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France Fights Islamic Terror
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 30, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

France is becoming an extremely dangerous place to live.

There was a second beheading this week and three other people were murdered by Muslims shouting “Alahu Akhbar”.

The beheading and two of the murders took place in Nice in the Church of Notre Dame.

An Israeli professional soccer team, Hapoel BerSheva, was staying in a hotel next door to the attack. After the attack, they requested additional security.

In Jedda, Saudi Arabia the French embassy was attacked. A French guard stationed at the embassy was stabbed and hospitalized. That attacker also shouted “Alahu Akhbar”.

France is trying to crack down on Islamic extremists.

They are also defending the freedom to discuss and critique cartoons that depict Muhammed. Cartoons are the excuse for these murderers, just like it was the excuse for the mass murders that took place in the office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

Turkey has condemned France. The Palestinians are declaring a national Day of Rage against France’s anti-Islamic crackdown.

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US Passports Will Say Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 29, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

It is going to be officially announced soon - maybe you’ve already heard.

The United States, under President Donald J. Trump, will now permit US citizens born in Jerusalem to list the country Israel as their place of birth.

Until now, if a baby, the child of a United States citizen, was born in Jerusalem, their passport would list Jerusalem under “city of birth. And under “country of birth” it would be BLANK.

There would be no country of birth because, according to US policy, Jerusalem was still in question and in doubt.

That ended in December of 2017 when the United States recognized that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel.

This is a slam dunk issue. In 2015 the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress does not have the power to determine foreign policy and recognize capitals. In practical terms, it means that the President of the United States can decide to put Israel on US passports because Jerusalem is indeed located in Israel.

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Iran's Spy Ship Saviz
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 28, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Saviz is officially a merchant ship registered to Iran.

It has been suggested by intelligence analysts that the Saviz is really an intelligence ship monitoring and transmitting everything they see.

The ship is anchored at the southern end of the Red Sea, off the coast of Yemen and the Straits of Bab el Mandeb.

The location is a choke hold for oil and goods as they make their way going both to Europe through the Suez Canal at the northern end of the Rad Sea and going off to Africa and Asia coming South.

There are two undeniable proofs that the Saviz is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Intel ship. First, we see them on the ship in their uniforms. Second, the ship has barely moved in 3 years. It just sits and observes.

Monitoring every single ship that enters and exits the Red Sea provides Iran with a treasure trove of intelligence.

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New Elections in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 27, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Yair Lapid, the head of the opposition in Israel’s Knesset and the leader of the Yesh Atid party, has said that if a budget is not passed by next week he will propose a vote of No Confidence in the Knesset.

Lapid is convinced that the vote will pass and the Netanyahu government will fall.
His former party affiliates in Blue and White have promised to vote for the No Confidence vote.

If successful - and there is a very high probability that the vote of No Confidence will, indeed, succeed Israel will go to new elections once again.

What it really means is that Israel has lost confidence in Netanyahu. Israelis have also lost confidence in Blue and White.

If there is another election, I predict a very different mosaic in terms of the parties that will be forming a government.

The moderates have disbanded. There will be a rise of the right. That means Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked will emerge as king makers, not Avigdor Lieberman who held that role in the past few elections. It will mean the near dissolution of Blue and White as well as Lieberman’s party.

Let’s see what happens next week.

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ISIS in Sinai
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 26, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

A branch of ISIS has been terrorizing the residents of the Sinai Peninsula.

In July they attacked a series of villages in Northern Sinai, planting explosives in the homes of residents.

The Egyptian army cleared out the villages. ISIS evacuated – that means they left without conflict. But the Egyptian army neglected to sweep for boobytraps.

Over the past few weeks, 14 people have been killed by explosives planted in their homes by ISIS.

This entire experience proves several axioms.

ISIS is bent on murdering as many innocent people as they can. They planted explosives for that very reason.

The Egyptian army was totally outsmarted by ISIS. They should have had their sappers sweep every home and every site for explosives.

People have been murdered. The murderers, ISIS, are smiling. This must not happen again.

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Sports The Great Peace Equalizer
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 25, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The real measure of success of a peace deal is … sports.

And now that Israel and the UAE have signed normalization agreements, sports competitions have begun.

On Sunday, Maccabi Haifa Football Club announced a cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates' Al-Ain Football Club. They will play a friendly match in Abu Dhabi very soon. The exact date has not yet been set.

Maccabi owner Yaakov Schachar summed it up this way: "I am happy to inform you that our club has been invited to hold a friendly soccer match called the 'Game of Peace', in Abu Dhabi …. I have always believed it was possible to develop friendly relations through sports. We will sign a memorandum of understanding between the two clubs. In a matter of days to create a relationship that will include collaborations on both the sporting and business side."

Al-Ain is the UAE’s national winning team. They have won the local championship 13 times and the Super Cup five times. In 2018, they lost to Real Madrid in the final of the Club World Cup. Real Madrid is the European champions, so even losing to them is an honor.

This will be a great football match. More than that, it is a big step forward towards forging real peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

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Israel to Test 100,000/day
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has announced a new policy vis a vis COVID testing. By next month, they will be testing 100,000 people every day for COVID.

The change in policy includes people being able to take tests without a doctor’s prescription which has been standard policy until now.

There are 9.2 million citizens of Israel. If Israel is able to test 100,000 every day, that means every 92 days, every Israeli will be tested.

The new testing will make Israel more capable of catching the virus early and of isolating those who are contagious.

The most critical part of stymying the virus is identifying those who have it and keeping those who are infected from spreading it to others.

Israel might have found the answer.

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Secret Diplomacy
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

On Sunday in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, the United States, Israel and Bahrain officially signed their agreement. Seconds after the document was signed, an Israeli official handed the Bahraini foreign minister a note.

It was an official request to open an Israeli embassy.

It was to be a simple procedure. All the infrastructure was in place. There has been a secret Israeli embassy in Bahrain since 2009.

The secret embassy had been set up as a development consultancy working to help non-oil companies advance business deals in Bahrain. The company was called “The Center for International Development”.

On the board were Israeli diplomats who now serve as Israel’s Counsel General in Mumbai, Israel’s Foreign Ministry Cyber Coordinator and the Deputy Director of Economic Affairs. They all had false backgrounds and LinkedIn pages.

Bahrain and Israel have been secretly engaged in economic development as well as anti-terror coordination and anti-Iranian strategy for over a decade. That’s essential to understand.

Ever since Qatar closed itself to Israel and to the rest of the Sunni world and joined forces with Iran – Bahrain knew they needed this Israeli advantage.

Kudos to Bahrain.

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Israel: Next Lockdown Hanukah
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 21, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

It has been a difficult month for Israelis. The month of the High Holidays and Sukkot are normally a time for family and fun even some relaxation.

This year it was spent in lockdown.

Now, slowly, Israel is opening up. Kindergartens and nursery schools. Essential businesses. Public transport is operating and people are permitted to visit family. Within a week or two, life should be back in full swing.

The contagion rate is 3% and the situation is looking very good. But if the contagion rate increases, Israel will snap back the restrictions.

Now the big challenge is Hanukah. What happens during Hanukah? Hanukah, like the High Holidays and Sukkot is a two week celebratory period (even though Hanukah itself is only 8 days) when Israelis travel, have family events and party.

As you read this, Israel’s decision makers are discussing how to lock Israel down during Hanukah to prevent a COVID spike.

If they asked, I would say the best way is to keep those people who are high risk away from everyone else. It sounds awful. It sounds heartless. But the best way to save those who are most likely to suffer is to make certain that the older people you love do not come into contact with potential carriers.

As a policy it sounds discriminatory. It is.

But de facto, this how people behave to protect themselves. People knew that when they were not feeling well, they did not go out. So, too, now.

Unfortunately, this season, flu shots are not readily available for the entire population in Israel. What would be a second line of health defense is not there.

An educational campaign should be launched to protect the vulnerable and remind young and old alike how to convey their love at a safe distance.

Go out only when necessary and properly protected. Wash hands and keep safe distance. It should be rote for all of us by now.

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Sacha Baron Cohen Humor/Critique
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 20, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I just watched the tape of Sacha Baron Cohen, or Borat as he is best known to the world, on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

I thought it was truly hilarious. His Borat 2 is coming out on Oct 23rd on Amazon. The theme of this movie is about ridiculous and crazy anti-Semitism.

Sacha Baron Cohen remains in his Borat character for the entire interview and flips into Hebrew phrases, just like he did in his original movie in 2006.

Kimmel asks Borat/Cohen about COVID. He replies, "comes from a place called Wuhan, which is in Israel".

We hear laughter, it’s a funny response. But more than laughs, Cohen was making a point. As Borat, he was making fun of people who actually believe that Israel is responsible for the virus. The interview continues with a health questionnaire in which Borat asks Kimmel how many Jews he had been around. Kimmel’s response was “all our writers are Jewish and none of our cameramen.”

Some might find this distasteful and, paradoxically, even anti-Semitic. NO! It is Cohen’s vehicle of critique. Sacha Baron Cohen is flabbergasted that people, normal people, hold these beliefs and the medium he uses to teach and critique is humor and film. It is no different than what Charlie Chaplin did in “The Great Dictator”.

Sacha Baron Cohen has written op-eds and spoken to groups. But there is no comparing the reach and the power of those messages with the reach and the power of a blockbuster movie.

