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Of Course Hamas Said No
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 1, 2009

I'm Predicting:

People will continue to misunderstand Hamas even though Hamas honestly tells us who they really are and what they are about.

On Saturday, after weeks of preparation, Mahmoud Abbas the leader of the Palestinian Authority finally met with Hamas leaders to discuss a Palestinian unity government.
Hamas rejected the idea of a unity government.
Hamas will not tolerate the idea of a two-state solution.
Hamas, in case anyone forgot, rejects Israel's very right to exist.

Hamas does not spin on Israel.
Hamas does not fabricate or lie about Israel.
Hamas will lie and fabricate about many things; the numbers of casualties, how little or how much aid has arrived into Gaza, they will steal confiscated weapons and aid packages designated for the poor from UN relief agencies.
About Israel there is no subterfuge, about Israel Hamas is absolutely honest.

Still, people are hopeful that Hamas will see the light.
That condition is called myopia.
Myopia is very dangerous when the condition is found in powerful politicians in the United States and Israel.

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

Pope Demands Bishop Apologize
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 28, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Richard Williamson has become a household name.
He is the Catholic Bishop, recently elevated by the Pope, who had been part of a traditionalist group that had been removed from mainstream Catholicism. The group was just recently taken back into the fold.

Richard Williamson is a Holocaust denier.
He believes that only a few thousand Jews died in Auschwitz and that there were no gas chambers and no mass murder. Now that is back in the fold. Williamson must conform to the Pope's doctrines.

Richard Williamson must recant his public pronouncements denying the Holocaust. On Thursday he made a public statement saying that he regretted the pain he had caused others by his statements.

The Vatican told Williamson that what he said was not enough.
The Vatican told Williamson that merely regretting the pain is not enough.
The Pope is insisting that Williamson retract his comments about denying the Holocaust.

The Vatican is the expert on confession.
The Vatican knows a partial confession when they hear one.

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

Another Sunni Shiite Rift
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 27, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

The inner conflicts within Islam are getting more and more pronounced.
And the West remains oblivious, uninterested, or simply uninformed.

Case in point:
Morocco just recalled their ambassador to Iran.
Why? Because Iran insulted Bahrain last week.

Here's a recap:
In the middle of negotiations between the Iran and Bahrain, Iran ridiculed the Shah of Iran for liberating the 14th Province which is today's Bahrain. And so Bahrain walked out on the negotiations.

Some background:
It seems that earlier in the week The Supreme Leader, The Ayatollah Khamenei, said that Bahrain was truly Iran.

What we have now is a very big Sunni Shiite rift.
Bahrain is Sunni and Iran is Shiite.
Sunni newspapers throughout the Muslim world have decried Iran's arrogance, asking how dare Iran encroach on Bahrain sovereignty?

Morocco acted in defense of their fellow Sunni Muslim brothers and withdrew their ambassador.
In the meantime, Ahmadinejad sent a note to the Emir of Bahrain asking that they come back to the table to talk about natural gas. He did not apologize, he did discuss the great history of Iran.

This episode is not over yet.

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

By Micah Halpern


Thursday February 26, 2009

Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth his silver lining on the night?

Those words were written in 1634 by John Milton. While very few of us can quote the poem verbatim, almost all of us have expressed the sentiment inherent in these words and said: every cloud has a silver lining.

The economic downturn we are now experiencing has rippled throughout the world. The news is not good and yet, every cloud, even this cloud, does have a silver lining. And while they are few in number, there are a few positive changes that have occurred specifically because of this colossal calamity. The number one change is worth discussing.

The most important change to have been brought about by the economic condition is the drop in oil prices.

Oil prices are down from the record high summer price of nearly $150 a barrel. The prices will remain down, hovering in the $30-$40 range, and may even drop a little lower before they go up again. Funny, isn't it, how what was such an all consuming worry and topic of conversation has been pushed to the sidelines and almost ignored. Sad, that very few of us have been able to enjoy the upside of the oil conundrum because of the downturn in the economy.

OPEC wants to drop production in order to increase prices. But to their chagrin, the general demand for oil has dropped. So even if OPEC drops the price their short term benefit will be minimal. In an ideal world, OPEC would have the price of oil even out at between $75-$85 per barrel.

And who is the most hurt by these low prices? Iran. Iran is hurting bad.

In truth, it's not just Iran. Venezuela and Russia are also suffering seriously because of the great drop in oil prices. But it is Iran that is most affected and interesting to us.

