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US Threatens PA
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 1, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The United States is pressuring Palestinian President Abbas to begin direct talk with Israel. The same pressure is coming from the Arab League. And from leaders around the world.

Now come some very interesting follow-up comments: Hannan Ashwari, while interviewed on Al Jazera, said that the US threatened to cut off relations if Abbas did not join direct talks. The US State Department responded that the United States does not threaten.

Actually, the US does threaten. In this case, the US will withdraw the support they have given the PA if they do not embark on direct talks.

Abbas knows that local Palestinian leadership will not be at all happy with direct talks. So he has set out a series of preconditions before he will return to direct talks. Abbas hopes to keep both sides happy.

Since the Arab League Meeting
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 31, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Ever since Thursday's Arab League meeting, interesting messages and movements have begun to emerge.

Most significantly, the Arab League now agrees with the United States and Israel that the way forward with the Palestinians is through direct, face-to-face discussions. The League could not say that they agree with Western nations outright, so they phrased it such that they see great benefit to direct negotiations that are overseen by the United States - but that the decision rests with the Palestinian Authority.

Next, the King of Saudi Arabia and the President of Syria called for unity in the League to help resolve the Palestinian Israeli issues.

And the King of Saudi Arabia and the King of Jordan announced that the only possible way to stabilize the region is through a two-state solution. This is especially interesting because the Saudis do not officially recognize Israel.

From the meeting and the announcements afterwards it seems clear that Arab leadership is divided. The larger group, led by the Saudis, wants direct negotiations and a two-state solution.

The smaller group, led by the head of the Arab League, Amir Moussa, wants to say no, wants to push off direct negotiations and wants a Palestinian state but only on their terms - which is very old school.

What matters is that there is serious development of thought in the Arab world and among Arab leadership. It remains to be seen if talk turns into action.

Iran's Family Planning
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 30, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Since the fall of the Shah, Iran has had nothing but disdain for family planning.

The Shah encouraged a reduction of family size. Ads during the '70's proclaimed "2 is enough." Under the Shah, the optimum Iranian family size was 4.

For years now, even discussions of family planning is thought to be a sin of the West and considered anti-Muslim.

The reality is that today Iran is suffering from a huge people drain, the Iranian people are in a crisis environment. Iranians are leaving as quickly as they can find the opportunity. Very talented people are leaving Iran in droves. Estimates put unemployment at 15% to 20% (official figures say 10%). There are 73 million people in Iran. 10 million live in poverty.

So Iran has devised a plan. The government has said they will pay $950 per baby at birth and $95 per year until the child is 18 years old, the money will be used to send the child to school.

The Iranians hope that they have devised a way of increasing their population and filling a serious need for trained professionals.

Iran is planning for the future - and that includes more kids and more home trained professionals.

Mubarak Sends Letter to Rabbi Ovadia
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 29, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Hosni Mubarak just sent a personal letter to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Egypt's president was responding to Rabbi Yosef's questions about his failing health and inquiry about the reports of cancer that are being reported in the media.

Ovadia Yosef is the former Chief Rabbi of Israel and the former Chief Rabbi Egypt.

This letter is not simply a letter. It is a message to Israel. The message is that Mubarak is healthy and here for long haul.

By extension, Mubarak is sending another message. This message is being sent home. Mubarak is telling all of Egypt that the rumors are just rumors, that the media is out to weaken Egypt.

Iran Invests $46 Billion in Refineries
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 28, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has finally begun to invest in Iranian refineries.
Because Iranian refinery capability is so dismal, the Iranians actually import more than 40% of their own gasoline.

Iran is now investing $46 billion in upgrades on nine refineries and building seven new ones. They have already invested $26 in the new refineries.

The Iranians are finally realizing that the only way to break away from the strangle hold that will continue to tighten around them is by becoming independent. They are the 2nd largest oil producer in the Middle East and the 5th largest in the world and yet they have to beg for refined gas after they export oil.

