs, Chavez and Ahmadinejad are united in their hatred of the USA.
They hate that the United States is a superpower.
They hate that the United States is an economy that propels and fuels the world.

Chavez and Ahmadinejad hate the United States because, despite their own great supplies of energy, their countries play barely a minor role in the direction of the world and world economies.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Problems in Annapolis
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 19, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Just one week before the Annapolis Conference is scheduled to begin and things are definitely out of order.
On Friday Condi Rice postponed her visit to the Middle East.
Had the secretary of state made the trip as planned, she might have been able to avert this backslide.

Negotiations about a joint peace statement between Israelis and the Palestinians have come to a standstill.
Insiders are saying that the Palestinians want to start back at the very beginning.
Insiders are saying that the Palestinians withdrew on every agreement.

As it is the Conference is scheduled to last only one day.
As it is the Conference is to serve only as a forum for the reading of prepared statements, not for real negotiating - there is no time for anything more substantial.

I think that the Palestinians are engaged in tactical maneuvers.
I think that the Palestinians are hoping that the 40 plus nations in attendance will put pressure on the United States to pressure Israel to make even more and very serious concessions.
That's what I think.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

PA's Problem With: Israel A Jewish State
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 18, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The question is this: Why is recognizing Israel as the Jewish State such a major stumbling block for the Palestinians?
After all, even Yasser Arafat recognized Israel's right to exist so isn’t this the same thing?

The answer is: No, this is very different and it is a very important difference.
Calling Israel a Jewish State means that Israel was created and serves as a democratic state with Jewish vision and goals. It means that Israel was created as a haven to protect Jews from persecution and from Antisemitism. It means that the raison d'etre of Israel is the perpetuation of the Jewish People.

This is a pretty hard concept to accept for people who want to destroy Israel.
Destroying Israel has been the raison d'etre of Palestinian leadership. They never publicly preach mutual co-existence...never.

Palestinians cannot accept that Israel exists in their region as a Jewish state. They do not want to believe that Israel cannot be overtaken by the demographic changes in the region. That Israel is there for the long haul.

This is a difficult concept for Palestinians to accept.
Until Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state, they will not have a Palestinian state.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Annapolis, OK
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 17, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

It looks like the Annapolis Conference is ready to go.
It looks like the invitations will be specially hand delivered by Condi Rice when she returns to the region early next week.

The program looks like this:
Monday, November 26th, dinner in Washington, DC with President Bush.
Tuesday, November 27th, off to Annapolis.
It's a 35-45 minute trip, expect it to take an hour.

There will be speeches and a joint statement/document will be read.
The document will cover issues of common ground between Israel and the Palestinians.
The document will proscribe future steps aimed at fulfilling the Road Map.
The entire program will be very short.

The hope of all the parties is that the conference will set in motion a series of events that will provide the groundwork for a step-by-step resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

One of the hanging points, as of this writing, is whether the Palestinians will recognize Israel as the Jewish State.
To me, that still looks like castles in the air.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

IAEA: A Fiasco
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 16, 2007

I'm Predicting:

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the UN's nuclear watchdog.
The IAEA is headed by Muhammad el Baradei.
Yesterday the IAEA released a long awaited report detailing Iran's nuclear activity.

The report leads to much confusion.
The IAEA report both complements the Iranians for their transparency and declares that Iran needs to be more transparent. The headline screams one story but the details that follow and that few people will ever read tell a different story. Hidden within the body of the report is the admission that the UN cannot ascertain whether or not Iran has a nuclear military program because there are still many sites that investigators were not permitted to visit.

True to his style, Ahmadinejad has already grabbed on to the IAEA report.
Ahmadinejad is proclaiming that the UN has cleared him and that Iran really is cooperating and that this is clear evidence of how the United States and Israel stick their noses where they do not belong and so, therefore, this report justifies the harsh stance taken by Iran against US sponsored sanctions.

Given this IAEA report it is unlikely that the Security Council will make any headway censoring Iran. Both China and Russia will cite the report and sing the glories of Iranian compliance.

The United States and Israel will not let this report just slide by pretending that all is well with Iran.
The United States and Israel will now seek out those tiny details incriminating Iran and disproving the glaringly inaccurate IAEA headlines.
The United States and Israel will use their finding to motivate countries who do not trust Iran.
What a fiasco, what an embarrassment, what a shandah

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Rice Needs to Push Both Sides
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 15, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Condi Rice, chief diplomat for the United States of America just let her personal perspective on the Annapolis Conference be known.

It was not a faux pas.
It was a clear statement.