In Borat 2, Cohen also addresses Holocaust denial. He interviewed real Holocaust survivors. Some were offended afterwards - I can understand their offense. How can the Holocaust be funny? It isn’t funny, but there is an entire genre of humor that Jewish victims shared with one another in the midst of the atrocities. For them, it was a survival tool.

Humor is a vehicle of critique and communication. Sometimes it’s good humor, sometimes it’s tasteless. It always has a message.

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UAE Musician Plays Hatikvah
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 19, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Ahmed al-Mansouri, a musician from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), played Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, on his oud – an eleven-stringed guitar-like musical instrument popular in the Arab world. He taped his rendition of the anthem and then posted it on YouTube. Al-Mansouri was paying tribute to the normalization agreement between the Jewish state and the UAE.

Ynet, easily tracked him down. They spoke on air about the Israel/UAE agreement, the responses he received to his tribute and the significance of music in shaping a world built on unity and peace.

In the interview Al Mansouri said that he would love to play together with an Israeli musician, on air, hosted by the interviewer. The Israeli newscaster said that he would arrange it and taught the UAE musician the Yiddish-Hebrew word “Schiduch” which means a match.

Al Mansouri told Ynet that: “Once I heard about the agreement between the UAE and Israel I decided to play the national anthem of Israel on the oud, to send a message of peace between the two countries … It is a dream for me, and I hope one day to visit Israel and play in public there”.

Speaking about Israeli music, al Mansouri said that he learned it from Youtube. He said he likes it and added: “In my opinion, Israeli music is very beautiful, it is similar to Arabic music in a different taste."

This is just one example of how people, regular people, not famous people, are expressing their excitement about the new horizons opening up between Israel and the Arab world. On YouTube, again, I saw another example. People, driving in a car on a busy highway in the UAE are happily singing the Israeli national anthem.

All the while imprinted on the screen are the words United Arab Emirates.

Israeli and UAE artists have already jointly recorded and posted songs. One of those songs received 1.1 million clicks in just a few weeks. The song is now trending and has gone viral.

Going back to the Ynet interview, the newscaster commented that this agreement seems so natural. He’s right - it does not seem forced at all. Actually, from Oct 17th to the 20th a team of Americans, headed by US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, spent time in Israel and the UAE in order to further assist in commercial projects that will benefit all the parties.

This is a prime example of the famous quote: a rising tide lifts all boats. This expression is often attributed to John F Kennedy in a speech he gave in 1963. But his speech writer, Ted Sorenson, said that while he did write it into JFK’s speech, it is not original to either one of them. Sorenson borrowed the phrase from a report by the Economical Council of New England.

Partnerships, that’s what it’s all about.

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Saturday Night in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 18, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Saturday nights, in Jerusalem, protests take place outside the official resident of the prime minister.

About 10,000 people attend.

Most people don’t wear masks and there is no social distancing. Most of the people are young, but there are some more mature people in attendance.

Protest organizers claim that these Jerusalem protests are deliberately kept small and controlled. They assert that every Saturday night, throughout the country, there are other small protests that take place. They say that the number of Saturday night protestors totals 260,000.

The protests began months ago and now there seems to be a groundswell.

Polls show that Netanyahu is slipping. He is facing challenges from his rightwing flank. His political future is anything but secure.

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US Threatens Turkey
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 17, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The US warned Turkey that there will be “potential serious consequences” if they activate the S-400 Russian anti-aircraft anti-missile systems that they purchased and received.

The “consequences” will be a breakdown of relations between the United States and Turkey. It will also mean a breakdown of relations between NATO and Turkey.

Using Russian weapons is a clear violation of NATO membership. The US could recommend that NATO oust Turkey.

US State department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that: "If confirmed, we would condemn in the strongest terms the S-400 test missile launch as incompatible with Turkey’s responsibilities as a NATO ally and strategic partner of the United States."

Turkey is pushing the envelope.

The Erdogan government is flirting with Russia and Iran and they are testing the US and NATO to see how will respond and how serious the response will be. Turkey is betting that NATO will not care and that they will get the best of both NATO and Russia.

I think that Turkey is underestimating both NATO and the United States.

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Cyber Attack Hits Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 15, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has confirmed that on Tuesday and Wednesday they were targeted by a computer hack.

They said that two targets were attacked and that in order to make certain that everything is safe, they took other offices of the grid.

Since Stuxnet, Iran has made their systems independent. They have nothing on the internet. Everything internal.

This attack was very effective. They did not hide it from the public, Iranian media covered the hack.

If I were managing a cyber attack I would use the small attacks on the two agencies as a ploy. I would watch as Iran shut down and rebooted several of what would be my more significant targets. Watching, and maybe even injecting spyware.

Whatever attacked Iran, it is highly sophisticated. No doubt it will strike again.

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Liz Taylor & Cleopatra
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 14, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli actress model Gal Gadot, who became a household name after starring as Wonder Woman, will now star as Cleopatra in a new remake of the 1963 blockbuster movie originally starring Liz Taylor.

The response to the announcement about Gadot’s new role has met with criticism by the Muslim world which is claiming that “Israel has stolen our land, now they are stealing our heroes!”

When the 1963 movie came out, Egypt banned the screening and put Liz Taylor on a no - fly list. It was the most expensive movie to be made at that time and Elizabeth Taylor earned $1 million in her lead role.

Elizabeth Taylor converted to Judaism in 1957 to marry the famous and popular singer Eddie Fisher. She became a major supporter of Israel buying a $100,000 Israel bond and raising over a million dollars for Israel.

Historically, Cleopatra was not actually Egyptian. She was Ptolemaic. Her father was from Macedon. Her mother was unknown.

In the end, Egyptians were so impressed by the response to the film that they did a major turnaround. The movie mentioned Egypt 122 times and it earned 4 Oscars.
Despite Liz Taylor’s love of Israel and even her visit to Israel, Egypt lifted its ban on the movie Cleopatra.

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Herd Immunity
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

We are hearing a lot about “herd immunity”. It requires some explanation.
Never in history has herd immunity been a strategy for confronting a disease, an epidemic or a pandemic. Herd immunity is a result of a vaccination policy.

Let’s take measles, for example. Because 95% of the population is vaccinated, the other 5% are mostly protected. That 5% is composed of infants and others who cannot be given the vaccine.

Even in cases where the minimum percentage of herd immunity is less, like polio - where it is 80%, the principle is predicated on the vaccine.

The suggestion that people be exposed to COVID – 19 so that they develop herd immunity is just absurd. Or to suggest that they are already immune because others around them have been ill, is just absurd.

In the United States 8 million people, out of 328 million people, have been exposed. That is a 0.3% of the total population. About 10% of the world has been exposed.

The only way to get to herd immunity is with a vaccination and even then, the vaccine needs to be a blanket covering well over 80% of the population.
Self-delusion and made-up excuses are not an excuse for caution and proper conduct.

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Statue of A/S Lueger
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

A statue of the man who served as mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910 was defaced when the word SCHANDE was scrawled on the monument. SCHANDE means “shame on you” in German. Ironically, it also means “shame on you” in Yiddish.

Mayor Karl Lueger was a racist. He was the role model for Hitler. During his tenure as mayor, Vienna was one of the largest cities in the world with a population of over 2 million people.

Nowadays, debates about the appropriateness of statues is commonplace. In the United States statues erected to honor people now considered racist are regularly toppled and destroyed.

Lueger was a racist. He was a self-declared racist. Writers and philosophers use Lueger as the model of a racist. A racist cult of character has grown with Lueger at its center.

But in 1926, Vienna erected the statue to honor Karl Lueger. It represented Vienna as it was then and there is still an undertone of anti-Semitism in Vienna to this day.

The statue of Karl Lueger has not been taken down for a reason. In Vienna there are still many who have very positive feelings about the racism of Karl Lueger.

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Israeli Sings w Iranians
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Liraz Charhi has just finished her second album. She is an Israeli actress and singer, of Persian decent.

For this album, Liraz had Iranian women from Iran singing with her. She used encrypted chats and encrypted social media. She sent money to her back-up singers through third countries. And she was petrified that they would be discovered.

“Technically, it was very difficult” Charhi, 42, said in an interview. “But emotionally, it was much more difficult. I felt night after night that I was doing a bad thing and these people could be arrested.”

In the end Liraz Charhi fulfilled her dream.

She is a strong believer that the real problem in Iran is Iranian leadership, not Iranians.

What a remarkable story.

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Egypt Broadcasts Israeli FM Speech
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

In Berlin on Tuesday October 6 Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met with his UAE counterpart, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, along with their German host Heiko Mass.

In what has become commonplace in the new world we live in, the group visited Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. Gabi Ashkenazi is the son of Holocaust survivors.

What was extra ordinary is that, on the Gregorian calendar, the visit took place on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.

The Israeli FM’s speech was broadcast live on Egyptian TV.

Peace between Israel and Egypt has been swung between cold to cool. Over recent years, once Egypt’s President Al Sisi took office, the relationship between leaders has warmed up. Al Sisi has welcomed the normalization of the Gulf states with Israel as a very good step forward.

However, the media and the masses have been consistently cold and angry at anything related to Israel. This broadcast of Israel’s foreign minister on an Egyptian network called Extra might be a dramatic change.

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Frm Saudi Spy Head Critique of PA
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 6, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, is a living and breathing institution. He has been in his role for decades. In both of his positions his fingers were on the pulse of everything, small and large, that was happening in the world.

A 3-part interview was conducted with him on Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.
The first episode aired on Monday.

The most significant element in the Prince’s interview was his critique of Palestinian leadership over the past decades. He called the PA’s criticism of the agreements that both the UAE and Bahrain made with Israel a "transgression" and "reprehensible discourse".

