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Tensions in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 23, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Tensions are high. A potential escalation is obvious.

I'm talking about Gaza and the Israeli towns and farms situated near the Gaza border.

Over the past 48 hours over 400 rockets have been shot from Gaza toward Israel. And Hamas in Gaza has said that if Israel targets any of its leaders they will unleash their new advanced rockets. These rockets, they said, have fire power that can and will target Tel Aviv and threaten the economic foundation of Israel.

The situation was covered by the Hebrew press in Israel. It quoted Hamas leaders from the Hezbollah paper Al Akhbar which is published in Lebanon. It also quoted London based Al Jadida which wrote that Egypt’s head of security visited Gaza to try to tamp down tensions. He was probably the person who leaked information to the Arabic press.

Hamas governs Gaza. They ousted the Palestinian Authority in a bloody murderous coup in 2007.

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Bahrain Punsihes Man For Burning Israel FLag
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 20, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

A Bahrain appeals court refused to allow the appeal of a Bahraini who was convicted of burning an Israeli flag at a protest in defense of Palestinians in May.

The Supreme Court of Appeals did not even entertain reducing the three year sentence of the leader of the group of about ten people who were part of an illegal demonstration.

There has been some backlash on social media against the decision. These critics claim that the Bahrain court of appeal’s decision was based on cozying up to Israel.

Relations have, indeed, warmed between Israel and the Gulf States, including Bahrain.

So much so, that the Chief Sefardi Rabbi of Israel visited Bahrain in December. And there are public photos of the ministers of foreign affairs from both Bahrain and Israel together in Washington DC at the State Department.

The world - including the Middle East - is changing. And not everybody is happy about that.

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Ballots for the Quarantined
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 18, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

On March 2nd Israel will have their third national election. That's less than two weeks away.

The election is facing some unexpected complications.

One such complication is the Coronavirus. So, how does the Coronavirus impact the Israeli election? Israelis love to travel. And now, because of the virus, all travelers on flights coming from China, Thailand and other Far East countries must be quarantined for 14 days.

That means that those Israeli citizens would not be allowed out of quarantine in time to vote on March 2nd.

To solve this issue the government has decided to deliver Israel’s famous blue ballot boxes to the quarantine centers. This way everyone who wants to vote, can vote.

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Historic Flight
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 17, 2020
I've Been Thinking:


Earlier this week an Israeli commercial airliner flew over Sudan en route to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. This was historic. Never before had an Israeli commercial aircraft crossed into Sudanese airspace.

It was all the result of a face-to-face meeting, earlier in February, between the leader of Sudan Abed al-Fattah al-Burhan and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The meeting took place in Uganda.

The historic flight took off from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital city, Kinshasa.

This is another example of change happening in the Middle East. Another example of Israel’s integration into daily activities and operations in the Middle East.

It is hard to conceive of the significance of this simple flight. Fundamentally, it means that Israel is no longer at war with Sudan. It means that Israel need not fear that Sudan will down an Israeli aircraft crossing through their territory.

This is a transformative moment in the history of the Middle East.

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Syria Shoots at Airline Again
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 14, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Syrian anti-air batteries shot and missed a civilian Airbus A320 with 170 people on board. The plane was fired upon while making its final approach into Damascus when it was targeted.

This flight, which shuttles between Najif, Iraq and Damascus, made an emergency landing at a Russian airbase in Syria.

Just last month, in mid-January, a civilian airliner was on its way to Canada and was also shot upon by the Syrian air defense system.

There are several issues at play here. One glaring issue is that the Syrians are aiming at - and missing, huge lumbering airliners after shooting at them multiple times. Another major issue is that the Syrian Air Force cannot differentiate between a civilian Airbus and a military F-15.

That is ineptitude at its best.

The Russians are blaming Israel for Syria’s actions, just as they did in September of 2018, when Syrian anti-air batteries shot and hit a Russian plane. That time, they did not miss and Syria’s error resulted in the killing of all fifteen people on board.

