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Abbas in France
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 23, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron insists that talks resume between Israel and the Palestinians. To that effect, his office released this message: "to resume the thread of dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis and confirmed to President Abbas the willingness of France to mobilize on the diplomatic field, in order to change a situation that is no longer tenable."

Abbas explained that Palestinians are not against talks, it's just that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the reason for the stalled talks.

Abbas was happy to hear that France would like to take the lead in a future dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. One reason for their excitement is that with France taking charge, Israel would, of course, be sidelined.

There is no chance that this will happen. Israel will never let that happen.

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Iran's Drills and Maneuvers
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 21, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has been running military drills in the Persian Gulf. They have set off test rockets and they had ground maneuvers.

A country, especially a country like Iran which is feeling more and more isolated and threatened, has only a few options for regaining honor and pride and for sending a message to those poking and provoking them.

Iran's maneuvers are clear statements against the United States, the West and all other countries joining in US-sponsored sanctions against them.

These military exercises are carefully designed by Iran to make certain that their neighbors understand that they are capable of hitting anyone at any time.

Iran's maneuvers are a clear statement and part of that statement is a military threat.

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Iran Feeling the Sanctions Pressure
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 20, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is starting to feel the pressure of the US sanctions that are already in place and of future sanctions, those on oil that will on start November 4th.

Iran is responding by saying that the sanctions will not be that effective.

Moayyed Hosseini Sadr, an adviser to Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said, "Considering the high demand and low supply in the market, America's sanctions cannot drop Iran's oil sale to zero ... Other oil producers cannot replace Iran's oil."

Sadr is correct about the demand for oil - it is high.

BUT - here's the big question: is buying from Iran to meet your needs and even possibly undercutting the world market rate worth the potential backlash and wrath of the United States????

That is the question that needs to be answered.

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Syria Down Russia Plane
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 18, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Reports abound that Syria accidentally shot down a Russian IL-20 aircraft carrying 14 Russian servicemen.

Some background is required.

The Syrians have beefed up their anti-air defenses with the help of Russia. Yesterday - and the day before, missiles were headed toward the Syrian port of Latakia. According to Israeli sources, Latakia port was storing new weapons that would alter the status quo.

So Israel launched an attack against the weapons cache in Latakia.

On Sunday night Syria successfully struck some of the incoming Israeli rockets. But Monday night, rather than shooting down Israeli planes, they mistakenly shot down the planes of their ally, Russia.

One of the dangers of having hi-tech weapons is that when using them they can cause great damage.

The irony should not be lost. Russia improves the anti-missile defense system of Syria only to be shot down by that very system.

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A Hero Murdered
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 17, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Ari Fuld was murdered in cold blood yesterday by a 17 year old Palestinian terrorist.

Ari was a hero, cut down in the prime of his life in the parking lot of a Gush Etzion shopping mall, a spot frequented by both Palestinians and Israelis.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad of Gaza both issued statements supporting the murder of this father of four.

They proclaimed: "We welcome the stabbing attack in Bethlehem, which coincided with the killings of our people during the March of Return."

"The attack makes it clear that our people wish to continue the Jerusalem intifada. To resist the occupation, by using all means necessary, is our legitimate right."

"The attack is a natural response to the aggression and crimes perpetrated by the Zionist terrorists against our people, our land and our holy places. We praise our people in the West Bank and call for a continuation of resistance against Israel and attacks against the settlers."

These comments are official - they not off the cuff.

These terrorists want to stimulate more terror and to murder more innocents. They take pride in the murder of Ari Fuld. They justify the murder of Ari Fuld. They may think of themselves as freedom fighters, but they are nothing more than cold blooded murderers.

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Palestinans Say No Peace Deal!
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 16, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinians, has made it very clear that Palestinians will not accept any US peace plan. More than that, he suggested that the United States will never even present the plan.

Erekat explained the reason for the Palestinian rejection by saying that the United States has sided with Israel on every issue.

In a Reuters interview which took place in Jericho, Erekat said: "I don't think they will ever introduce a plan."

He continued: "The whole world is rejecting their ideas. They are already implementing their plan by changing the terms of reference."

Erekat is not a prophet - but he is correct that, at this point, the US sponsored will not succeed. No peace plan will succeed if one of the parties refuses to participate.

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Hezbollah Leader Cries
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 14, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

The leader of Hezbollah was moved to tears during a speech he delivered yesterday. Not quite what you would expect from Hassan Nasrallah.

Nasrallah was begging his followers not to cut the faces of their children. Mutilation and self-mutilation are part of Shiite tradition, especially on Ashurah. Ashurah is the anniversary of the brutal death of Mohammed's grandson Hussein Ibn Ali during the battle of Karbala.

To reenact this historical event, Shiite Muslims whip themselves and others. They also cut themselves and each other.