Saudi Arabia is not about to be the next country to normalize with Israel, but they are getting closer and closer.

Prince Bandar, as he is always called in the United States, said that the Palestinians and their backers always are on the wrong side. And yet, he reminded them, Saudi kings have supported the Palestinian Authority for decades - despite the PA’s errors.

As an interesting aside, Prince Bandar’s daughter, Reema, is the current Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

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Erdogan Claims Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

President Erdogan of Turkey addressed the opening session of his parliament and announced that Jerusalem was their city. That they, the Ottomans, controlled Jerusalem for centuries.

Erdogan said: “In this city, which we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So, Jerusalem is our city, a city from us.”

While it is true that the Ottomans controlled Jerusalem from 1516 until 1917 and the end of WWI when they were ousted by the British, it is hardly their city.

Much of Erdogan’s opening remarks were dedicated to the Palestinians. It was
strangely eerie to read his words. His presentation sounded like a speech from 1980 - not 2020. This is a new era and there are only two vocal rejecters of this new era. They are Iran and Turkey.

Saudi Arabia has also stepped up and come out distancing themselves from Erdogan and his politics. Saudi business leaders have called for a total boycott of Turkey. There are tensions in the region and Turkey seems determined to stoke them.

Erdogan feels that Turkey will be stronger because they are rejecting Israel and the US. There will be short term benefits, but in the end, his is a losing strategy.

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Biden Says In-Sh'Allah
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

“In-sh’Allah” in Arabic means “God willing” or if “God wills it.”

It is the same as “Im Yirtzeh Hashem” in Hebrew or “Siyata D’ishmaya” in Aramaic.

All nice expressions – but certainly not a part of the American vernacular.

So imagine my surprise when I heard the expression “In-sh’Allah” coming out of the mouth of former Vice President Joe Biden during the presidential debate against President Donald Trump.

It happened under the talk-overs, you had to be paying careful attention to catch it. Biden asked Trump about making his complete taxes accessible to the public and while Trump was talking, Biden muttered “In-sh’Allah”.

In colloquial Arabic the expression can also mean a sarcastic “yeah, like that will ever happen.” Something akin to “when hell freezes over”.

It was certainly a prepared and rehearsed line and it was directed at Arabic and Muslim voters who see Trump as far too pro-Israel.

The internet lit up - especially twitter. People are still tweeting about that split second comment.

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NYC Fining Non Mask Wearers
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 29, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that the city will start fining people who are not wearing masks.

The mayor is particularly targeting Hareidi communities, but other communities and neighborhoods are also being inspected.

Until now many Hareidi neighborhoods have been totally non-compliant - to the point that they believed that COVID was over and that they had herd immunity.

But things are changing. People have begun to wear masks.

The fines can be up to $1000.

Over the past few weeks NYC is testing at 3% positive of all tests. That is a huge increase after months during which the positive rate was way below 1%.

Hopefully, the fines and the threat of fines and the presence of inspectors will jolt more and more people back into wearing masks.

It’s all about compliance – that’s how we save lives.

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What Does Sudan Want?
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 29, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Observers of the Middle East have speculated that Sudan will be the next country to normalize with Israel.

It is a good bet. Behind the scenes, however, there are some stumbling blocks.

According to the US, Sudan is still a state sponsor of terrorism. But the United States is dangling the carrot in front of Sudan by promising to remove Sudan from their terrorist list if the country moves forward with plans for normalization with Israel.

Sudan was put on the list because of its previous dictator, Omar al Bashir, who was in power for 30 years, from 1989 - 2019. Al Bashir gained power as a general in a coup. The list of his human rights atrocities inside Sudan and acts of terror outside his borders are too many to list here.

It would make sense for the United States to drop Sudan from their list. Except that, on Saturday, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said that he does not want that link.

That probably means that he wants something bigger and better.
Dropping them from the list would allow foreign aid to a country in need. What could be better? We will probably find out soon.

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UAE Signs an Israeli Soccer Player
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 25, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Middle East is changing so quickly and in so many ways.
Dubai has signed Dia Saba, an Israeli soccer player, to a three year contact at $3 million. He will play for the UAE club Al Nasr SC.

Dia Saba currently plays for the Chinese club Guangzhou R&F. He has played for them for three and a half years. He still plays for the Israeli national team in international competition.

Before signing with China, Dia Saba played for the Israeli team Hapoel Beersheba.
The significance of this soccer deal is that sports is the ultimate equalizer.

In the Middle East soccer is almost more popular than God. This move shows just how easy it is to normalize relations.

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Another Arab Country to Normalize w Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 24, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft told al Arabiyah, the largest international Arab cable television network, that she expects that at least one additional Arab country will join the UAE and Bahrain in normalizing relations with Israel.

There is little doubt that it will be either Oman or Sudan.

Unlike many other Arab networks, al Arabiyah has no agenda and can be trusted. I was a commentator for them for several years.

On Wednesday, the leaders of Sudan finished a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Abu Dhabi. It was reported – not by al Arabiyah, that no agreement was concluded. That report may or may not prove to be true.
Oman is also waiting to announce their agreement.

The Palestinians are up in arms, unable and unwilling to recognize this dramatic shift in the Arab world.

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PA Resigns Chair of Arab League
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians were scheduled to chair the Arab League meetings for the next 6 months.

They resigned the chairmanship.

The Palestinians failed to convince the Arab League to condemn the UAE and Bahrain for committing to peace treaties with Israel.

They said that the treaties were an abandonment of the long-held agreement among Arab countries not to recognize Israel.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that they were resigning the chairmanship. He said: “Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council (of foreign ministers) at its current session. There is no honor in seeing Arabs rush towards normalization during its presidency.”

Maliki then read from a letter he sent to Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit informing him of the Palestinian move and criticizing the UAE and Bahrain, both Gulf Arab nations.

He said that peace deals with Israel "created a deep crisis in the Arab League."

This is a typical Palestinian response. They are hurting themselves in the hope that by hurting themselves, people will take notice.

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Another Huge Explosion in Leb
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Another huge explosion in Lebanon.

This time, seven weeks after the first Beirut blast, the explosion was in an arms storage depot in the village of Ain Qana, just north of the port city of Sidon.

Two unauthorized sources say that the explosion, which was heard by other villages miles away, was triggered by a mishap.

Video shows a huge plume of black smoke.

The unauthorized sources also report that this very large weapons depot was located in the residential area of the village. The weapons belonged to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is a Shiite terror group that is sponsored by Iran. Hezbollah fights in Syria on Iran’s behalf and has wrested near total control of southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s religious leadership and membership is motivated by an oath all members gladly make to destroy Israel.

So yes, it could have been a mishap. It could have been sabotage. It could have been a mission carried out by the Israeli Mossad.

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Honduras To Open Emb in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 21, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Honduras announced that they will be opening an embassy in Jerusalem by the end of the year.

The announcement came on the twitter account of the Honduran president.
President Hernandez wrote: "To strengthen our strategic alliance, we spoke to arrange the opening of the embassies in Tegucigalpa and Jerusalem, respectively." He continued: "We hope to take this historic step before the end of the year, as long as the pandemic allows it."

This announcement follows last week’s announcements by both Serbia and Kosovo about their hope to open their embassies in Jerusalem.

A good number of other countries have announced their intention to move their embassies to Jerusalem. They include, Brazil, Hungary, Moldova and Romania.

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Rosh Hashanah
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 18, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

It’s Rosh Hashanah.
Another year has passed and a new one is upon us.
This, however, was no normal year – we all know that.
Traditions ground us and gives us stability. But this year, almost all traditions were thrown away, altered and re-shaped to meet the demands of our new reality.
Loss and crises flood my memory as I prepare for a new year.
And I wonder – can the community, any community, our community, sustain itself through another year like the one that is ending. And indeed, next year will be a year filled with the crisis called COVID-19. It will be different. Not the same crisis. But it would be naïve to think that this is all gone.
COVID is rolling back into certain areas with a vengeance. Those who thought the pandemic was waning thought wrong and arrogantly.
I know that our community must adapt to the change and to the risks involved. Real changes. Changes that include technology and changes that focus on services. Changes that will be hands-on, changes that will be small group oriented and changes that will be online.
Communities need to truly assess what they need. And then they need to go about raising the funds and implementing the programs that will achieve their goals.
Figuring that out is one of the most important items on my thought list as we enter the new year. May it be a Shannah Tovah, a good and healthy and productive year, for us all.

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Palestinian Israelis Love the Peace Accords
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 17, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The sides have been drawn. Those in favor and those against the Abraham Accords.

The Palestinians have made their discontent known to all who will listen.
But what about Palestinian Arabs that live in the State of Israel? They have been totally silent. And there is a good reason for that silence.

Palestinians citizens of Israel understand the tremendous benefits brought about by the agreement between the UAE and Israel.

Personal benefits.
Business opportunities.

Several Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have already opened Palestinian restaurants in the UAE. Others see tourism opportunities. Still others see educational and college opportunities.

And some Palestinian Israelis are hoping to culturally translate Israel to UAE and Bahraini leaders in business and politics. They know Hebrew and understand the Israeli mindset and they know Arabic and understand the Arabic world.

They see an opportunity that is expanding way beyond the tiny borders of Israel – which has already tremendously expanded past the borders enclosing Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel.

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The Abraham Accords
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 16, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Tuesday was a historic day at the White House. The Abraham Accords were signed between the UAE, Israel and the US.