She said: Israelis must be prepared to make "difficult and painful sacrifices to some of their longest-held aspirations" at the Annapolis Conference.

She said: the region at this point is at an explosive level and "at stake is nothing less than the future of the Middle East."
There is much hyperbole in her words. There is also an opportunity for Israel.

If Israelis are prepared to make great sacrifices for the sake of an agreement they can pave the way allowing for a true, workable, solution to find a foothold.

Publicly, I do not hear Rice saying the same things to the Palestinians.
Privately, I know she is telling them to be flexible but I do not hear her publicly trying to educate the Palestinians about the need to sacrifice fundamental national myths in order to make peace work.

There is something wrong with that equation.

I am not looking for equality, I am looking for understanding.
The United States needs to understand that both sides need to openly embrace sacrifice for the sake of peace.

Previous US administrations blamed Israel for the problem.
We know that does not work, it is time to switch gears and move forward.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Palestinians See Limited Success
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 14, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Ahmed Qureia, aka abu Alla, is the chief Palestinian negotiator for the Annapolis Conference.

On Tuesday abu Alla announced that there has been only "limited achievement" with Israel.
He said there were still "obstacles and difficulties we have to work out before the coming conference."

I hope these statements do not become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Abu Alla is not an optimist.
Abu Allah is considered to be a real hard liner who does not cave in during negotiations.
Abu Alla is experienced in the political arena and has never buckled under to United States intimidation, Israeli intimidation or even Palestinian intimidation.

Abu Alla has a problem.
He knows what he wants from Israel, but he cannot deliver anything from the Palestinians.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 13, 2007


Downtown Annapolis is quaint, quiet and picturesque. The town square is host to a child friendly statue of Alex Haley, reminiscent of Central Park's Alice In Wonderland and Albert Einstein relaxing in Washington, D.C. The streets are lined with taffy and ice cream parlors, hat stores and souvenir shops. Boats dock in the harbor. The statehouse sits on a manicured lawn and cannons used long ago dot the landscape. The naval academy rests in the background. Annapolis is as charming as it is historic.

In a few days, charm will all but disappear in Annapolis, Maryland. History of another kind will be made. Annapolis, a former capitol of the United States, will join the growing list of venues chosen by the United States to host Middle East Peace Summits. And the hope that this Summit fares better than previous Summits is quickly diminishing.

If the United States is to be accused of anything, it is for trying and trying hard. If Israel is to be accused of anything it is for bungling small issues and turning them into international incidents. If the Palestinians are to be accused of anything it is for just not getting it, not getting it at all.

Invitations to the last major world event of calendar year 2007 haven't even gone out and the squabbling and the quibbling and the insults have turned vicious.

On Saturday the Palestinians called US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to complain. The complaint was that Israel had reneged on a deal, that Israel was no longer planning to participate in the high level trilateral meetings that had been agreed upon earlier in the week. Complaining to the United States is a little obvious and smacks of grandstanding since the three countries involved in the "tri" lateral talks were the Palestinians, Israel and the United States and the US would know what was happening, but I take the complaint as a good, even positive sign.

This early tattling is actually an indicator that the Palestinians are really planning to attend, despite the protestations we have heard and will probably continue to hear. It indicates that the Palestinians have accepted the United States as mediator. It indicates that the Palestinians are searching for tools to be used in the negotiating process. In order for there to be any modicum of success at Annapolis, both the Palestinians and Israelis must feel that they can complain to the host, even about minutia, especially early in the process, in order to keep the process going. And it means that both sides can expect the United States to keep the other honest, to live up to their respective ends of the deal.

I hope that the Secretary of State took the Palestinian complaint seriously, not in content, but in style. The most glaring explanation for past failed agreements between Palestinians and Israelis traces directly back to failed follow-through. There has never been an authoritative, outside party forcing the parties to adhere to agreed upon principles. Maybe Annapolis can change that. Maybe that is how the Annapolis Summit will make history. But first, the sides have to get there.

On Sunday Israel committed what is referred to in the Middle East in Arabic as a major "fashla" - a big, awful, mistake. We would use the acronym SNAFU. For reasons still unknown a senior Palestinian negotiator, on his way to sit down at a negotiating table, was denied entry into Israel. That should never have happened. What should have been a simple border crossing turned into a door slammed shut.

The United States and Israel have secured a very important Annapolis pre-requisite from the Palestinians that they will work on their Security front. The Palestinians are negligent and too lax when it comes to matters of security and now, in this important instance, Israel can be accused of misplaced, too stringent security.