Nasrallah said: "The whole world sees what is happening here today and I ask you all to restrain yourselves and to distance yourselves from anyone who seeks to create a negative impression about us." Then he started to cry.

ISIS, Nasrallah said, is the real enemy: "ISIS leaves an impression that causes the most harm to us. Islamic scholars condemn them."

Crocodile tears? Perhaps.

Effective? Time will tell.

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World Jewish Population is Up
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 13, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

New numbers are in.

According to the Jewish Agency, the Jewish population increased over the last year by 100,000. The total number of Jews in the world is now 14.7 million people.

There are 6.6 million Jews living in Israel.

8.1 million Jews live in the Diaspora, that means they live outside of Israel.

Of that number, 5.7 million live in the United States.

The second largest population outside of Israel is France where 453,000 Jews currently live.

The third largest Jewish community outside of Israel is Canada with 391,000 Jews.

The lessons gleaned from these numbers are important. But, numbers can be deceptive. The question needs to be asked: What activity do these 14.7 million people actually practice? In other words, what criteria was used in labeling someone Jewish?

The answer is that these 14.7 million people classify themselves as Jewish.

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US Closes Palestinian Mission in DC
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 12, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

The US State Department announced that the Palestinians must close their mission in Washington.

The mission is the closest thing to a US embassy the Palestinians have.

The announcement came in a statement from Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman, during an official press briefing.

Nauert said: "To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise ... As such, and reflecting congressional concerns, the administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point ... The United States continues to believe that direct negotiations between the two parties are the only way forward."

The Palestinians are livid. They are convinced that this is another US move against them.

But the United States has made it clear that actions have consequences - in this case the Palestinians refuse to advance direct talks with Israel or even to speak to US special envoys.

Back in November the United States warned the Palestinians that the price of not talking would be the closing of their Washington mission. They have a month to move out.

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Israel Issues Travel Warnings
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 7, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's National Security Anti-Terrorism Bureau has announced travel warnings for the Jewish holidays.

The two most important warnings involve the Sinai and Turkey.

"This is not about posting new travel warnings, but reflecting the current situation," the bureau explained. The announcement said that "the threat in Sinai remains high" in light of the presence of an Islamic State affiliate and efforts by al-Qaeda to establish itself in the region.”

About Turkey, it warned of "high threat potential for Israelis in light of the infrastructure and intention of terror groups to operate" in Turkey.

As always, there is also a high risk for Israeli travelers in the rest of Egypt and Jordan.

Hopefully, it will be an incident-free, safe and healthy New Year for all.

Shana Tova - Happy New Year.

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Greenblatt Says Palestinian Issue Not Central
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 5, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Jason Greenblatt is US President Donald J Trump's special envoy to the Middle East. He was quoted in yesterday's JTA saying that the Palestinian issue is not central to the Middle East and that resolving the Palestinian issue will not solve any other problems or impact any other issues. Of course, he added that this does not mean that the Palestinian issue should not be solved,

Greenblatt said "solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not solve other conflicts in the region, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, terrorists in the Sinai Desert in Egypt, a tragic, continuing civil war in Syria, war in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, instability in Libya, and an Iranian regime that oppresses its own people and foments terrorism around the world."

"That does not make resolving this conflict any less important."

Yes, Greenblatt is correct. What a welcome breath of fresh air. It's good to hear this point of view and know that it is reflective of US policy.

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Iran's FM In Syria Shows Unity
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 4, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian foreign minister Javid Zarif is in Syria. He arrived on the heels of Iran's Defense Minister Khatami.

Zarif met with Syrian President Assad in order to review international diplomatic responses to their assault on Idlib, one of the last strongholds of Syrian rebels fighting Assad.

The Syria leader said: "the fact that the West has resorted to threats and pressure on Tehran and Damascus attests to its failure to implement the plans it has proposed."

He continued: "the pressures exerted by some Western countries will not deter both countries from continuing to maintain their principles and securing the region."

Iran and Syria are in this for the long term.

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Putin's Rabbi Visits Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 3, 2018

I've Been Thinking:

Moscow's Chabad rabbi, Berel Lazar, secretly visited Iran as part of a Russian Duma delegation in April - immediately after Passover this year.

The trip was covered in the Times of Israel and in the Hebrew press. Neither Chabad nor the rabbi has confirmed the story.

Iran originally rejected the Rabbi and said that they would not permit him entry. But Rabbi Lazar is not just a Chabad rabbi, he is Vladimir Putin's rabbi. The Russians insisted that Rabbi Lazar be part of the delegation, and so he was.

While in Iran Rabbi Lazar visited a Jewish school and a synagogue and spoke with the Jewish community.

There are rumors that there was an attempt to resolve tensions between Iran and Israel using Putin and Russia and Rabbi Lazar - but there's no chance of that being true.

It was most likely another example need to prove his power over Iran.

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