As we know. is following suit and it looks like Oman will be next on the list. And that may well happen in the next week.

Oman will not be long before joining the illustrious group.

Lolwah Alkhate, Qatar's Assistant Foreign Minister, said his nation is not planning to join Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in normalizing ties with Israel.

Over the past three years Qatar has moved out of the Sunni sphere of influence.

They were at odds with the UAE and other Sunni states like Saudi Arabia when they joined Iran’s side. Qatar rejected the position of the Gulf States on Iran.

They want Arab countries to support Iran and relieve pressure being put on them by the United States.

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Israel Must Be a Bi Partisan Issue
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 15, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu flew in and out of Washington, DC to participate in the Abraham Accords singing ceremony.

Netanyahu spent time in the White House with President Trump. It is no secret that the two men are friends.

We have been told that while in the United States, Netanyahu did not reach out to Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate.

If that is indeed true, Netanyahu needs to correct that oversight.

He can call from the plane. He can call from Jerusalem immediately upon his return home.

No matter who wins the US presidential election, Israel must have access and the Prime Minister of Israel and he must be on very friendly terms.

If their relationship is not strong and secure, the potential damage is incalculable.

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More In Line For Peace Train
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 14, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

First UAE then Kosovo now Bahrain.

And now Oman. Oman state media issued a statement saying that Oman welcomed Bahrain's decision to normalize relations with Israel and hopes it will contribute to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In one weekend, from a Friday to a Sunday, two Arab countries followed UAE. And earlier in the week Kosovo, a Muslim country, did the same. That makes it three countries in one week.

The Bahraini government statement read:
"Bahrain hopes this new strategic path taken by some Arab countries will contribute to bringing about a peace based on an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and on establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as capital."

A few days after the UAE / Israel accord was announced on Aug. 13, Israel’s intelligence minister explained that Oman could also formalize ties with the country. Oman has welcomed the UAE and Bahraini decisions but has not commented on its own prospects for normalized relations.

Such statements are normally seen as the final steps in the process. In this case they are the first public statements, but they are also the last country to come out after long and secret talks with Israel.

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Iran in War Games
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I just finished watching videos of Iranian war games. I saw military drills and exercises that took place over three days in the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz.

The drills covered about 800 square miles. Included in the exercise were the
Iranian air force, navy and army. There were jet fighters, drones, helicopters, submarines and of course, ground forces. Iranian Special Forces swam and invaded land targets. Surface-to-surface missiles were shot and surface-to-air and air-to-surface missiles were all tested in what Iranian military considered real battle conditions.

It was impressive.
It was meant to impress.

The US 5th Fleet was right there watching. The US took no action. The US made no comment.

Tensions are always high in the area. But now, with Gulf countries waiting in line to recognize Israel, Iran is feeling their dream of a united Muslim world confronting the West crumbling down.

There is little chance that Iran’s dream will re-emerge – not even as a talking point among most of the Muslim world.

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Sri Lankan Gift Taken in Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 10, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Sri Lanka donated about three and a half thousand pounds of tea to the victims of the explosion that devastated Beirut.

Many domestic workers in Lebanon are Sri Lankan ex-patriots. Sri Lanka feels close to Lebanon and they feel their pain.

Sri Lanka produces some of the best tea in the world and they believe that tea has healing properties. Their donation was thought through and it was significant.

But instead of going to victims, the president of Lebanon gave the tea to his family and to the presidential guard and their families.

On August 24th the office of President Aoun of Lebanon released a picture showing him with the Sri Lankan ambassador, and quoted her as saying that Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, had "donated 1,675 kilos (3,685 pounds) of Ceylon tea to those affected by the Beirut blast".

Not everyone was pleased. "The tea was sent to the Lebanese, particularly those affected by the explosion. Of course it wasn't a present for those who don't need it," tweeted Paula Yacoubian, a former Lebanese member of parliament who resigned after the blast. She, like many other Lebanese, blame the explosion on the neglect of Lebanese leadership.

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Chad May Open Emb in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Chad is a country in central northern Africa. It is a majority Muslim country.
And now, Chad is considering opening an embassy in Jerusalem.

This week a high-level delegation from Chad visited Jerusalem. They met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday. During the meeting, Netanyahu said: “I do not only want to mark the relations between our countries, but to promote them even more.”

This will not be the first time Chad had an embassy in Israel.

After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Chad closed their embassy and cut off ties with Israel. They were one of 30 African countries that cut ties with Israel in ‘73.

And then, in 2018 the president of Chad visited Israel and Netanyahu visited Chad in 2019.

Chad realizes how useful good diplomatic, economic and tech relations with Israel can be. They will almost certainly open their embassy in Jerusalem sometime soon.

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Suha Arafat In Favor of UAE Deal
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Suha Arafat, the widow of Yasser Arafat, has come out in favor of the Israel / UAE peace deal.

Suha also apologized to the UAE for the disrespect Palestinian have shown the UAE, UAE leaders and UAE symbols.

Suha did not mention any names, but she did say that while she has received threats from many Palestinians because of her pro-peace deal comments, she has not been threatened by Palestinian President Abbas.

On her Instagram account Suha Arafat posted the following: “In the name of all the noble Palestinians, I am apologising for the UAE people and leadership for the profanation [sic] and burning of their flag in Jerusalem and Palestine and for insulting the symbols of the beloved UAE.”

On Egyptian TV where Suha appeared twice, speaking about the threats she received from Palestinian leadership, she had a message for those leaders. She said: do not touch my monthly stipend of $11, 830.

Arafat also appeared on Israeli TV station Kan and explained how important the deal was and that Palestinians have not yet realized that this is a game changer.

Good for Suha Arafat. She is taking a stand and is not afraid of the ramifications.

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2 More to Open Emb in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 6, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

On Friday, at a ceremony in the White House, Serbia and Kosovo agreed to normalize economic ties between their countries.

And in the middle of that signing ceremony, both Serbia and Kosovo agreed to establish embassies in Jerusalem.

Kosovo will be the first majority Muslim country to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made an announcement soon after the DC ceremony saying that: “Kosovo will be the first country with a Muslim majority to open an embassy in Jerusalem ... As I’ve said in recent days - the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is expanding and more countries are expected to join.”

These are powerful moments in history.

But not everyone was pleased. Turkey expressed disappointment. Palestinian leadership said that they would cut ties with countries that open embassies in Jerusalem or establish ties with Israel.

To date, only the United States and Guatemala have opened embassies in Jerusalem.

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Iran's Abuses
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 4, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

This week Amnesty International released a report stating that following the
November 2019 protests in Iran, many of those thought to be involved in the protest had been arrested and tortured and sexually abused.

The immediate reason for the protests was a 200% increase in the price of gasoline. People took to the streets. They also created traffic jams by stopping their cars on busy streets causing huge backups. The protests spread across over 100 cities in Iran.

Iranian security services were sent to crush the protests. Those who were supposed to defend the right of the citizens against abuse, were silent.

The internet, which was the vehicle through which the protestors communicated, was shut down for an entire week. No internet - total black out. No communication – and the protests disappeared.

The Amnesty report was disturbing but not surprising. Iran is a human right abuser on par with China and North Korea.

This report is an important reminder, we need to remember what kind of country Iran is and what Iran stands for.

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COVID Spikes in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 3, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

COVID is spiking in Israel. Over 3000 cases in 24 hours – 2 days in a row.
Deaths have reached 1,000.

Several cities, towns and neighborhoods are the centers of contagion. They are called Red Zones. Their numbers skew national numbers. As a result, the national numbers, with an almost 10% contagion rate, are extremely worrisome. The Covorna Virus Cabinet just shut them down and sealed them off from the rest of Israel.

If those communities are not brought under control, authorities will be forced to institute another national lockdown. And soon - possibly even before Rosh Hashanah.

The Hareidi community and the Arab community are neither going to be tested nor are they complying with protocols. They claim herd immunity, but they are getting sick.

Several very prestigious leading rabbis have called for their communities not to test for fear that their schools will be closed. They are convinced that the testing and high COVID positive numbers will cause others to have a negative opinion of the Hareidi community.

800 students from the Hareidi yeshiva world tested positive yesterday. The number is, in actuality, much higher because many students did not test. That is about 30% of all COVID positives in Israel from a community that is only 10% of the population. The percentage is even higher when you take into account their age group, 18-25. In that group, these 800 positive Hareidi yeshiva students probably comprise over 50% of the Israel’s positives.

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Iran & the Internet
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Average Iranians crave the internet – especially young Iranians.

Religious leadership in Iran, on the other hand, has clamped down on the internet, they have blocked access to the internet. They filter everything, especially social media. They even block game sites. And last year they shut down the internet for a week in order to prevent protestors demanding a change in religious leadership, from communicating,

TunnelBear is a company that provides VPN. VPN stands for virtual personal network. It is a program that makes it appear as if you are on your computer in a location that is different from your actual location. When an Iranian uses a VPN, government filters do not work.

TunnelBear is giving 10GB of free VPN, which is about 800 hours of web surfing, to every Iranian. They are also persuading other VPN providers to offer free services to Iranians.

The problem is that in order to get a VPN, you first need to get online. So TunnelBear has created a way to get onto the internet without using an Iranian host.

This move is a deal changer. Access to an unfiltered internet might possibly bring about the fall of the religious regime in Iran.

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Iranian Jew Hatred
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

For years Iran has insisted that they hate Israel, not Jews.