Security lies at the heart of the matter. If Palestinians actually take charge and attempt to bring some safety and security to their own areas the door to an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians allowing for a Palestinian state will automatically open. The United States will make certain of that. I am careful to use the words "attempt" and "some" here. No country can expect 100% success, but 100% effort can certainly be expected. But this is not new. And yet, today's Palestinian leaders, the men who hold the key to this door, are unwilling and unable to insert the key into the lock and swing open the door.

We know that Hamas has no problem activating their armed militia to attack Palestinians. Why is it so difficult for Abbas to control his security forces? On the third anniversary of Arafat's demise a mausoleum was erected in Ramallah. In attendance were Abbas and other Fatah leaders. At the site, in front of witnesses, only days ago, these Fatah members swore to continue the vision Arafat set forth for the Palestinian people, for his people. Have Abbas and company forgotten the Arafat legacy so quickly? Arafat had no problem using brute force, at whim, to squelch his opponents. Arafat realized that he would get more by saying yes than by saying maybe. Abbas is a leader, unlike Arafat, who refuses to clamp down internally and then blames outside forces for his problems.

The United States is still trying. Egypt is trying. Egypt gets it and Egypt has convinced Saudi Arabia of the importance of Annapolis for the sake of the Palestinians. Syria is seriously considering coming, but nor for the sake of the Palestinians, for their own sake. Syria will attend only if the Golan Heights are under discussion. Israel says no way. The United States says please come.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Hamas' Double Message
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 12, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has been sending out some conflicting messages the past few weeks. That should not surprise anyone, but it does make for more difficulty in trying to predict the future behaviors of Hamas.

On Friday Hamas' former Foreign Minister Mahmoud al Zahar said that they will soon be taking over the West Bank.
As soon as Israel withdraws, he said, Hamas will take over.
This would echo exactly what Hamas did in Gaza.
But Ismail Hanyieh, the prime minister of Hamas has made it clear that Hamas has no aspiration for the West Bank.

This is not the first inconsistency.
The reality is that Hamas cannot wait to take over the West Bank and trounce Abbas and Fatah - but at this moment they cannot do it.
Israel is there and Fatah forces are more capable in the West Bank than they were in Gaza.

Hamas wants it bad.
Just listen to al Zahar: "we say to those in the West Bank, take a lesson from what happened in Gaza."
That sounds pretty clear and unequivocal to me.

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US Give $1 Million to Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 11, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The United States has just promised $1 million, to be given at the end of the month, to provide a face lift for the Palestinian city of Nablus.

A promise from the US is like money in the bank.
The money is meant to show that the US is serious about helping if - big if - the Palestinians come on board the peace train.

We all know that $1 million from the US is a drop in the bucket.

The US is hoping that the easy million will help bolster Palestinian President Abbas in his leadership role and lend Abbas the security, stability and personal strength he lacks when it comes to making decisions.

The reality is that the money will hardly be noticed, but the promise of this money and more to come may have the impact the United States so wants.

Never underestimate the value of money in decision making.
Money does not buy friends, it buys leverage.
And leverage is exactly what the United States needs in Annapolis.

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Musharraf Knows Better
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 10, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The United States was satisfied when Pakistan's President/Dictator offered assurances that there will indeed be elections in mid February -"just a month later than was originally scheduled."

The US has a problematic relationship with Musharraf.
The US has difficulty setting limits for Musharraf and difficulty condemning one aspect of his policy and decision making while supporting another.
As the deputy secretary of defense said, Musharraf: "is an indispensable ally in the war on terrorism."

Over the past year Musharraf's hold on society and his power base have weakened. During the same period his tyrannical hold over Pakistan has strengthened. There is an inverse proportion at work here.

The clear fact is that Musharraf rules with an iron fist.
The return of former president Bhutto last month was the catalyst that awakened people's desire for a return to total democracy. Musharraf's response was violence and a severe crackdown over Pakistani society.

The United States should be smarter.
The United States should have anticipated this response when they insisted on Bhutto's return to Pakistan.

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Finally China
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 9, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

China has spoken.
China has finally spoken out about Iran's nukes.

On Thursday, after a particularly flamboyant and hyperbolic speech by Ahmadinejad about how Iran now has 3000 uranium centrifuges in their Natanz nuclear facility and how Iran's nuclear program is irreversible, China responded.

Why now?
What makes this speech different from so many other grandstanding opportunities seized by the Iranian leader?
3000, that's the reason.
3000 is seen as the point of no return by Israel-and China knows that.
Iran is moving dangerously close to provoking Israel to strike - and Ahmadinejad knows that, too.

China announced that together with Europe and the UN they will work to "defuse" the situation.
It is important to note that the United States is glaringly missing from that group.