The plan is to solve this problem within the next year. Iran is racing against the clock, against the sanctions clock. If the Iran plan works, sanctions will have no impact at all.

Jethro Tull Will Not Cancel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 27, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

This has been a summer of cancellations.

Band after band has cancelled concert tours to Israel. Most of the cancellations came as a result of pressure brought by European, anti- Israel, organizations.

Leftfield, Elvis Costello, The Pixies, Jill Scott Heron, Santana, The Klaxons, Gorillaz Sound System, they've all cancelled their Israeli performances. The would - be line-up is impressive. More impressive is Jethro Tull.

Jethro Tull has not cancelled, at least not yet. The group is still scheduled to perform an open air concert in Caesaria on August 7. The proceeds from the Jethro Tull concert will go to programs that sponsor co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians and between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The band's lead musician, Ian Anderson, made it very clear that they will not be pressured to cancel their Israel performance. Anderson insisted that Jethro Tull will not be intimidated.

I hope others learn from Jethro Tull's example.

Chavez Threatens to Shut Off US Oil
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 26, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Chavez of Venezuela just threatened to stop exporting oil to the United States if Columbia launches any attack on its territory.

The Columbians believes that rebels are crossing their 1300 mile mutual border and crossing back to the refuge of Venezuela. Chavez believes that the US is behind the arrogance of the Columbian government.

According to Hugo Chavez: "If there was any armed aggression against Venezuela from Colombian territory or from anywhere else, promoted by the Yankee empire, we would suspend oil shipments to the United States even if we have to eat stones here."
For further emphasis Chavez adds: "We would not send a drop more to U.S. refineries."

Chavez will not live up to his promise. Why? Because 90% of Venezuela's oil exports go to the US of A. The entire economy of Venezuela would collapse if Chavez actually pulled the plug on the United States.

Egypt's Future is in Question
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 25, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appeared on TV in a taped presentation.

There have been rumors that Egypt's president is dying of cancer and one US paper even reported that he has less than a year to live. In March he had gallbladder surgery in Germany and was out of Egypt for three weeks, running affairs of state from his hospital room.

Mubarak looked thinner than usual, but he sounded fine and still looked good. The thinness does not bother me. It was always well camouflage under his exquisitely tailored suits, but Mubarak has been about sixty pounds overweight for a long while.

This TV appearance was a tool to support and bolster confidence in Mubarak's power and position. The message is I am alive and well. I am in charge and in control of Egypt. You are in good hands.

There is no doubt that one of the most important issues Mubarak is considering is succession. Mubarak's internal struggle right now is whether to open and liberalize Egypt permitting a more democratic election or to personally choose and place his successor in position. The next question then is who that person would be. Who is best suited to succeed him? If he does not hand pick a successor and chooses to liberalize, Mubarak has to figure out what to do with the Islamists.

If Egypt permits the Islamists to run, they may just win the Egyptian election just like Hamas won the Palestinian election. Mubarak does not want that to happen. Neither do we.

US Upgraes PA Status
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 24, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The United States has decided to upgrade the diplomatic status of the Palestinian Authority. The PA now falls under the category of "general delegation."

Until now Palestinian status was that of a "mission." This boost in status is an attempt by the US to convince Palestinian President Abbas to sign on to the US peace plan.

The move is viewed by the PA as important and by the Israelis as a necessity. The problem with the way this upgrade has been bestowed upon the Palestinians is that these kinds of diplomatic moves should be rewards for deeds done - not enticements to achieve a diplomatic goal. Once given, the United States will not and cannot rescind this status, even if Abbas and the PA do not toe the line.

This is a classic diplomatic blunder. Hoping to achieve a goal and giving the reward before the goal is achieved will, in the end, turn out to be a wasted prize. The United States will not get what they want because the Palestinians no longer have any incentive to do what they are asked.