But this is what the Supreme Leader, the Grand Ayatollah, had to say about Jared Kushner:

"The UAE along with Israelis and evil Americans like the Jewish member of Trump's family are working together against the interests of the Islamic world ... I hope Emiratis wake up and pay for what they did."

Khamenei was, of course, referring to Kushner, Donald Trump’s Jewish son-in-law.

This just proves what we already surmised. All the Iranian rhetoric about being merely anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic is simply veneer maintained to hide their deep-rooted hatred of all Jews - not just those Jews who live in Israel.

The Supreme Leader’s comments were broadcast on Iranian TV.

They included a tongue lasing of the UAE: "Of course, the UAE's betrayal will not last long, but this stigma will always be remembered. They allowed the Zionist regime to enter the region and forgot Palestine …The Emiratis will be disgraced forever."

Israel and the UAE united in order to confront Iran. Iran was never a friend of the Gulf nation or of any Arab nation. That is now abundantly clear. They only pretended to be, Iranian leadership told lies of convenience.

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Jordan COVID Spikes
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 31, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

This past week has seen a huge increase in COVID cases in Jordan which until now, had the virus under control and contained.

Just on Sunday 73 new cases of COVID were reported. That is the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic started.

Thus far, Jordan has only had 15 deaths and 1966 positives since March - so the number 73 is a significant number. Unless they control the contagion quickly, the numbers could exponentially increase daily.

Jordan instituted a nightly curfew, from 11pm to 6 am. Before this, their curfew began ay 1am.

Jordan has also cracked down on movement. Borders are closed and Jordanian authorities are even preventing people from travelling from one city to another.

These are not draconian measures, they are life saving measures.
Joran was successful in keeping people in place which kept down the transmission of the virus. They need to make that happen again.

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Balloon & Kite Bombs
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 28, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday night 26 firebomb balloons flew from Gaza into Israel. Most of the fires they created were small and were extinguished by firefighters.

Incendiary balloons and kites are becoming more and more common. They are launched into Israel from Gaza night after night. Israel has struck back hitting the sites that launch and design the bombs. Israel has attacked the headquarters of the groups who perpetrate these attacks.

These attacks are low tech. They cost only pennies to make and do not require sophisticated expertise to launch. Israel has high tech weapons and now they need to go low tech to shoot down these kites and balloons.

The best way to solve the problem is to get Hamas to stop the problem on their end. And that is exactly what Israel is trying to do.

Negotiations are taking place through a 3rd party - Egypt. There is hope. Israel is pressuring Hamas by bombing

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Cuomo Says Stop the Superspreaders
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 27, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


NY Governor Andrew Cuomo slammed large gathering within the Jewish community, especially in the New York City Jewish community. He also condemned Catholics for gathering in large numbers.

Cuomo, himself a staunch Catholic, said: “We’ve had superspreader events in New Rochelle with the Jewish community, we’ve had them in the Catholic community.
The virus does not discriminate by religious or racial lines, right? This is an equal-opportunity situation. So we police it in every circumstance.”

Cuomo threatened NYC Mayor Bill Deblasio, demanding that the mayor act against the superspreaders, defined as groups that gather without complying with the safety precautions of keeping safe distance and wearing a mask. The governor said: “If the mayor is not doing any enforcement actions, then the state will.”

Cuomo was not just spouting off, he does have jurisdiction. The governor can, legally, take action in NYC.

Having events with large numbers is simply irresponsible.

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US Livid At Turkey
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 26, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The United States is not at all pleased that Turkish President Erdogan hosted Hamas leaders. When the US State Department issued a statement of public criticism of Turkey, Turkey immediately rejected the comments.

The US State Department statement said that the Hamas officials were "Specially Designated Global Terrorists" and the United States was seeking information about one member of the delegation, Hamas' military wing founder Saleh al-Arouri, for his involvement in multiple terrorist attacks, hijackings and kidnappings.

The United States and many other countries consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization.

The United States is of the opinion that Erdogan’s meeting with Hamas leaders will hurt Palestinians. The US believes that supporting Hamas over the Palestinian Authority is a mistake.

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Israel's COVID Numbers
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 25, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The new COVID-19 numbers from Israel are deeply troubling.

The most compelling numbers are truly disturbing. Israel is using the traffic light system to establish procedures in dealing with COVID. That the entire country is not monolithic. Each area is different, and a different policy is required for each place.

Of the thousands of cities towns and villages in Israel – all except 20 are green or yellow. Only 20 are red zones and those cities are divided into regions which are also divided into color zones.

Here is the most troubling dimension of the new COVID -19 numbers. 40% of the positive numbers are from the Chareidi community. 20% of the new positives are from Arab communities.

The 40% is probably much higher. Rabbis in the Chareidi community have urged their members not to test because those results can be used against their community.

Leaders need to be urged to put a stop to large gatherings. People must be urged by their leaders to wear masks.

The COVID-19 numbers will increase if these steps are not taken soon. The economy of Israel is dependent on getting those numbers down.

Tourism cannot return until Israel becomes a green state. Only then Israel will open it doors to countries to other green countries and the tourist dollars will follow.

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Iran Venezuela
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 24, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Remember when I told you that Iran was smuggling oil to Venezuela? Remember that it was a blatant violation of US sanctions against Iran?

Venezuela needed the oil. Even though they are sitting on huge oil reserves, Venezuela is suffering a terrible oil shortage. Their oil industry has been falling apart and is in bad need of replacement parts.

Venezuela is also suffering from US sanctions against Iran. That’s because US sanctions didn’t apply only to oil, they did not permit any oil industry replacement parts either.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro thanked Iran for sending oil and oil factory parts.

In his official statement of thanks to Iran, Maduro suggested that Venezuela will also be purchasing missiles from Iran.

The nexus of Iran and Venezuela does not portend well for the world.

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Turkey Hosts Hamas Leaders
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Turkish President Erdogan hosted a full delegation from Hamas.

That’s unnerving, but not supporting. Turkey supports Hamas financially and politically. And Turkey has even granted citizenship to many Hamas leaders.
Present at the meeting were Hamas leader Ismayel Hanyieh as well as Hamas military wing founder Saleh al-Arouri - who is wanted by the U.S. government.
Also there were the head of Hamas' foreign branch Maher Salah and the group's representative in Turkey, Jihad Yaghmor.

The group went to Turkey to report on the Palestinian situation. The two main topics discussed were Israel’s plan to annex the West Bank and the UAE / Israel peace accord. Interestingly, the Palestinians are still burning about the Israel annexation plan despite the fact that it was shelved by the UAE accord.

Turkey, together with Iran, Hamas and the PA, are among the very few voices to have publicly condemned the UAE Israel agreement.

Turkey has become a sponsor of terror. They have moved into a position parallel to Iran in joining forces with those who oppose the West, especially the US and Israel.

This meeting is just another example of that behavior.

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Ironic & Funny
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 21, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

For me some of the irony is so tragic it is hilariously funny.

Tensions are heating up between Israel and Gaza. Hundreds of balloon and kite bombs launched from Gaza have caused fires and caused terrible and costly damage in Israel.

Israel has responded by striking at those terror bases and places from which the kite and balloon bombs are launched.

Escalating the situation, on Thursday night Hamas launched three rockets hoping to strike fear into Israelis beyond those living in communities located on the Gaza border.

But the three rockets never made it out of Gaza – and not because they were shot down or intercepted. They just dropped from the sky. Onto Gaza.
Hamas was trying to send a message to Israel. These rockets were supposed to tell Israel that they, Hamas, have the ability to hit central Israel.

Instead, they demonstrated how inept they are.

Ironic, but funny.

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Peace Train
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 20, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The ripples across the international community in the wake of the UAE/Israel peace are beginning to be felt.

There has been virtually no condemnation of the agreement - except from the regular suspects, Palestinians, Iran and Turkey.
Several countries in the Arab world are denying that they are in talks with the Jewish state, but they are - and that too is to be expected.

The reality is that the Arab world is no longer what it once was. The Palestinian issue, once front and center, is now practically irrelevant.

The Arab world has determined that Palestinian leadership is locked into the past, that they do not see and are unwilling to accept the new reality that has emerged – that Israel is here to stay and that Israel is a force to be dealt with.

Palestinian leadership remains steadfast and cannot be coaxed or tempted or convinced that it is better to accept the new reality, which means peace and coexistence, than be locked into an unrealistic hope that Israel will be destroyed by the combined efforts of the pan-Arab society.

The prevalent stance of greater Arab leadership, in the Middle East and beyond the region, is that there is more to gain from Israel than by ignoring or totally rejecting her.

It took a lot of growth and soul searching to reach that conclusion. Kudos to today’s Arab leadership.

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US Destroyed F-14s To Stop Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 19, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I just read a fascinating article about why the United States destroyed their entire fleet of F-14 Tomcats in 2007, after the entire fleet was retired.

Each of the fighter jets could have been sold for parts and would have brought in $38 million each.

The reason President Bush opted to destroy the fleet instead of selling it off was because, when the F-14 Tomcat was in its heyday, the Shah of Iran bought 80 of the planes. After the fall of the Shah, all those planes fell into he hands of the Ayatollah. Iran’s new air-force had the planes after the Islamic Revolution.

President Bush was thinking of the future. He knew that one day those planes would need spare parts.

Iran’s air-force now needs spare parts and because of the decision made way back in 2007, the Iranian air-force has been seriously weakened.

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Hamas Leader Says Kill all Jews
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 18, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

A leading member of Hamas posted a video on Friday that called on all seven million Palestinians in the Diaspora to murder Jews everywhere they live. All seven million.