Iran is the third largest producer of oil in the world and yet, Iran must resort to importing its own gasoline. Iran has antiquated refineries and has not built any new refineries since they threw BP out a half a century ago. There's more. Iran not only imports gasoline, the Iranians have no real natural gas and must import that also.

It gets worse for Iran. Add to that an inflation rate that the present regime admits to be at 26% and the country is ripe for an economic implosion. Others, including Khatami who will be opposing Ahmadinejad in Iran's upcoming election on June 12th, put the inflation rate as high up as 65%.

The Iranians need the price of oil to be close to $80 a barrel so that they can break even. They are inefficient. They need subsidies. They need to import. They have almost no cash reverse from their product and they are hemorrhaging money. Iran also made the mistake of dropping the dollar as the official currency exchange link and adopting the Euro, a move that has not proved beneficial.

The picture for Iran is very bleak indeed. No amount of nuclear energy will be able to pull Iran out of this very deep hole.

During the "seven good years of plenty" Iran should have been investing, saving and improving their systems. That, they did not do. That's what Qatar did. Qatar improved its oil infrastructure and is reaping the profits of their investment. The break even point to produce a barrel of oil for Qatar is about $10, substantially lower than what Iran needs. Iran was expecting to earn well over $100 billion in oil revenues this year. With the slashed prices, that number will probably be way down at $20 billion.

So what does this mean? While it is tempting, there is no great pleasure to be had in wallowing in the misfortune of Iran. But what we can do is point a finger, and that finger is pointed at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man responsible for the dramatic economic failure of Iran. Ahmadinejad ran for office on a platform that promised to improve and resuscitate Iran's ailing oil industry. And oil is the only real industry Iran has to export.

If the Supreme Leader, The Ayatollah Khamenei, would lift his head from the clouds and see Iran the way it really is right now, he would oust Ahmadinejad as President of Iran. The people might vote, but it is The Supreme Leader who determines the winner.

If Khatami, the former president and present political rival, wins the election that would be good for Iran. Khatami is less abusive. He is less of a bulldog when dealing with the West. He is more pragmatic and less prone to rhetoric. He understands the need to deal with oil. He understands the need to deal with economics.

OK, so maybe the cloud's lining isn't really silver. But neither is it completely black.

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

Iran's Democracy?
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 25, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

On June 12th Iranians will go to the polls.

Democracy in Iran is a concept very different from the democracy we know and depend on. In Iranian democracy the winner is predetermined, it is the person chosen winner by The Supreme Leader.

That is the way it has always been in Iranian elections and I am not expecting any changes come June 12th.

There is, however, one slight wrinkle in the upcoming election.
There is a reformist candidate running against Ahmadinejad, he is none other than the former president of Iran, Mohammed Khatami.

Reform, like democracy, has very different connotations in Iran than it does in the West. In Iran, reform relates exclusively to economic responsibility. That's it, nothing else.

Even though The Supreme Leader has tapped him to continue to reign supreme, the Ahmadinejad campaign is running scared.

This week two of Khatami's websites were shut down.

There was nothing taboo on the sites and they was nothing denigrating the current leadership. All they did was advocate Khatami's positions on economic issues in Iran.

They were knocked off the air not by hackers or by kids, they were knocked off by the official government agency that regulates the Iranian internet.

In Iran's democracy, things like this happen all the time.

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

In Math We Round Up
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 24, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

In math we round up.
When I heard through the grape vine, and later confirmed, that next week the US State Department intends on giving $900 million to Gaza I was in shock.

A billion dollars to Hamas, how is that possible?
The claim is that the money is not going to Hamas and that, besides, it is only 900 million not a billion.

Well here is some news for you.
Any money sent to Gaza goes to Hamas, it goes to them in either smaller and larger percents.

The reality is that the vast majority in Gaza is a silent majority.
According to surveys most Gazans overwhelmingly support Abbas, but they know, like we know, that Abbas lacks the authority to force Hamas to tow the line.
Those who are fearless enough to speak up have two points to make:
# 1: do not support Hamas
# 2: Arabs, do not give in to the United States

And here we are, giving out money like its halvah.

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

Iran Will Open Nuke Site on Wednesday
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 23, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

On Wednesday Iran is scheduled to hold a ceremonial opening for their brand new, big, nuclear power plant in Busher.
The Russian who built the plant will be on hand for the celebration.

Both the Russians and the Iranians have emphasized that it is just a ceremony. They want to make it clear that there are still some elements that need completion before the plant is fully operational, but the bulk of the work is done and what remains are the finishing touches.
This is a huge event for Iran.