This is why diplomacy is an art. It requires more than good goals. It requires the nerves of a gambler who holds on tough and never shows weakness even when bluffing with a weak hand. The irony of it all is that the United States' hand was not weak, it was the Palestinians who, until now, had the weaker hand. Until now.

Smuggling in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 23, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Houdini used to say there has never been a lock that cannot be picked.
The same can be said of fences and security system. The only question is how much time it will take.

That being said, I was not in the least surprised to see video footage of a Palestinian with a blowtorch cutting a whole in the famous underground iron wall that Egypt constructed in order to prevent smugglers from entering Gaza.

Where there is a will, there is always a way.

Smuggling dates back to the era of the Bedouins who roamed the region without fear of crossing borders. Smuggling across the border with Egypt is part of a long tradition in Gaza.

Today the smuggling business is a lucrative and important business. Smuggling is a driving force of the Gaza economy. Nothing will stop the smuggling, not even an iron wall.

Iran is Going Fusion
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 22, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The Iranian Nuclear Organization came out with an announcement yesterday: they are improving their fusion potential.

That small announcement is code for: Iran is set to build a nuclear fusion reactor.

Until now, Iran has been involved only in fission.

Fission is splitting a massive atom into two or more parts. Fission produces a lot of radiation and is perfect for an atomic bomb.

Fusion is fusing two or more atoms into one larger one. The fusion reaction is 3 to 4 times greater than the fission reaction.

The IRNA, Islamic Republic News Agency, announced that the Nuclear Organization is having a grand opening of their fusion facility on Saturday. If that is true, Iran will have mastered a new level of nuclear science and morphed into a super power.

I do not think this information is an accurate, but I do know that it is an Iranian dream.

Gaza Shopping Mall
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 21, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

From the pictures and video I've seen, the new Gaza multi-floor, indoor, Western style shopping center looks very impressive.

The air conditioned mall houses clothing stores, food shops, designer stores, and all the products of international investors like Adidas and Lacoste.

Tens of thousands of people visited during in the first two days the mall was opened. It was a very impressive grand opening. Many probably came because of the air conditioning - a welcome respite from the sweltering heat of Gaza. Others may have come because it is the first shopping mall of its kind in Gaza. But make no doubt about it, the cash registers were ringing up sales.

The difficult part of this whole picture is rationalizing the international image which presents Gazans as a poor and suffering population in need of medical and monetary aid and this high end, upscale portrayal of Gazans.

We need better information. We need to know where the aid is and where the money is going. We need to know what really happens in Gaza.

Al Qaeda Message
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 20, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Dr. Ayman Zawahiri has posted an audio file on an al Qaeda website taunting President Obama.

Zawahiri is the number two man in al Qaeda. In recent years, Zawahiri has been the man with the message. He has regularly and successfully delivered the word of Bin Laden to al Qaeda adherents.

The website has several message of import. One message is that Muslim leaders who collaborate with the West are more harmful to the Palestinians than are the Israelis.

Another message comes in the form of a moral lesson for the United States President: "Poor Obama comes to Kabul and he promises that Taliban shall not return to power ... You poor man, can you promise that your hordes will return safely to America?"

Zawahiri wants his followers to know Obama is wrong, he wants them to know that Western soldiers are going to die and he wants them to know that the Taliban is growing.

Burqa in Europe
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 19, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

First Belgium, then France. Now England. Even Spain is considering it.

Belgium and France have already passed laws against women wearing the burqa, the Islamic headdress worn by women, the headdress that covers the entire face, leaving only a thin slit for the eyes.

In England last week a poll was conducted asking 2,000 people what they thought about passing a British law similar to the French law, a law prohibiting the burqa.
67% of those polled are in favor of enacting such a law.

In Spain the subject of the burqa is already under discussion in the Parliament.

The masses reject the burqa for two very different reasons.
One reason is that the burqa covers a woman's face in public and that flies in the face of womens' freedoms and equality. A second is security, it is impossible to identify people if their faces are completely covered.

For it or against it, the burqa elicits a visceral reaction.