China imports $100 billion of energy from Iran every year.
China can never be replaced as a client for Iran.
China will be the key to any solution with Iran.

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Musharraf is a Thug
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 8, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf is a study in contrasts.

Musharraf is called "president" but he obtained his position after seizing power in 1999 by way of a coup.
Musharraf now rules Pakistan with an iron fist, exemplified by the state of emergency law now imposed on the country.

Musharraf is the leader of a strongly Muslim country.
Musharraf is also strongly pro-US and pro-Western.
Musharraf has begun a movement to liberalize Pakistan and has promised January elections.
Pakistan under Musharraf stores an enormous supply of nuclear missiles.

We, the United States and the West, need Musharraf in our fight against terror.
Musharraf and the West share some important goals and are in sync in several world matters, but that does not make him an ally.
We must identify Pervez Musharraf for who he is and remember what he represents.

Stability in Pakistan is essential.
Musharraf's pro-Western attitude is essential.
Musharraf's successor, in all probability, will not be as pro-Western as the present day president.

That is the situation in Pakistan today.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 7, 2007


The Annapolis Conference will take place. I say this despite the numerous rumors flying around on both sides of the Atlantic about the future of the Palestinian/Israeli Washington hosted forum for negotiations and meeting. The Annapolis Conference will not be cancelled. Actually the invitations will go out next Friday.

I speak with confidence on this issue for one simple reason. The invitation to appear in Annapolis was proffered by the president of the United States of America, and like it or not, like him or not, he is still one of the most powerful people in this world. When the President of the United States extends an invitation it is a command performance, and protocol demands that one always RSVP in the affirmative.

Certainly, there are reasons not to pack up, travel thousands of miles and arrive in Annapolis, Maryland. But they are just excuses, tools used by both sides to ratchet up the pressure on the other side. They are vehicles for leaders to prove to constituents that they are working on their behalf, protecting their interests, dealing from a position of strength. They are negotiating tricks, media manipulation techniques, intentional distortions of the vox populi in order to raise the level of expectation for this Conference so high that negotiator participants can then say things like, "my people will never go for that" or "I can't sell that back home."

Over the past few weeks, in fact, ever since the Conference was first announced and was scheduled to take place right now, in mid November, both the Palestinians and the Israelis have threatened to pull out. Israelis have said that weapons continue to be smuggled into Gaza from Egypt which is a clear signal that neither Palestinians nor Egyptians have any real interest in a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians are saying that if there is no real, significant, tangible outcome from the Annapolis Conference the result will be another uncontrolled and uncontrollable Intifada, that the streets will be filled with riots and disorder, that chaos will rule. The Palestinians are placing responsibility for the outcome of this Conference squarely on the Israelis. It is up to Israel to cede to Palestinian demands. It is up to the United States to see to it that Israel cedes to Palestinian demands.

Or else.

Palestinian leadership has begun to present several Annapolis Conference ultimatums. A senior Palestinian official has said that no Conference is better than failure. He continued by saying "however if we do participate, we expect the US and the Quartet to pressure Israel heavily, so as not to allow the Summit to hurt Abbas' image or become a weapon in the Palestinian opposition's hands." And then he added "if the Conference fails, this would be the last nail in the coffin of negotiations. The public's faith in the diplomatic process is nonexistent as it is, and any failure in the summit would turn the process into a corpse."

Those are serious threats.

US chief diplomat Condi Rice has made numerous trips over the last month to the region for the express purpose of lowering these all or nothing expectations and asking Palestinian leadership to stop this do or die rhetoric. Apparently, these efforts by the secretary of state fell on seriously self-interested and deaf ears. The statements made by leading Palestinians merely serve to highlight how ginormous the gap is between the way Palestinians view the purpose and focus of the Annapolis Conference and the way the United States and Israelis see this Conference.

For the United States and Israel Annapolis is a starting point not an end point. For the Palestinians and their allies, it is everything. It is such an important part of the process for Israel that both the Israeli prime minister and the Israeli minister of defense have expressed the hope that Syria, a sworn enemy of Israel, will attend and participate. Why? Not to talk about the Golan Heights, but to discuss the Palestinians. Israel believes that Syria is part of the region and therefore, for that reason alone, the Syrians should have a role in how the future of the Palestinians plays out.

Obviously, the United States wants to claim success in the Middle East to counter the prolonged quagmire of Iraq.

Obviously, the United States feels that a special relationship has developed with both sides, with both Israel and with the Palestinians, and the United States wants to enable both countries in cobbling out an agreement.