At the time that the Iranians announced the nuclear plant ceremonies Gerhard Schroeder, the former leader of Germany, was in Iran.
Schroeder held a press conference and made his own announcement.
Schroeder was unequivocal in his declaration that there is no question about the history of the Holocaust - it definitely happened and 6 millions Jews were murdered.

These two events might seem unconnected, but they are very much connected.
These two events demonstrate the inversion of priorities and the importance of issues.
These two events point out the influence of and the interaction between the West and Iran and highlight how dramatic the synapse is on essential issues on both sides.

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

Kerry In Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 22, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

John Kerry just finished a week long trip to the Middle East.
Kerry visited some important places and met with some important people. Probably most critical for him were his visit to Gaza and his visit to Damascus.

Remember, Kerry is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
This was not a fact finding trip, in his position Kerry receives all the facts he needs with the snap of his fingers.
Kerry was in the Middle East serving as a high level messenger for President Barack Obama and rest assured, the message was delivered and it was received.

Hamas leaders in Gaza did not meet with Kerry but they were elated that he was there. Syria was ecstatic. All the Arab leaders in the region saw this as a genuine gesture, a reaching out to better understand the situation.

After meeting with Syrian leaders Bashar Assad, Kerry held a press conference. During the press conference Kerry suggested that Syria can play a key role in creating a Palestinian Unity government.

Until the press conference, I had not realized that a Palestinian Unity government was an objective of the United States.
The last time there was a Palestinian Unity government the United States was at the forefront of an international boycott because Hamas refused to accept Israel's right to exist. And the vast majority of the Western world signed on.

If this is a policy of the new administration it is a policy that needs to be seriously questioned.

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

Bibi's Options
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 21, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Benjamin Bibi Netanyahu has been asked by Israel's president to form the new Israeli government by coalition.

There are only three options now.

# 1: To create a centrist broad coalition.
In that coalition will be Likud, Kadima and either Labor or Yisrael Beitaynu, the party led by Lieberman, or both. Despite the press coverage, Lieberman can easily join a centrist government, he has done it in the past.
This is the best option.

# 2: To create a narrow coalition leaning heavy to the right.
Reality dictates that such a coalition will soon collapse. Ideology will get in the way of governing.

# 3: If no coalition can be created, new elections will be called
It is not clear what the results of a new vote will be, there is now ay of now knowing if the Israeli voting public will choose to punish the small parties or reward the medium parties.

At this point I can offer only analysis, there is no predicting what will happen next.

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

Bahrain Walks Out On Iran
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 20, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

You would think that Bahrain and Iran would be the best of friends.
You would be wrong.

Bahrain and Iran are engulfed in a serious diplomatic tiff.
The break occurred as the two countries were finalizing a natural gas deal. Bahrain walked out on Iran in a tizzy.

So what happened?
Iran is Iran is Iran.
Iran needs processed natural gas and so they approached Bahrain, which would make perfect sense.
The two countries got as far as ironing out the details of the deal when the Iranians felt it incumbent upon themselves to dis the Shah of Iran.
It is classic Iranian behavior.

The Iranians are constantly repeating what a big mistake it was to liberate the 14th province of Iran, which is today's Bahrain.
The Iranian negotiators listed the liberation as one of the greatest mistakes committed by the Shah.
That is when the negotiators picked themselves up and walked out.

I find it fascinating to see the lens through which Iran views local and regional issues.
For Iran, it is all about Iran and Shiite Islam - everything else is significantly less relevant.

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

Arms Shipped to Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 19, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Last Friday Cypriot authorities stopped a ship sailing under a Cypriot flag.

The ship was suspected of violating the UN embargo on arms to Hamas.
Yesterday, five days later the ship was finally permitted to leave Cyprus and sail for anywhere - only without its cargo.

The cargo has been unloaded and brought to a military base. It was material that can be used to make weapons. One source says the material included shell casings for tank shells.

Raids of this type are of critical importance in shutting down terror supply networks around the world. Even more important than stopping the arms shipment is following the money trail. That is how authorities can shut down the entire system.

The trail will, of course, inevitably lead to Iran.
But how does it get from one place to the other and finally land on a ship headed to Gaza.
The answer lies at the end of the money trail.

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

Israeli Politics: Never in the Bag
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 18, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

In Israeli politics there is no such thing as a shoe-in.
For proof you need to look no further than the results of the recent election and the subsequent deal makings and back door politicking taking place in Jerusalem.

The end game is forming a government.
The means to the end is coalition building.
Israeli President Shimon Peres is now performing his only official duty as President of Israel.
He is interviewing the party leaders and taking stock of what each leader projects about their ability to form a coalition and with whom.