Abbas Makes his Demands
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 18, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

George Mitchell, President Obama's Special Envoy in the Middle East, has been talking to the involved parties. Mitchell has spoken to both Abbas and Netanyahu about upgrading to direct talks.

In an interview in a Jordanian newspaper Abbas made clear what he needs to begin direct talks: He wants Israel to accept the pre-1967 borders, he also wants compensation for those who were displaced by Israel's creation in 1948.

The problem with these demands is that it leaves very little room for the direct talks.

Abbas' demands are called preconditions, they want them in order to gain advantage. In the end, preconditions stifle negotiations they don't advance them.

Bombings in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 17, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

There was a double suicide bombing in Iran. The attack took place in a Shiite Mosque in Zahedan.

The attack was timed to take place on the birthday of Hussein Mohammed's grandson and the progenitor of Shiite Islam. The Mosque was quiet as the Imam read from the Koran when the first explosion ripped thru the mosque.

The first the bomber was a man dressed as a woman. The second bomb exploded twenty minutes later. The one - two bomb attack is becoming a more and more common modus opperendi. At least 27 have been killed, many of them Iranian Revolutionary Guards who were in the mosque in honor of "Iranian Revolutionary Guard Day."

Jundallah, which translates to mean Soldiers of Allah is the Sunni group that has claimed responsibility for the bombings. This group is also responsible for another devastating explosion that took place in Oct of last year killing 40 people.

There is a resistance in Iran. Some reject tradition, some reject Shiite establishment. They all despise the Iranian leadership and their response is to unite and create a real resistance movement.

They Always Blame Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 16, 2010


Israel has become the scapegoat for nearly all problems in the Muslim world. Certainly, Israel is the scapegoat for all problems Palestinian.

It's always: Why did Israel do that, or, why didn't Israel do this. If Israel were not there, the regions would be so serene ... the lives of Palestinians would be so much better ... If Israel would only change policy, terrorism would be down ... there would be peace in the Middle East.

What sounds like platitudes and wishful thinking is nothing more than veiled anti-Semitism. Blaming Israel is the excuse for Palestinian failures and ineptitudes. Holding Israel responsible is the way in which leaders of the greater Arab/Muslim world absolve themselves of all guilt, responsibility and shame.

A simple example of just how guileful the international cabal is in their hatred of Israel can be determined by examining the current electricity crisis in Gaza for which Israel is being blamed.

Here's the story: The original electricity agreement for Gaza was for the European Commission to pay Israel and for Israel to deliver electricity to Gaza. Israel is to provide 70% of Gaza's electricity, Egypt 5% and Gaza's own power plant the remaining 25%. After an initial trial period the European Commission chose to transfer all money and all responsibility to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority refuses to pay Israel for Gaza's electricity. Hamas is livid.

It is the PA that has turned off the lights - and air conditioning and ice makers and refrigeration in the 100 plus degree heat of the Gaza summer, not Israel. In response, anger and frustration, Hamas has begun publicly attacking Palestinian leadership. But the PA is not budging, they are keeping Gaza hot, bothered and in the dark. Adding figurative fuel to the flames is the fact that the actual fuel that runs the Gaza power plant is also imported from Israel and the PA is refusing to pay that cost, as well.

So why is there an electricity shortage in Gaza, because of the staunch rivalry between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority ruling and running matters from Ramallah in the West Bank. A little power in the hands of Fatah run Palestinian leadership is turning into a very dangerous tool.

Electricity in Gaza worked perfectly well all the while it was under the administration of the Europeans, but turned to a trickle as soon as it came under the control of the Palestinians. So much for Europe's grasp of the Fatah/Hamas dynamic.

In general, it is almost unheard of for foreign aid organizations to blame the Palestinians for anything - for anything at all. But now, one lone and important voice has spoken out. The voice speaks out of frustration.

The following comes from the transcript of a press conference with John Ging, head of UNWRA, The United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

"It is such a tragedy that, on top of all the other crises that we have in the Gaza Strip, we now have a crisis of electricity."