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Voter Fatigue in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 13, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Voter fatigue in Israel has set in.

On March 2nd Israel will have its third national election within twelve months.
And despite its importance, voter fatigue means people will not come out to vote.

When fatigue sets in, the political right is most often the winner.

Why is political fatigue better for the right than for the left? Because traditionally, rightists are a more passionate group than leftists.

That passion forces people on the right to vote - despite their fatigue.

In a few days we will know if that general rule holds true for Israelis.

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Irans Marks 41 Years of Revolution
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 12, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

The anniversary went almost unnoticed in the United States because it was not covered in the press. But it was a date to remember.

Tuesday February 11th was the 41st anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution.

The Iranians remembered.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Teheran’s central Azadi Square to mark the day. Most of the speeches and most of the shouting and chanting called for condemnation of the United States and tirades against Israel.

Iranian citizens are restless and troubled. There is an upcoming election in Iran and thousands of candidates have already been disqualified by the Supreme Leader. Included in that group are ninety current members of parliament.

The awful reality for Iranians is that US led sanctions against Iran has taken a very serious toll on the people. It can be seen across the country.

41 years ago Iran overthrew the Shah and created an Islamic country that has been impacting the Muslim world ever since. I would argue that most of that impact has been negative - but it was their desired goal. Iranian Leadership wants to influence the Muslim world and guide that world in their direction. They want to be the head of the non-Western world.

Had the Nuke Deal continued and had the sanctions not kicked in, that would most probably have been the reality today.

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Al Jazeera Host Says Israel is Great
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 11, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

An Al Jazeera host named Faisal al Qassem, host of a program called The Opposite Direction, tweeted that Israel is the most successful project of the past two centuries.

This is what he wrote: “For most Arabs, if they want to curse you, they will describe you as a ‘Zionist,’ even though they know that the most successful project in the current and last century is the Zionist project”.

There was, as expected, blow back on twitter. So Qassem decided to ask his 5.5 million followers what they thought.

About 6,000 responses came in and well over 80% of them agreed that Israel was more modern, more democratic and more technological than Arab countries.

Qassem also hosted the IDF Arabic spokesman on his show via skype. And of course, there were people who condemned him. Qassem’s response was that people just do not understand history.

He said that in Arabic calling someone a Zionist is considered a curse while it should be considered a compliment because Israel has achieved what every Arab state merely promised.

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Iran Fails 4x to Launch Satellite
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


After four attempts in a row Iran has failed, yet again, to successfully get their satellite into orbit.

The Zafar, which means victory in Farsi, was launched. But the rocket on which it piggy backed did not reach a fast enough speed or the altitude necessary to keep the satellite in orbit.

Iran has been launching satellites into orbit since 2009 and many of them have been successful. Most of them have been spy and communications satellites. The Iranians would also contract with the Russians and use their rockets.

Recently, however, the Iranians have wanted to do it on their own. This requires more than knowledge - it requires better technology. Most of the hardware must be imported and, given the sanctions and restrictions placed on Iran, that is not an easy task.

Almost every element connected to a successful satellite launch can and will be utilized in a ballistic (conventional and non conventional) strike. That’s knowledge that is important for us to have.

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PA Boycotts Israeli Produce
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian Authority has issued a ban on importing fruits and vegetables and carbonated drinks, mineral water and juices from Israel.

This is a very bad idea.

The PA is responding to a decision by Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to boycott certain PA produce. But Bennett was responding to the PA boycotting Israei livestock. It’s a vicious cycle of boycotts.

The problem for Palestinians is that the Palestinians need Israel much more than Israel needs them. The PA economy is dependent on Israel. Israel imports $55 million in fruits and vegetables per year from the Palestinians. The Palestinians import $300 million from Israel.

The Palestinians could never produce and provide that amount. Besides that is not what and how your economy should work. Buy what you can't produce - that is the principle. Don't waste money on things that can be made much better and more cheaply elsewhere.