The party most courted right now is headed by Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman has fascist leanings but he is the most politically realistic politician in the game. His primary issue is actually civil marriage and that is why the religious parties have united against him. Lieberman believes in a Palestinian state and is practical about swapping land in Israel for settlement blocs.

To his list of detractors add some of the nationalist parties and you have a minority anti-Lieberman bloc.
However, those to the left of center shouting anyone but Lieberman have already served in a government alongside Lieberman in both the Sharon and Olmert governments and none of that turned out too badly.

I recognize the dangers that Lieberman poses, but history has proven that beyond his two major issues upon which he is unbending, Avigdor Lieberman can be very flexible.

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

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 17, 2009


Tennis is a sport, it is not a political movement. Tennis tournaments are supported by sponsors and should not sponsor terror, terrorists or terrorist activities. Playing tennis is about competition, not boycotts.

The Dubai Tennis Championships ranks among the most prestigious tournaments in the world of professional tennis. Coverage of the Dubai receives international attention. This year, the coverage began even before the first match was played. The United Arab Emirates has denied an entrance visa to the person ranked 48th in the world in women's tennis.

Who has the distinction of being denied entry into the UAE? Her name is Shahar Peer. Why has Shahar Peer been singled out? Because Shahar Peer is an Israeli.

The decision sent shock waves throughout the international tennis community. Peer herself received word while participating in a match in Thailand. The shock was dramatic. The response of tennis players has been a unified clamor of dismay.

The players have all sided with Peer. Their support is as admirable as it is ineffective.

International sports at the level of the Dubai Tennis Championships should stand above politics. The reason the Olympics was re-established was specifically to highlight the credo that great sports and great athletics transcend the boundaries of politics and even of war.

The Women's Tennis Association should have cancelled the tournament. The WTA knew that there was a possibility that one of their players would be denied entry into the host country. They warned the hosts not to be discriminatory, not to deny a participant the chance to compete because she came from a country not on their politically approved list.

Larry Scott, director of the Women's Tennis Association, explained the situation by saying the WTA "knew it was an issue, but we made it clear that she was going to be in the draw and we wanted to be optimistic that she would get the visa." But, he said, "they (the UAE) waited until the 11th hour to deny it (the entry visa )."

The WTA director continued by saying: "I made it clear to them that if Shahar were not allowed to play, they would run the risk of losing their tournament. It would be a big blow to lose one of this prestige and money, but if it comes to the principles of fairness and openness, there can be no compromise."

Scott said all the right things. The problem is that he did nothing.

Larry Scott and the WTA have already compromised. They permitted the tournament to play despite their own warning and without the participation of one of their own member players. Larry Scott and the WTA did nothing to insure or to insist that the boycott against Israel declared by the Dubai Tennis Championships be rescinded.

Larry Scott and the Women's Tennis Association spoke up, but they took no action. They let the ball fall where it may. Canceling the Dubai Tennis Championships would have hurt the rankings of all the women scheduled to participate. Now, the only woman to be hurt is Shahar Peer, she has been cancelled, not the tournament.

This boycott is not personal it is political. Shahar Peer is a symbol, not a person for the Dubai organizers and decision makers. Her fellow players understood the situation and that is why they were in favor of supporting Peer and exerting more pressure on the hosts. The players were less afraid than the Association.

Shame on the Women's Tennis Association. The world has come to expect little of the United Arab Emirates, the decision to block Peer was true to form.

Boycotting Israel is wrong - regardless of the justification. There are organizations that boycott Israeli scholars and academics even translators and organizations that are attempting to divest from Israeli technology. Not agreeing with Israel is not the same as fostering hatred of Israel. These boycotts are enforced not to cause financial harm, these are boycotts for the sole purpose of fostering hatred.

The Israeli operation in Gaza was an act of defense. Even if one disagreed with the operation, one must accept the principle that Israelis eventually have the right to defend themselves against terrorists who want to see them and Israel wiped off the map.

By permitting the Dubai Tennis Championships to play on without the player ranked 48th in world women's tennis, the Women's Tennis Association has allowed itself to be co-opted by the wrong kind of sponsor. The United Arab Emirates does not sponsor athletic shoes, the UAE does not sponsor artificial turf or watches or soft drinks. The UAE has the full support of the Women's Tennis Association and they boycott Israel.

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

Iran Wants to Play Chess
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 16, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Diplomacy has often been compared to game playing.
Usually, it is outsiders making the comparison, rarely is it the players themselves.