Fathi Hamad said: “Seven million Palestinians outside, enough warming up, you have Jews with you in every place. You should attack every Jew possible in all the world and kill them.”

Established leadership in the Palestinian Authority condemned the comments. Even Hamas distanced itself from Hamad’s comments, saying that their fight was with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and was “not a conflict with Jews across the world or Judaism as a religion.”

But the denial of other Palestinian leaders cannot put the genie back into the bottle. This call to murder touched a real chord.

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UAE Summons Iran Dip
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 17, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) summoned the Iranian Charge d’Affaires stationed at the Iranian Embassy in Abu Dhabi and issued a stern memo.

The summons came as a result of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s threatening statements concerning the UAE and the new agreement emerging between the UAE and Israel.

The memo, which was published on twitter, reads that he was summoned and that the government: “hands him a strong note of protest against threats in President Rouhani's speech on UAE sovereign decisions. Ministry considers the speech unacceptable & inflammatory w/ serious implications for security & stability in the region.”

Iran’s statements were viewed by the UAE as an “interference in internal affairs and an attack on sovereignty.”

The UAE is telling Iran that they are not free to act or even speak as they please.

The UAE is warning that there will be diplomatic repercussions for Iran’s aggressive behavior.

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UN Rejects Iran Embargo
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 16, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

With so much happening in the world, certain stories are bound to get lost and not receive the attention they deserve.

For example: The UN Security Council decided not to extend the embargo on Iran that is scheduled to end October 18th.

The proposal to extend was brought by the United States – and was soundly defeated.

There were 2 votes in favor, 2 opposed and 11 countries abstained. Russia and China, the two countries who opposed, did not even need to waste their veto power. The resolution had no chance of passing.

Five Gulf Arab countries and Israel were in favor of the resolution, but they had no vote. They know that once Iran is back up and running, they will wreak havoc in in the region and elsewhere. Iran will be free to sell weapons to whomever they please.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that we “know Iran will spread even greater chaos and destruction if the embargo expires, but the Security Council chose to ignore them.”

The UN Security Council decision is disastrous. Iran is reading the situation and rejoicing. They will conclude that world leadership does not with the United States or with the Gulf countries. They will understand that the momentum has shifted in their direction.

That conclusion by Iran is far more dangerous than the decision reached by the Security Council.

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Reactios to the Abraham Accords
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 14, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The framework for the Abraham Accords has been made public and the parties are sitting down to iron out the details. Responses and reaction is flooding in, most of it expected.

These responses leave no doubt as to where people and countries stand on the issues of Israel and real peace.

Many voices are saying the best part of the deal is Israel’s tabling of their plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

When Turkey came out blasting the deal saying that it was a stab in the back and that peoples of the region "will never forget and will never forgive this hypocritical behavior", many were taken aback.

Not me. It is exactly the response I expected from Erdogan.

The response is, never the less, insightful. It demonstrates how far Turkey has moved in the past few years. Once a friend of Israel, Turkey cannot now even see the benefit other states can receive by normalizing with Israel.

Not a surprise, but still a shame.

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Iran's Influence Dipping in Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran’s influence in Lebanon has been severely damaged by the gargantuan blast that rocked Beirut.

Iranians are monitoring the protests and rallies very carefully. And Iran continues to publicly declare their solidarity with Lebanon.

Iran exerts tremendous influence in Lebanon through their proxy Hezbollah.

Iran sponsors Hezbollah and dumps huge amounts of money and community support to prop up Hezbollah and give their proteges a significant advantage in Lebanon.

Here is where Iran comes up short: right now, Iran does not have the money to help.

The Iranian economy is in shambles and COVID has been devastating for them.
Lebanon needs money to search for victims and to clear rubble and then to rebuild.

Iran knows that the Lebanese people are angry. They monitor Lebanon’s social media and see protestors holding effigies of Hezbollah’s Sheik Nasrallah with a noose around his neck.

Iran knows that if Hezbollah is weakened, their influence in Lebanon is lost.

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Hackers Try Hacking Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 12, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

An international hacker group named “Lazarus” was hired by a foreign government to infiltrate Israel’s defense computers.

The hack was stopped – and now we know just how devious these hackers are.

The hackers assumed the roles of HR recruiters for IT positions at huge international firms on LinkedIn. They approached Israelis working in extremely sensitive and secret departments in Israel’s defense and Israeli air divisions offering extremely attractive positions in the private sector.

Through their communication with the “recruits”, they dropped spyware onto the targets’ computers which allowed the hackers to monitor and follow and even infiltrate Israel’s secret defense systems.

Israel anticipated this type of hack and the targets were prepared for it. The hack was stopped but not before it was teased and led into dead ends. Israel kept the tease going long enough time for Israeli counter hacking teams to track and trace the hack back to Lazarus.

At this point the foreign body who sponsored Lazarus is unclear. Bu there are only a few possibilities. China, Russia, North Korea, or of course, Iran.

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Balloons & Kites Return as Weapons
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 11, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Balloons and kites have started over 30 fires in Israel over the past day.
How is that possible?

These incendiary flying weapons have retuned as an inexpensive and effective tool by terrorists from Hamas in Gaza.

Terrorists attach an incendiary device with a timer to a balloon or kite. They then launch the kite or balloon. When timer ends, the fire begins consuming the balloon and it falls into Israel. If times correctly and the device is still burning, it ignites the fields or crops or orchards where it has landed and burns them.

This low-tech weapon was very common in 2018. They are very difficult to defend against and cost less than a single dollar to build and launch.

A jet or helicopter gunship is useless against this low tech device. Radar does not work. Snipers can try to shoot them before they cross the border, but that is both very difficult and inefficient and a bullet will not bring down a kite.

Israel has found a solution, however. They used it in 2018 and they will use it again in 2020. A special team of volunteer drone operators fly their drones into the kites and balloons.

The IDF will bring back the drones.

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125 Iranian Bases in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 10, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has 125 army bases in Syria.

This information is documented by a Turkish research institute named Jusoor.
Their study shows that Iran has established itself as a significant presence all over Syria.

Iran is filling the vacuum left by Russia and the United States and are they are shaping Syrian defense systems.

Many of Iran’s bases in Syria were set up very close to Israel’s borders. The region of Deraa has 37 bases. There are 22 around Damascus and 15 around Aleppo.

From Israel’s perspective, most troubling of all are the 5 Iranian bases around Quientra.

Quinetra is a city in the Golan Heights, right on the border of Israel. If each of these bases has just 100 Iranian troops, that means they have 12,500 troops right next to Israel.

Like Israel, Turkey does not want an Iranian presence in Syria. In Syria, Iran is only interested in building and in extending their control.

Iran is creating a “land bridge” from Iran through Iraq and then into Syria and to the Mediterranean Sea. From there they have access to Europe.
And that is their goal.

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Lebanon Questions Hezbollah
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Social media in Lebanon is popping with condemnation of Hezbollah.

They are blaming Hezbollah for the ammonium nitrate explosions that killed hundreds and wounded thousands of their friends, family and fellow citizens in the port of Beirut.

The rumors that Hezbollah is behind the explosions have made their way to major media outlets. Middle East TV, (MTV) a Christian media outlet out of Lebanon, broadcast that Hezbollah officers, disguised as aid workers, have been found at the location. The reports are that the ammonium nitrate stockpiles belonged to Hezbollah and they simply neglected it.

Many Lebanese are saying that even their evil enemy Israel would never explode a bomb like that - how could Hezbollah permit this. Pictures of Hezbollah’s leader have been posted on social media with a noose around his neck.

Hezbollah is being blamed for putting Lebanon at risk. When Hezbollah attacks Israel, all of Lebanon suffers from Israel’s counter attacks.

This anger, this vitriol, this frustration and grief does not, however, mean that Hezbollah will be pushed out of power and influence. There are too many Shiites in Lebanon who would rather have corrupt Hezbollah leadership than Sunni or Christian leadership.

What it does mean is that those who are non-Hezbollah supporters are less and less afraid to speak out and are becoming more and more vocal.

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Polish Paper in Canada Spouts Hate
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Glos Polski is a weekly Polish paper in Toronto. It has published an article - for the second time, that blames COVID-19 on the Jews.

No surprise.

Glos Polski has also have published lies about Jews created ISIS. They write that Israel is the root of all evil and the devil itself. And if that is not enough for you, they preach that Vladimir Lenin, leader of Soviet Union, was Jewish. They write that Joseph Goebbels, the head Nazi propaganda, was really Jewish. They even argue that Turkish president Erdogan is Jewish.

B’nai Brith of Canada has filed a police complaint against Glos Polski for repeatedly spreading lies against Jews.

More and more anti-Semitism is permeating our world. People certainly have freedom of speech, but even that freedom has a limit.

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Beirut Explosion
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 6, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The explosions in Beirut at the port were cataclysmic. According to experts, this explosion was the closest in size to a nuclear explosion that has yet to occur.

The numbers of victims and injured will continue to climb.

The estimated cost of the damage is $15 billion, that too will climb. Given that Lebanon has only 6.8 million people and a GDP of $58 billion that number is bigger than huge.

Ammonium Nitrate has been used regularly for bombs. The IRA used it in London.
The Oklahoma City Bomber used it. It was used in Bali and used in India. Just about anywhere a huge explosion takes place, it can be traced to ammonium nitrate - often placed in a car or truck.

Stored properly ammonium nitrate is safe. But the more you have and the longer it sits, the more unstable it becomes.