"It's an unbearable situation here at the moment, and it needs to be solved very quickly. It's a Palestinian problem, made by Palestinians, and causing Palestinian suffering. So let's have a Palestinian solution."

John Ging realized that the entire electricity crisis in Gaza is Palestinian produced. It was not easy for Ging to concede that fact. It was not easy for the head of UNWRA to acknowledged that Gazans continue to suffer only because the PA hates Hamas.

UNWRA has been one of the outspoken leaders in anti-Israel attitude and behavior over the past decade. For UNWRA to go public against Palestinian infighting was a calculated decision, undoubtedly intended to embarrass the PA into changing policy and turning on electricity.

It is time for Palestinians to take responsibility for their mistakes, time for the world to hold them accountable. It is far too easy to cast blame and say simply that Israel and "the occupation" are the cause of all ills that befall the Palestinian people.

Lockerbie Hijacker Still Alive
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 15, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Last year Scotland released Lockerbie terrorist Abdel Basset al Megrahi and sent him back to Libya.

At the time, the assumption was that al Megrahi was in advanced stages of cancer and on his death bed. Doctors were predicting that the infamous terrorist had only weeks, maybe a month, to live. One of the conditions of his release was that al Megrahi would live out the remaining days of his life quietly and privately - no hoopla.

So what happened? Abdel Basset al Megrahi returned home to Libya as a hero.
And today, he is still alive and a public role model.

Typical, just typical.

Postpone Meetings for a Reason
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 14, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Meetings between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been postponed twice in the past week. Tuesday's meeting was postponed til Wednesday and is now rescheduled for Sunday.

The reason given for these postponements is said to be the ill health of Mubarak. A convenient excuse because almost everyone who monitors Egypt is worried about Mubarak's health - but probably a ruse.

Mubarak wants to wait until Sunday because George Mitchell has a meeting set up on Friday and Saturday with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas. Abbas is also supposed to meet with Mubarak tomorrow, Thursday.

The real reason is that Mubarak needs to understand the responses of Israel and the Palestinians and then the Egyptian leader needs to try to create some real progress and move the parties together. Abbas has been apprehensive about moving on to direct talks unless there was real progress in the indirect talks.

All this will be unraveled in the upcoming week.

Gaddafi' Son and the Ship to Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 13, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Saif Gaddafi is Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son. He is also the head of the Libyan charity that is arranging the ship that departed from Greece headed to Crete and then on to Gaza.

The ship, flying under a Moldavian flag is called the Amalthea and is expected to arrive on Wednesday. Amalthea, known as the foster mother of Zeus, is also the third moon of Jupiter. Amalthea means tender goddess in Greek. Interestingly, in Arabic, amal means hope.

The Amalthea is carrying 2000 tons of food, 12 crew members and 15 activists.

Young Gaddafi was supposed to be on the ship. According to reports, he was on the vessel and his father demanded that he not embark. The fear was that Israel was gearing up to take make certain that the ship not reach Gaza.

Whatever happens, the Israelis will not permit this ship to break the blockade. Libya has said that they want to be practical and if Israel does not permit the aid to enter Gaza, they will get it there another way.

Probably through the Egyptian port of El Arish.

Iran Putting Clerics in Schools
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 12, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is going in the offensive.

According to Sunday's Iranian press, Iran is going on the offensive to counteract Western influence on their youth.

The Iranians are dispatching 1000 religious leaders to schools in order to fight the "brainwashing" of their students. The Iranians want to challenge Western influences on their children and prevent the next generation from being indoctrinated by the ideas of democracy and freedom.

Each of the 1000 leaders are themselves religious role models.

Ultimately, the Iranian objective will fail. It is impossible to effectively combat modern influences with doctrine and seclusion. The only way to confront modern freedom is by teaching respect.

Arab League to Meet About Progress
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 11, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The Arab League is scheduled to meet on July 29 to discuss and evaluate the status of the Palestinian - that's their way of saying Israeli indirect negotiations.