On Sunday Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian Parliament, was quoted by INRA, an official Iranian news agency, saying that the United States should stop boxing with Iran and learn a new game ... chess.

This is a powerful statement.
First, Iranians believe that chess was invented in Persia.
Second, Larijani claims that through chess, not through boxing, a solution might be reached between the United States and Iran.

I agree - with one caveat.
To play chess competitively, the opponents need to understand each other.
To box competitively, brute force, speed, agility, strength and intimidation are what is needed.
In order to play chess with Iran, the United States must first learn much more about Iran.

I suggest that the United States learns how to play against Iran before changing the game.

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

Abbas Bashing Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 15, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past few months Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been conducting a very serious and problematic campaign against Israel.

This campaign came to a head last week, a week before the Israeli election.

In short, Abbas has been bashing Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu.
Abbas met with French, British and Italian leaders.

His message to them went like this:
"You refused to fully cooperate with such a government because Hamas did not meet the Quartet's conditions on ending terrorism and recognizing Israel."

"You will have to adopt a similar stance toward an Israeli government that will oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and genuine negotiations over the core issues of a permanent settlement."

Abbas is telling Western leaders to treat Likud like Hamas.
How warped is that, even if you disagree with Likud, it is a mainstream democratic party.

Why has no one called Abbas on this perversion of reality?

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

Oil Prices Drop Bad for Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 14, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday at the NY Mercantile Commodities Market, oil dropped to an all time multi year-low of $33.98 a barrel.

There are many reasons for the drop.

Most of them are connected to the stimulus package and demonstrate the lack of faith investors have in the short term market.

The drop of course also illustrates the bear side of the market.

Do not be completely disheartened - there is some good to be found in the drop in oil prices.

The drop tells us that Iran is really suffering and will suffer some more.

The OPEC cartel can not single handedly alter the price by limiting supply.

This is good for the West and good for politics.

This drop also proves that the control the oil producing nations think they have is becoming more and more illusionary.

The role that real markets play is as important, if not more important, than the supply side.
We have moved one step closer to freeing ourselves from the shackles of oil producing countries.

Remember: That which hurts Iran, helps the West.

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

John Kerry Is Off To Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 13, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Next week Senator John Kerry is headed to Syria where he will meet Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Kerry is not embarking on a fact finding mission.
Kerry is head of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Kerry does not need any information, if he did all he has to do is snap his fingers.
This trip by the former Democratic presidential nominee is a diplomatic mission, Obama style.

Two things are happening here:
# 1: Obama wants to send a very clear message of openness to Syria and the entire region signifying that the United States is opening doors. The visit by Kerry is an important gesture in that direction. Syria is walking a tightrope between Iran and the West and could go either way, so courting Syria is a wise diplomatic move by the new US president.

#2: The more significant reason for this trip by Kerry is to help the United States regain involvement and importance in the region. For the past 18 months the major Western player in the region has been Sarkozy of France who has been doing a very good job of moving Western priorities and interests along in the Middle East. This week alone, France has had high level meetings in Egypt and in Jordan. French leadership has played an essential role in setting acceptable limits on Iran.

Obama and the United States are embarking on a mission to wrestle back the mantel of leadership throughout the world.
Kerry is a key player in the fulfillment of that mission.

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

The Next Israeli Coalition
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 12, 2009

I'm Predicting:

After an election the president of Israel has one task:
To interview the parties and charge a party with the responsibility of building a coalition consisting of over 60 members for the purpose of creating a government.

The job of the president is mostly ceremonial, but this one responsibility is enormous:
It is up to the president to decide which party leader has the best chance of success at cobbling together a group that can govern.

Following this election there are only two possibilities:
Likud under Netanyahu or Kadima under Livni.
Everyone already knows that the right block will have more Knesset seats than the left, but despite that fact, right now, the jury is still out.

Here is the dilemma:
How many parties on the right are actually center leaning and willing to move over and how many parties on the right are actually right and want to stay there.

Shas is not a right party, they are a social party interested in social services for their constituency. They have several issues that put them to the right but others that have them on the left. Shas can go both ways.

Lieberman, of Yisrael Beitaynu, has already shown that he can be in a coalition with Kadima, he has done it not once but twice. The flip side is that Lieberman and Netanyahu despise one another, even though Lieberman came of political age under Netanyahu's tutelage.

Netanyahu and Likud have much to gain by trying to set up the coalition, but Netanyahu is as disliked by as many members of his own party as he is by members of other parties and a lot of coalition cobbling boils down to personalities.