2,750 tons is a recipe for an explosion. 2,750 tons is 5,500,000 pounds.

That’s what exploded in Beirut. It is dangerous by any estimate and was an explosion waiting to happen.
If this was an accident, it could – and should, have been avoided.

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Huge Wedding in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

On Wednesday the wedding of the grandson of the Belzer Rebbe took place in Jerusalem. The wedding was held in the Belz synagogue in Jerusalem which is enormous. The building can be seen from miles away. After it was built, the synagogue was jokingly referred to as the 3rd Temple by many of those who live in Jerusalem.

Thousands of people were invited to participate in the wedding. Thousands accepted the invitation and they were all in close contact.

Police officials met with Belzer leadership and explained how unsafe and unwise such a gathering would be. But the wedding went on as planned. The new head of Israel’s National COVID Task Force called the wedding a huge potential center for contamination. He was so upset he even went so far as to say that events like this play “Russian Roulette” with people’s lives.

Police fined the organizers 5000 NIS that is about $1400 for violating COVID laws and having such a large gathering.

We pray that no one gets infected. But mathematics may prove the opposite.

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Israel Sends Up Hi Tech Spy Sat
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 4, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

On Monday Israel launched the Ofek 16 Spy Satellite.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a Cabinet meeting: “The success of the Ofek 16 satellite very much increases our ability to act against Israel’s enemies, near and far alike. It greatly expands our ability to act on land, at sea, in the air, and also in space.”

The prime minister even hinted that Israel was responsible for the recent explosions and fires in Iran.

Israel has been using satellites for over 20 years. They are an enormously important part of their intelligence gathering.

Every new satellite that is launched has better technology than the ones that were launched before. Not just a little better - exponentially higher tech, higher speed transmission, better resolution with pictures and video that are immediately sent.

From high up in space, these satellites can even read the license plate on a car parked in a dark alley.

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India Cutting Off Iran's Tea & Rice
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 3, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Indian companies are about to stop exporting tea and basmati rice to Iran.

Their complaint is that it is very difficult to get payment from Iran.

The CEO of a rice company in India said “The payment is very slow and it is coming in small batches. It is becoming impossible to do trade with Iran. The Indian government should work out a deal with Tehran so that exports can be carried out smoothly.”

Iran loves basmati rice and Indian tea and they are very large importers of both.

But when a client cannot send you money, the supplier shuts down the supply.
Once again, sanctions are hurting Iran.

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PA Teetering
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian Authority looks to be teetering. Actually, even on the verge of imploding.

The chaos that will emerge if or when this happens is not good news for anyone in the region – not just for Palestinians and for Israel.

If the PA falls the only power poised to fill the void is Hamas.

That is a 100% inevitability. And if Hamas takes charge in the West Bank, they will turn the area into an even bigger and failed mess than Gaza. they will make it into an even bigger failure than Gaza. If you think the West Bank is dysfunctional now, imagine if Hamas was in charge.

There are several indicators of the instability in the PA. It is apparent that PA President Abbas is no longer leading and directing. COVID plus economic difficulties plus Israel’s annexation threats are huge obstacles that Abbas is not properly embracing.

Rather than inspiring the masses, Abbas has activated his traditional tropes whereby he automatically turns Israel into an enemy and the root of all problems.
He has called out to the world to condemn Israel and called for aid and assistance.

This old strategy is no longer working.

In order for Abbas to build a stable society and transition and transfer power to a successor, whoever that may be, he needs to work together with Israel, especially in terms of security and safety.

Israel has a vested interest in keeping Abbas in power. Israel is working to maintain the PA president’s safety and to protect him from Hamas. Abbas, however, is not working with Israel.

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Eid al Adha Has Changed
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 31, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Eid al Adha is one of two most important holidays in Islam. The other is Eid al Fitr, But Eid al Adha takes precedence, it is actually the more important of the two.

Eid al Adha translates from Arabic as the Festival of the Sacrifice, it is found in the Koran in section 30, or Sura 30, lines 100 to112. It is the parallel story of the Binding of Isaac from Genesis 22. This holiday is also known as Eid al Qurban. Qurban is a synonym for sacrifice.

In the Koranic version of the story, Allah challenges Ibrahim’s faith and commands him to take Ishmael, his son, and offer him as a sacrifice. In the end, Allah intervenes and stops the sacrifice. and Ibrahim’s faith has been proven. The Koran’s rendition is a near exact replica of the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Bible.

At the end of the Koranic story, a sheep is replaced for Ishmael. In the Bible, a ram takes the place of Isaac.

Eid al Adha is as much a feast as it is a holiday. The feast is traditionally a four day celebration of food and prayers with family. An entire sheep is slaughtered and prepared. Two thirds of the sheep is eaten by the family, the third share is gifted to the poor.

But we are not living in normal times. And many Islamic traditions, like almost all other traditions and behaviors, have had to shift and morph to accommodate COVID-19. This year, because of COVID coupled with a crippling financial crisis, the Islamic population on the West Bank has scaled down their celebrations.

The sale of animals has dropped more than 50% according to some slaughterhouses and animal sellers. Some families are abandoning the traditional sheep and instead, pooling their funds and buying a larger animal, such as a cow. The celebration and the tradition has been changed.

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Iran & Turkey Making Friends
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 30, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


In a formal agreement, Turkey and Iran have decided to let us know that they have decided share information.

The official spokespeople of Iran and Turkey had a video conference and agreed to share this news and other materials.

These two countries, which share a border, are taking serious steps to coordinate.
They want to set up a block against the West, especially against the United States and Israel.

Iran has been expanding their foreign policy efforts. They are trying to pry people away from the West. Turkey is perfectly poised as a partner. Over the last two years Turkey has been moving further and further away from the West and the US and Israel.

Iran realizes this and is extending a hand in friendship to Turkey.

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Another Set of Mysterious Explosions
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 29, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Another mysterious explosion took place in Iran.

This time six fuel trucks exploded while in a parking lot in Dolat Abad. Simultaneously!

The trucks were in the industrial area of Kermanshah. They were filled with fuel. They burned for a long time.

The deputy head of the Kermanshah Fire Department said that while a few people were injured, nobody died in the explosions. He said that the explosions are under investigation.

The questions are obvious. How are all these mysterious explosions happening? Who is responsible for these fires? What is the link between all the explosions that have plagued Iran’s sensitive and secure areas?

One theory is Israel. Or maybe the United States. Or local saboteurs. Or maybe, a combination of all three.

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Iran's Model US Carrier
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 28, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran dragged out a life size model of a US aircraft carrier. And then they had a tugboat bring it into the Straits of Hormuz.

The model aircraft carrier is in the fashion of a Nimitz Class carrier.

The USS Abraham Lincoln is in the region and another US carrier is close by. The real Nimitz just made an appearance in the region. It entered Middle Eastern waters from the Indian Ocean and will probably replace the USS Dwight D Eisenhauer.

Why would Iran drag out a life size model of an US carrier?
That’s easy. They are going to use it for target practice.

The Iranians are going to sink the model ship using their weapons. They will practice attacking the ship. I watched small rubber boats zipping around the massive ship, jumping in and out if its wake as it was being tugged.

It looks like a game – but this is for real. This is serious stuff.

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US Joint Chief Visits Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 27, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

US Chair of The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, arrived in Israel on Friday morning. The four star general flew directly into an Israeli air-force base.
Milley met with Aviv Kochavi, his Israeli counterpart. He also met with Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen. Defense Minister Benny Gantz came to the base and he, too, met with the American general.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Milley through a video conference, Kochavi was a part of the conversation.

Israel was the only destination for the US General.

So, what did they talk about? There is only one answer. Iran. They also spoke about Syria and Hezbollah – and their involvement with Iran.

All those suspicious fires and explosions in Iran, they were certainly on the agenda.

The US Chair of the Joint Chief of staff does not hop on a plane and make trips for no reason. This was a whirlwind visit. Milley came to Israel to deliver a message and to get information that could not be delivered any other wat. Not through the embassy or over the internet or on the secure phone.

Nothing is more secure than a face-to-face meeting.

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US Congress Supports Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 26, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Both Houses of Congress overwhelmingly approved a $3.8 billion aid package for Israel.

It is called the National Defense Authorization Act. It passed the House by a vote of 295 to125, that is nearly 3 to 1 in favor. It passed the Senate by a vote of 86 to14, which is nearly 8.5 to 1.5 in favor.

These are important numbers. They reflect a more true sense of support for Israel than the Congressional rumblings we hear about. Some very loud members of Congress shout that aid to Israel should be in question and that it should be a carrot or a stick, forcing Israel’s policies on numerous issues especially those regarding Palestinians and including annexation.

According to these votes, those voices are in the minority.

Senator Bernie Sanders as well as “the Squad” have been very vocal and led many to believe that Israel’s support in Congress was waning. But members of Congress have their finger on the pulse of their constituencies. On the one hand, they educate their constituencies and vote their conscience. On the other hand, however, they would not take a stand that would jeopardize and threaten their electability.

This is a very good sign. Especially good because two of the four members of “the Squad”, Talib and Omar, face serious primary election challenges in early August.

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Iran & Iraq Very Friendly
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 24, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Relations between Iran and Iraq are in high gear.
Over the weekend Iran’s foreign minister, Muhammed Javad Zarif, visited Iraq.