It was the Arab League that underwrote the idea of indirect talks in the first place. Now Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, is saying that "we are now facing the failure of these negotiations."

The Arab League is composed of foreign ministers from 22 countries and 4 observers. The Arab League sets the tone on almost every foreign policy issue the Palestinians embark on.

The Arab League provides cover and protection. And now the Arab League is slowing down the peace process - which was the reason for indirect talks in the first place.

In the end, the Arab League will not torpedo direct talks nor will they halt any real progress and momentum that the United States is hoping for. It is a classic Arab League move, it is pure bluster.

Travel Alert for Israelis
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 10, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's Bureau for Counter Terrorism issued a warning to all Israelis advising them to be highly aware when travelling.

The Bureau normally issues very specific and precise warnings - this warning is very different.

Here is the text: "According to our intelligence, there continue to be threats of revenge, killings or kidnappings of Israelis traveling outside the country, especially business people and high-ranking ex-government officials."

In other words, Israelis traveling to any and all locations, be careful.

The best intelligence available is saying that Hezbollah is planning to attack Israelis. Hezbollah is monitoring major cities and major hotels, searching for Israeli targets. Hezbollah is ready to quickly snap into action when they find an appropriate target.

This is a real and very dangerous threat.

Sack Her For Her Blog
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 9, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Mainstream press has been discussing the CNN news editor who tweeted that she greatly respected Shiite Sheik Fadallah, the religious icon of Hezbollah.

CNN was forced to sack Octavia Nasr after 20 years with the organization. It was simply unacceptable for a CNN editor to heap praise on a person who represented virulent anti-Western attitudes and openly embraced terrorism.

So, what is the difference between CNN and the British Foreign Ministry?

Frances Guy is the British ambassador to Lebanon. Guy blogged, as
opposed to tweeted, about the death of Sheik Fadallah.

The British ambassador to Lebanon wrote: "One of the privileges of being a diplomat is the people you meet; great and small, passionate and furious." "People in Lebanon like to ask me which politician I admire most."

She wrote that the Sheik "impressed her" more than almost any other leader and had "an impact on everyone he meets." "The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace."

Frances Guy should be sacked immediately. What is the British foreign office waiting for?

Arabs Don't Want Iran to Get Nukes
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 8, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The ambassador from the United Arab Emirates to Washington, DC was interviewed at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The ambassador publically confirmed ideas that we have known for a long time.

He said that the UAE would prefer a US attack against Iran to Iran getting nuclear weapons.

The ambassador said:
"I think it's a cost-benefit analysis."

"I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion ... there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what."

"If you are asking me, 'Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,' my answer is still the same: 'We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.' I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the UAE."

As soon as this story hit the net, the UAE Deputy Foreign Minister went public disclaiming the comments and saying that they were taken out of context.

We now have confirmation: there is no doubt that the Arab world is against Iran going nuclear.

Hezbollah in Mexico
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 7, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Mexico has shut down an attempt by Hezbollah to open an operations center.

The news was reported in the Kuwaiti paper al Seyasseh.

It has been assumed for some time now that Hezbollah is attempting to establish strongholds in locations that will allow for the ability to launch attacks against Western and pro-Israel targets.

Some experts have been claiming that Hezbollah intends to be local in their attacks. That simply is just not so. For two years Hezbollah has been rattling their sabers about plans to widen their field and arena of attack. Now we have a prime example of that intention.

Hezbollah is readying for expansion. Part of that expansion is the creation of centers that will help raise money. To do that, Hezbollah will draw on local Shiite affiliates to aid in their cause. Like Mexico.

Assad is Right
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 6, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Syrian President Bashar Assad is visiting Spain. While there Assad offered an important insight into the Middle East.

According to Assad, if Turkey and Israel do not mend their relations then "Turkey would find it difficult to continue its role as mediator."