The president will take this all under consideration.
Sometime soon President Peres will make his decision.
Until the final moment, much like the election, everything will remain up in the air.

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

By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 11, 2009


Monday morning football is always rough, even when it happens on a Wednesday. Players nurse their wounds and elevate their swollen joints. Bruised egos need massaging and swollen egos need time to relax.

The elections in Israel are over. The race was tight, but the winner won by a large margin. The winner, you see, is not a party. The clear cut winner in this Israeli election is the Israeli people, the masses were the winner.

Sure, some commentators will say I told you so and others will justify their projections. In the coverage leading up to this election most commentators fell into the trap of predicting what they, personally, wanted to happen rather than what the Israeli public was saying they wanted to have happen.

The masses in Israel are in the middle and that is how exactly they voted.

That is how the voters voted in the last election and in the elections before that. Israelis are not extremists. Despite stories that pepper media around the world, Israelis are not on the lunatic fringe. Israelis are moderates.

In every election since Yitzhak Rabin was voted into office the masses have voted for the middle. The same people sway slightly to the right on one election and then slightly to the left on the next election. The same people who ousted Peres when he took over the position of prime minister following the Rabin assassination voted for Netanyahu. And the same people who voted Netanyahu in ousted him and voted for Barak. And those are the same people who then ousted Barak and voted for Ariel Sharon.

Sharon was the first prime minister and party leader to figure it out. And that is why he moved away from Likud - toward the center, and created the Kadima party, a party that could swing a little bit right and a little bit left. That is why Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni will be called upon to form a government. She did not tinker with success.

And that is why Bibi Netanyahu and his Likud Party was successful and garnered so many seats. The vast majority of Israelis voting for Likud are only slightly right of center, they are not extremists. And the vast majority of Israelis voting for Kadima are only slightly left of center and some are actually right of center.

That is how the center took the plurality.

So why were so many people, pundits and pontificators fooled? There are several reasons.

The foreign press stationed in Israel, and it is one of the largest postings for foreign journalists in the world, find it entertaining to cover the characters who occupy the fringes. It's good reading. It's sexy. The people on the fringes are interesting, even if they are not representative of mainstream Israel.

The local press, for the most part, is revolted by the right wing. And they feel the need to transmit that revulsion to the masses. They see the right, even the slightly right of center party supporters, as Neanderthals, as people who have only one response to every situation - violence. Don't get enough health and welfare services - violence. Not enough money for education - violence. The Palestinians - violence. Of course, the local press knows how to temper their portrayals of the right wing. But when local stories are picked up by international media the nuance is lost, the coverage is warped, the story is out of perspective. For their part, the average Israeli feels battered by the press. The lives they lead and the lives portrayed on media screens and in newspapers collide and clash.

And that explains why everyone was so far off in predicting the end result of the election in Israel and in predicting the continued stability of Kadima and Livni. No one paid attention to the masses in the middle. The coverage focused on the extremes.

The race was close and Livni squeaked by Netanyahu. They may have to share power, they may even have to negotiate a rotation of power. Right now the process of coalition building, the true art of compromise, begins. There too the center will emerge - just watch.

Instead of reading their own columns, the commentators should have been reading the writing on the wall.

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

Today's Elections
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 10, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

It's Election Day in Israel.
Of the 33 parties running for the 120 seat parliament, only about 11 will succeed and be seated in the Israeli Knesset.

In this election there are:
5,278,985 people are registered to vote
9263 polling stations
7am is when the polling stations open and 10pm is when they close
When Machiavelli said "politics make strange bedfellows" he might have had a premonition about Israeli politics.
The Holocaust Survivor Party has merged with the Cannabis Party.

Voting is not mechanical in Israel, it is much simpler. There are neither computers nor machines. There is no curtain. A corrugated board stands on a desk separating the voter from curious observers.
The Israeli voter selects a small sheet of paper that looks a lot like Monopoly money, inserts it into an envelope and then walks over to a blue box with slit on top and a 7 branched menorah on the side and drops the envelope inside.
The papers are not imprinted with the names of the various parties, they display the letters that symbolize each party. It can get confusing.

This will be the 18th Knesset.
It is a historic time in Israel's history.

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Tuesday's Election
By Micah Halpern

February 9, 2009

I've BeenThinking:

About Tuesday's elections in Israel

This election is still up in the air.
Anyone who predicts results is projecting his/her own wishes rather than predicting.

It is all up in the air is because 22% of Israeli voters are still undecided.
Those 22% are centrists.
That means they are in perpetual motion, swaying between the slight right of center and the slight left of center.