Palestinians purchase over $100 million in bottled water from Israel alone.
This was a very bad decision.

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Who's on Which Side
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

When analyzing foreign affairs you can tell much about a situation by looking at who supports and who rejects policies and initiatives.

Sometimes, even without knowing all the details, you can get a good sense of a situation based on who is on whose side.

Much like the adage our parents often used about tell a person by their friends.

The Deal of the Century has gotten some very interesting supporters and some very typical detractors.

Arab leaders of the Gulf states are supporters of the deal. Iran rejects the deal.

The Supreme Leaders of Iran has dedicated several speeches to how the deal “is no real deal at all.” He has said that “Palestine is for the Palestinians.”

These are not significant critiques. However, there has been a very significant statement echoed in all of his addresses. The Supreme Leader of Iran has issued a call for “mass resistance”.

Mass resistance is a euphemism for Intifada.

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Israel Moves to Normal Relations w Muslims
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 4, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has embarked on a diplomatic tour. He is meeting with the Muslim leaders of Uganda and Sudan. The most significant Muslim leader on Netanyahu’s roster is Abdel Fattah al Burhan of Sudan.

This is a dramatic move.

Netanyahu’s tour is the continuation of the momentum that Israel has been developing over the past few years. It is also extremely troubling - at least for the Palestinians and especially in the aftermath of the Trump plan.

Just as Natanyahu is on a tour of Muslim countries, President Mahmoud Abbas is on a tour. His mission is to garner support for Palestinian opposition to the plan.

Netanyahu’s success does not please the Palestinians.

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erakat articulated just how damaging the meeting between the Sudanese leader and Netanyahu was to the Paelstinians. He said the Monday meeting between Netanyahu and Sudan's leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is a knife in the back of the Palestinian people.

That was a very powerful statement from a very articulate spokesperson for the Palestinians.

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Abbas Threatens Intifada
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 3, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian President Abbas literally told Israel that they will have to live with the consequences of Trump’s Deal of the Century. The statement by Abbas was his way of giving a blessing to Palestinians to start a new Intifada.

They were fighting words.

Abbas departed Ramallah and went to Cairo to meet with the Arab League. From Cairo Abbas will visit much of the Middle East and then parts of Europe. He has an agenda.

The Palestinian president is drumming up support for his rejection of the Trump deal.

The only real tools that the Palestinians have are violence and the threat of violence. But calling for an Intifada and having one actually emerge are two different things. This is not the first time Abbas has called for an Intifada.

The threat of violence and terror is a serious one.

The problem with these threats of violence and of an actual Intifada is the youth. Youth need to be activated. They need to take to the streets. But at this stage it is very unlikely that West Bank youth will come swarming out to the streets.

The reason is simple - they are not very excitable. Like youth the world over, simulated electronic war games are more intriguing than the real thing. Safer, too.

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Abbas Rejects Deal
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Arab League met on Sunday in an emergency meeting in Cairo.
The purpose was to show support for the Palestinians and for PA President Mahmoud Abbas as he presented his rejection of US President Trump's Deal of the Century.

Abbas repeated the message he delivered before. He would not accept any message from Trump, not by phone and not by letter. He did not want Donald Trump to say that the Palestinian president was consulted on the plan.

In addition, Abbas cut all ties with Israel and the United States. Diplomatic ties had already been severed. This time he severed security interaction. Until now both the CIA and Israel have had very close security links with Palestinian security. Those links have now been cut.

I am willing, however, to speculate that those contacts will resume - very quietly resume next week because it is an essential need on all three sides. They all need to share information to stay safe. And the PA needs it more than the United States and Israel.

Abbas is thinking about his legacy. He has repeated time and again this past week, before and after the unveiling of The Deal, that he will to be remembered as the person who betrayed Jerusalem.

The other issue he discussed was demilitarization. Abbas said it is simply unacceptable.

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