The Syrian president is absolutely correct. Turkey has taken itself out of the game as a peace mediator.

More importantly, the region is now more unstable because Turkey is no longer a power that can exercise influence in both directions. Turkey cannot influence Israel and Turkey has no control over any Islamic leader.

Turkey has effectively upset the entire applecart of the Middle East and Syria realizes that the region has lost a very important tool for leverage in any future negotiations.

Hamas Summer Camps
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 5, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Summer time is camp time in Gaza.

This is the second year that Hamas has organized camps for children across Gaza. All total, there are about 500 Hamas camps servicing about 70,000 kids. Last week the staff spent a few days preparing and organizing, now the camps are up and running.

Most of the camps are in schools and almost all of them include time on the beach and in the Mediterranean Sea. Tuition is free.

Hamas promises that the programs will not include weapons training. But Hamas cannot be trusted. In the past, not only weapons training but also glorifying terrorism and suicide were season highlights.

This is color war of a very different order.

July 4th Israel Politics
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 4, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

Today is US Independence Day. As is the tradition across the world, ambassadors and counsel generals have barbeques and invite VIPs and local leaders to celebrate this historic anniversary.

Israel is no different. Today, US Ambassador to Israel, James B. Cunningham, held a July 4th event. Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, did not attend. According to the foreign minister's office "The minister was on a tour of northern Israel and announced a few weeks ago that he would not be attending."

Israel's foreign minister missed the July 4th celebration hosted by the US ambassador. He did not miss the annual Independence Day celebrations of other countries, like Kenya and Kazakhstan.

This is a clear slap in the face to the United States. It is a slap in the face that, in this case, is long overdue.

Liberman has been regularly dissed by the United States. Even when this Israeli foreign minister is in Washington, DC he is not invited to meet with administration officials. Not a single person in the White House from the president down to his lowliest aides will meet with Avigdor Liberman - not in public and not even in private.

Like him or not, Liberman is also the Foreign Minister of Israel. That title alone should warrant official meetings with United States officials. It's called diplomacy, it's called protocol.

Obama- Bibi Meeting
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 3, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

On Tuesday July 6, US President Barak Obama will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The meeting will take place in Washington, DC.

Yesterday the White House announced that they are pleased with the progress of the indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. I'm glad that the United States is pleased because that is not at all the impression I have received from either the Israelis or the Palestinians - who have both expressed frustration with the other and with the United States.

Netanyahu is coming into this meeting with plans. But not plans about the Palestinians. Netanyahu has a plan for Iran and a plan for Syria.

The Israeli PM wants to confirm US commitments to confront Iran. On Iran, he wants to make certain that the US does not drop the ball and permit Iran to advance any further in their quest for nuclear technology.

Netanyahu also wants to see if there is any chance of movement on the Syrian side. He is convinced that the Palestinians cannot deliver on any deal and so the Syrian angle is an important distraction from the Palestinians.

It remains to be seen how the United States will react to Israel's plans.

Russian Spies
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 2, 2010

I've Been Thinking:

The arrest of 11 Russian spies, part of an espionage ring that had infiltrated the United States, has been grabbing headlines for a few days now.

Experts have said how amateurish these spies were and how suburban they were. None of that is really important.

The essential reality is that the United States is inundated with spies. Spies sent by enemies and spies sent by friends.

Another reality is that most of these spies are worthless. They have almost no insight and no contacts. They cannot interpret information and they have no idea of what is important and what is ludicrous.

Most of these spies read newspapers and troll websites. Intel officers back home have better knowledge of what is happening than most of these spies on the ground in the US. The only advantage the spies have is that they can monitor and judge the attitude of the people on the streets and in the suburbs. But even that is faulty information.

There is no way of judging what America feels by eavesdropping in Walmart. Most Americans are insulated from real issues and only live within the four limited sides of the tiny cubicles called their lives.
Yes there are spies ... yes most are useless ... and yes ... every once in a while they nonetheless deliver very compromising information. That's why they're here.

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