The extreme right has gained popularity and power and will become the 3rd largest party in the Knesset.
The founding parties of the nation, Labor and the Religious Zionists, have continued to dwindle to the point where they now have almost no influence on Israeli politics.

When it comes to military and political decision making there will be no discernible difference between Likud and Kadima.
They fight bitterly, but it is more style than substance that differentiates between the parties - at heart they are the same.

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Israeli Elections
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 8, 2009

I'm Predicting:

On Tuesday elections will be held in Israel.
These elections are way too close to call.

The last polls to be made public before the elections, released on Friday, put Likud 2 seats ahead of Kadima with a degree of error of over 3 points.
Over the past few weeks the Likud lead has shrunk.
Tracking movement, especially slow shrinkage and the gradual closing of gaps, is important in predicting election results, it reflects trends.

According to every published poll there is a 2 seat difference between Likud and Kadima.
The polls are also all showing that the party led by Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beitaynu, is growing fast to 18 seats.
The other parties are petrified that Lieberman might steal their votes.
On Saturday night the Rabbi of Shas considered to be one of the leading religious thinker among Jews from North African communities said voting for Lieberman is voting for the devil. The word he used was Satan.

The election is in a few days.
A few days is a lifetime in Israeli politics.

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Hamas Will Steal From The Needy
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 7, 2009

I'm Predicting:

Hamas will continue to steal the international aid intended for the Palestinians of Gaza.
It is what Hamas does.

Over the past week Hamas has stolen from the people more than once.
In one event Hamas stole 200 tons of food supplies.
In another act of grand theft Hamas commandeered ten truckloads at gun point, taking 5000 blankets and 400 food parcels.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon issued a statement saying that the United Nations is suspending all aid to Gaza because Hamas stole aid destined for innocent civilians.
Secretary Ban says that the UN will not resume aid to Gaza until the materials are returned and real assurances are given that this will not happen again.

Once again, the money pouring in to help rebuild, replenish, revitalize and feed Gaza is going straight into the coffers of Hamas.

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Farce in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 6, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Two vignettes about Hamas.
These things you can't make up.

Egypt stepped up and prevented a Hamas courier from transporting 11 million in cold cash - 9 million in US dollars and 2 million in Euros - from Egypt into Gaza.
The courier was part of a group of Hamas leaders that had come to speak with the Egyptians about negotiating their cease fire with Israel. After the group was caught one man stayed back and deposited the money in an Egyptian bank while everyone else crossed back to the Gaza side.

At just about the same time as the courier bust, Israel was boarding a ship headed to Gaza with food and health supplies. The ship was named Tali, And the word spread around the world was that Tali was supposed to have been filled with 60 tons of supplies in order to help the needy of Gaza. It sailed under a Tago flag, a small country in West Africa. Upon boarding, Israel discovered that the vessel carried only 150 bottles of water and a few dozen pounds of and medicine.

What a farce.
Smuggling money into Gaza and stealing the money intended for supplies to help the needy of Gaza.
That's Hamas for you.

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

By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 5, 2009


If life was a school playground the revered and feared principal would say "OK boys, shake hands and be friends" and voila, the boys would do just that.

But life is not a school playground. And there is no revered and feared principal. And Hamas and Fatah are not about to shake hands and be friends just because the United States, with the backing of many other Western nations, wants them to.

It's not what they want to do. And who's gonna make them?

Since the conclusion of the Israeli operation against Hamas by way of a grudgingly agreed upon if not entirely adhered to unilateral cease fire, the Western world has been calling for an end to hostilities not between the avowed enemies, but between the two parties who are in reality the one enemy. In other words, forget about Israel for now, let's get Hamas and Fatah together. And then we can call it a Palestinian nation and turn our attention to a peace treaty between Israel and the now unified Palestinian nation.

The idea is to co-opt Hamas and make them a part of the greater Palestinian cause. And it is a very bad idea.

Forget about whether Israel thinks that this is a good idea, which they do not. Forget about whether Egypt and Jordan think this is a good idea, what do they know and why should they count, they are the bordering countries who understand the customs, cultures and citizens of the not-yet-formed Palestinian state. Why take into consideration the concerns of those people who are most affected by any decisions taken by the various strata of Palestinian leadership.
And why take into consideration the lessons that should have been learned from not-so-distant experience.

Just ask Hamas. They've been there and done that. Hamas wants nothing to do with this idea now just like they wanted nothing to do with it after receiving a majority in the Palestinian Parliamentary election.