Obviously, there are only thirteen and a half months left in the Bush presidency and George Bush and his government are searching for accomplishment on the Middle East front.

The reality, however, is that in the Middle East one step forward and two steps back has become the rule. And that is why, while I believe that the Annapolis Conference will obviously take place, I am not at all confident of the outcome.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Finally The PA Arrests Someone
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 6, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian Authority actually arrested 2 of their own people.
Two members of the al-Aqsa Brigades were arrested for violating the security initiative that is now taking place in Nablus.

The idea is that, in Nablus, the Palestinian Authority has bolstered forces in order to take control of the security situation in the city.
In order to arrest these men a gunfight that lasted hours ensued in the Balata refugee camp inside Nablus.

Palestinian leadership is trying to impress the United States.
Palestinian leadership is trying to prove that they are now starting to take charge. According to a senior PA official this action "shows the PA's willingness to stop anyone disrupting the peace as well as uphold all its agreements."

The problem is that one single event on one single day proves very little.
The true test lies in the capability of the PA to truly clamp down on terror.
Is the PA capable of passing that test?
I doubt it - but only time will tell.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Blair Understands
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 5, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Tony Blair, the former UK Prime Minister and now the Quartet's envoy to the Middle East, spoke at the Saban Forum on Sunday.

Blair said that Israel cannot be expected to withdraw from any territories while they are being attacked and while rockets are being launched from Gaza.

Blair said that the Palestinians now had to make "difficult decisions" about security.

Finally, someone understands. Blair has been really focusing on the region for the past 6 months. He is up to speed on the very basic issue that guides all Palestinian/Israeli interaction. Palestinians must be able to deliver on security before any progress towards peace or statehood can develop with Israel.

Blair understands, but Blair has little power. He does however have Bush's ear and, maybe, just maybe, he will be able to talk some sense into President George Bush and his ill advised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Maybe, but I doubt it.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

28th Anniversary of Iran
By Micah Halpern

November 4, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Today is the 28th anniversary of the hostage taking at the US Embassy in Iran. 52 Americans were held captive for 444 days in Tehran.

We all remember in different ways.
In Teheran today there were rallies commemorating the event.
Many people attended, but not masses.
Of the hundreds of attendees most were students, a lot of them teenagers.
The most popular banner read: "We will not compromise with America even for a moment," a quote from the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Other banners read: "Sanctions Will Not Impact Us."

The rallies told me something.
They appeared to be coordinated, staged, but more for us, the outside world, than for Iran.
It seems that the Iranians are making a significant play for world Muslim support.

Externally, on an almost daily basis, events are held and statements are made about how Iran is standing up and defying the United States.
Internally, Ahmadinejad seems to be weakening.

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Iran May Backfire
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 3, 2007

I'm Predicting:

Israel and the United States are applying tremendous pressure against Iran.
The result might not be what Israel and the US had in mind.
The result seems to be the convergence of a New World anti-American block.

This newly emerging anti-American block appears to mimic the old cold war split: Russia and China on one side
The United States and the West on the other side

Until now it has been made clear by the United States that nukes in Iranian hands will very likely destabilize the world and threaten the Western interests.
This split can have deleterious effects on US foreign policy, specifically policy dealing with nuclear proliferation in Iran and in other Muslim countries.

There are two avenues for the US to pursue if a New World split emerges:
The US will continue pressuring Iran
The US will try to stop this world division

Both paths are dangerous, neither is out of the realm of possibility.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

Tunnels in Gaza Do Not Mean Peace
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 2, 2007

I've Been Thinking:

Israel discovered seven secret smuggling tunnels in Gaza yesterday.
The tunnels are used for smuggling arms and illegal cash into Gaza.

The weapons - guns, ammo, rockets - are needed for a two-fold purpose:
to attack Israel and to weaken Fatah.
the money is used to buy more weapons and to pay salaries and bribes.

Tunnels like the ones just discovered by Israel are flourishing throughout Gaza.
At the same time, Israel and the Palestinians are embarking on plans to forge ahead and make peace.
The pieces just don't fit together.
The ramifications of this discovery are lost on the US Secretary of State and on her new, unofficial, advisor Jimmy Carter.

Condi Rice and Jimmy Carter truly and honestly believe that by creating more political Palestinian power the problem of Palestinian security will improve.
Nothing is further from the truth.
This concept was proven wrong before and will be proven wrong again.

Security is a sine qua non on the peace front.
If the Palestinians cannot prove that they can control terror and keep the peace on the street now, today, it is pure folly to think that they will be able to keep the peace a week or even a month after a treaty is signed with Israel.

Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.

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