Doesn't anyone in the Western world of diplomacy and decision foisting remember what happened last time there was a power sharing situation between Abbas and his Fatah party and Hamas? Come on, it wasn't that long ago. It was such a resounding success that the United States and most other Western countries cut off all aid and relations with the Palestinian Authority. And that happened why? That happened because Hamas refused to accept the three principles of the Quartet. Hamas refused to accept Israel's right to exist, Hamas refused to uphold previously entered into peace agreements with Israel and Hamas refused to denounce terror and work towards combating terror.

When asked just recently whether they would join Fatah and Abbas, Hamas said "no." Hamas did not even blink. For Hamas it is a no brainer. Hamas does not like to share, does not want to share and will not share. Once again, think schoolyard. Hamas likes to bully. Once again, think back just a little. Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza only a year ago last summer. They won an election and received a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament. Hamas has no need for Fatah.

Hamas not only has no need for Fatah in Gaza, Hamas actually wants to oust Fatah from power in the West Bank. In the eyes of Hamas, Hamas deserves total control.

The Western sponsored proposal for Palestinian power sharing would have Fatah's Abbas as the number one man and Hamas coming up second. And now the West is surprised that Hamas finds the proposal, how shall I say it, unacceptable. Fatah and Hamas are sworn enemies. And as far as Hamas is concerned, Abbas is a traitor.

Hamas believes that Abbas and, by extension, Fatah were in favor of the Israeli operation into Gaza. Hamas believes that Fatah collaborated with Israel. And in the world governed by Hamas calling someone a collaborator is akin to an Imam calling someone an infidel. Hamas believes that Israel would never have been so successful had they not had the assistance of Fatah members on the ground. And that is why the human shields that Hamas used in Gaza against the Israelis were families of Fatah affiliates.

Ismail Haniyah, the Hamas leader from Gaza who was elected Palestinian Prime Minister, has vividly depicted Abbas as a man who would "ride into Gaza on an Israeli tank." The imagery is powerful. The imagery resonates with Hamas advocates and Hamas supporters. It is a symbol that will be repeated in the Arabic press and on the Arab street. It means that Abbas permitted Israel to do what it did all in order to reap the benefits of an Israeli operation that would crush Hamas and neuter it militarily. This is a blood feud as much as it is a religious conflict.

The battle between Hamas and Fatah is the central story in the Palestinian world today. Neither side is shaking hands. Hamas and Fatah are not about to become friends.

They've learned their lesson. We should learn it, too.

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Iran's Home Grown Satellite
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 4, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has just announcement a new arrival - the Iranians have a new satellite.
Like proud parents, the Iranians even supplied footage of their newest production.

This satellite is totally home grown.
The Iranians made every part of this satellite.
Until now Iran was hiring, buying and commissioning the components needed for satellite technology.
Iran has reached a new high in their technological capability.

This new satellite is called OMID which means hope in Persian.
It is a three month satellite, it will orbit and then it will be replaced.
The OMID was launched into orbit by the Safir satellite rocket and the images on Iranian state TV were very impressive.

Anyone who thinks the Iranians are a backward people is seriously mistaken.
This satellite is further proof that Iran is home to great technical minds.

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Israel Delivers A Message
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 3, 2009

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has begun to strike back at Hamas.

Now the questions arise:
Is Israel toying with Hamas?
Is Israel working off of bad intel?

This is what is happening:
Israel began their operation with phone calls to the cell phones of Palestinians advising them to take proper cover and leave their neighborhoods and areas in Khan Yunis.
Then Israel hit a Hamas command center responsible for the increased intensity of rocket attacks falling on Israel these last few days.
The Hamas target site was empty.

This is why Israel did what they did:
The purpose for Israel's strike was to simply respond to the Hamas attacks.
Israel was sending the message that further attacks will not be tolerated.
Israel wanted to respond quickly and immediately.
Hitting an empty former command and control center was a way to deliver that message.

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Warning Warning
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 2, 2009

I'm Predicting:

Hamas on one border, Hezbollah on another, Israel is bracing for difficult times.

Hamas sent 4 rockets and 13 mortars into Israel yesterday.
Now Israel may have to hit back.

Hezbollah is all fired up and Israel is expecting attacks over the next few weeks.
Last year on February 13 Imad Mughniyah, the architect of Hezbollah's terror infrastructure and operations, was assassinated in a car bomb.

Hamas and Hezbollah are trying to strike hard at Israel.
Hamas and Hezbollah will do their best to attack Jewish and Israelis in acts of revenge.

Israel is on high alert.
Jewish and Israeli institutions around the world should be on high alert, as well.

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

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