And a few days later Iraq’s foreign minister, Mustafa al Kadimi, visited Iran.
Iranian president Rouhani described these visits as a “turning point” in their relations - not just between the two neighbors but for the region, as well. He said that Iran stands ready to protect its neighbor.

After the Iraqi foreign minister met with the Iranian premier, Iranian President
Rouhani said: “We are certain that the visit will be a turning point in relations between the two countries … We still remain ready to stand by the Iraqi nation and apply efforts for stability and security in Iraq and the region.”

Kadimi then responded that: “Iraq will not allow the posing of any threat from its soil against Iran.” He continued and said that Iraq is committed to “balance and avoiding any alignment.”

There had been tremendous tension between Iran and Iraq. It now appears that they are warming and uniting.

Meanwhile, the United States has a serious and significant presence in Iraq. All this is happening right under their nose.

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Iran Claims Victim of Cyber
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

In a turn of events which is so typical of Iranian PR they are now asserting that the are the victims of a cyber assault from the US.

Abbas Mousavi the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Iran is being attacked thousands of times by cyber-attacks. He said that the hackers are from the US.

Mousavi said that “Iran is maintaining its right to respond in a similar at a time of its choosing.”

Remember Iran was the culprit in the multiple cyber attacks against Israel’s water infrastructure.

Israel has most probably countered and attacked Iran.

Mousavi, however, says that all the fires and all the explosions are absolutely not the result of cyber-attacks.

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Twitter Says:Star Of David Hate Image
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Twitter has shuttered accounts of people who have a Star of David as part of their profile picture.

Twitter informed account holders that their the Star of David was “hateful imagery.”
Several people reported that they received this message.
It reads: “We have determined that this account violated the Twitter Rules. Specifically for: violating our rules against posting hateful imagery. You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. As a result, we have looked your account.”

This move by twitter is nothing short of crazy – and it is not the first time it has happened. At one point YouTube considered “Zionism” and “Zionist” to be hate words.

I just did a twitter search of the word swastika.

There were thousands of pictures of anti-Semitic swastikas. In fact, the first image was a person wearing a red COVID facemask with a swastika.

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Arabs Unite Against Annex
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 21, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Sameh Shoukry, the foreign minister of Egypt, took a quick helicopter ride to Ramallah to have a face to face conversation with PA President Abbas. He arrived after a short visit to Jordan and flew from Amman, Jordan to Ramallah, a 20 minute helicopter flight away.

The obvious agenda was to discuss a response to Israel’s plans to annex part of the West Bank.

Egypt brainstormed - first with Amman and then with Ramallah, on how to activate international influence against Israel if they pursue annexation.

The Arab world is deeply concerned about Israel’s annexation plans. They are planning a response.

All this Arab bluster may be a total waste of time, Israel’s plan has not yet been articulated – so far, it’s all speculation.

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Shortage of Syringes
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 20, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The race is on for a vaccine for COVID-19. Whenever that vaccine is discovered, hopefully soon, countries will need to give the vaccine to their citizens.

There are three ways to give a vaccine. Through the nose, through the mouth, or through an injection.

Odds are that an injection will be the most common method.

To give an injection, you need a syringe. The United States has already purchased 50 million syringes at a cost of $70 million. Canada and the United Kingdom have also already purchased their syringes.

Israel has not yet made plans.

That could prove to be very problematic. “The Health Ministry has been warned by private bodies that there is a need to buy syringes,” a source in the Health Ministry was quoted as saying. “Due to the global race to a vaccine, there is real doubt regarding the ability to produce and supply syringes on time if no purchase is done ahead of time.”

This is worrisome. The vaccine will come in vials. There are usually 10 to 20 doses per vial. But a vaccine is useless without a syringe.

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Iran Will Respond
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 19, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran’s character has been defined over centuries.

Iran responds to attacks, but they respond according to their own timetable.
Iran uses their “seconds” to do the actual attacks.

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius interviewed US General Kenneth McKenzie about the tensions between Iran and Israel.

Ignatius asked McKenzie if he thought Iran would respond to the recent devastating attacks that have been attributed to Israel.

McKenzie’s response was immediate and absolute. He said: "My experience with Iran tells me they will respond.”

So, what does that mean?

It means that this is the beginning of a tit for tat between Israel and Iran. It means that tensions will escalate, that targets will get bigger and bigger.

It means that the situation may get out of control.

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They Want to Impeach Rouhani
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 17, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian President Rouhani is fighting for his political life.

There is a move in Iran to impeach Rouhani. The move asserts that Rouhani failed in protecting Iran from COVID-19.

Obviously, the move comes from the right.

Rouhani has been working hard at trying to appease right-wing parliamentarians, calling for unity and brotherhood. His foreign minister, Zarif, was shouted down in parliament last week and Rouhani defended him.

Rouhani represents compromise with the West. It is Rouhani who is responsible for the nuke deal.

Internally, Iran is dealing with pulls and pushes. The right has a very strong voice in politics. The liberals are the youth of Iran.

Rouhani was open to liberal ideas, but he promised much more than what he delivered.

The move to impeach cites COVID, but in reality, the issue the right has with Rouhani is that he was too liberal - on everything.

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Fires in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 16, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Western media is finally paying attention to the explosions in Iran.

Yesterday, outlet after outlet covered mysterious fires in the Southern port city of Bushehr where seven ships were set aflame.

There were no reports of injuries. But the fires shut the port down.

Bushehr is significant for so many reasons. Those who set the fires are sending a message way beyond the ships burning in the southern port.

Bushehr is the where the Iranian navy is headquartered.

Bushehr is a location of one of the secret Iranian nuclear sites.

Whoever hit the Bushehr port was sending a strong message: Pay attention Iran, we can even hit your navy and your nuclear site. Iran, beware.

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They Unite Against the US
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 15, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Enemies of the United States are banding together.
The two biggest enemies of the US are making a pact.

Which two? Iran and China.

During an Iranian parliament session last week, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that Iran is “with confidence and conviction,” in negotiations with China over a 25-year strategic partnership that could involve about $400 billion in Chinese investment through various sectors of the Iranian economy.

The 18 page document outlining the plan was leaked. The NYT covered the leaked document. The paper reported that many of the proposals are rehashes of the old ideas that have been rejected in the past.

The exact terms of the union seem to still be in flux, but enemies of the United States are joining together on issues of economic investment - and that bond will create a blockade to protect against US economic attacks.

That’s the bottom line, and that’s what counts.

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Israel Special Force
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 14, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Israeli Air Force announced that all their special forces will now be under one command. This will be a totally new squad composed of five distinct groups working together to assist the air force.

Unit 669, one of the five groups, is an elite search and rescue team. Shaldag is the commando unit. There will be a Frontal Landing Unit whose job it is to build ad hoc landing strips behind enemy lines. There is, of course, a dedicated intelligence unit. And finally, a special forces school.

This is a sign of Israel’s future.

The combined skills and talents of some of Israel’s best youth will come together to protect and ensure Israel’s future. The commander of the air force, only identified as Colonel Ayin, said that this elite group “is standing on the shoulders of giants who did bold things.” Now, he said, it is our turn.

He is correct.

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PA & COVID-19
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian Authority has begun to take the COVID -19 issue seriously. Why? because they are getting seriously hit.

It was just a question of time. That is the way this virus progresses. We do not have numbers from the PA, but it must be very bad.

On Sunday night, in light of the recent rise in corona virus cases, the PA announced curfews and new travel restrictions.

Travel between all districts has been prohibited for the next two weeks. Nighttime curfew between 8pm and 6am has been implemented. Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem are under a four-day lockdown. All public gatherings are banned.

These restrictions will help stop the spread from place to place - but not within the districts and towns. Unfortunately, the virus will have to run its course inside these areas.

The only thing people can do in the PA, just like everywhere else world over, is keep their hands clean and away from their faces and keep safe social distance.

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Very Small Sat Images Can Be Sold
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 12, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

During the last week of June a small and not very well known office in the US federal bureaucracy changed one of their policies.

The U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office decided that they will permit smaller images of Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas to be sold.
Up until now, images could not portray something less than 2 meters or 6.5 feet.

The new regulation allows for images to be .4 meters or 19 inches.
The change went into place on June 25th.

The original regulation had been in place since 1997and is known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment.

Israel has always argued that terrorists and other enemies can use google maps to plan and improve rocket targeting. That they can use the pictures to monitor sensitive sites and plot strategies to attack military and civilian locations.

The U.S. Commercial Remote office argued that there are already foreign companies that provide the material, so it is useless for the United States to prohibit it.

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Register the Cat to Vote
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 11, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I just read an amusing AP release about voter registration in Georgia.

Someone received a voter registration form for his cat, Cody Tims. What makes this even more ludicrous is that the cat died – 12 years ago.

The Georgia Secretary of State said that the form did not come from the official office of voter registration. However, interest groups bought lists and are trying to get people out to vote.

The essential point here is that there is and there will be tremendous voter fraud in this coming election. Especially because of Covid-19 and the fact that new methods of voting will be used to try to accommodate for social distancing.

The basic rule in voting is that the first time a system is used it is fraught with problems. It’s the case no matter how many times you test and try the new system. It’s the case even when we are not faced with the challenges of a pandemic.

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Canadian PM Candidate Says Will Move Embassy to Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Erin O’Toole is a Canadian MP running for Prime Minister.
His chances are looking good.

O’Toole is a conservative and a proud supporter of Israel. And if he wins, O’Toole has promised to move the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem.

On his Facebook page O’Toole writes: "I'm a proud Conservative and firmly believe in a principled approach to foreign policy - one that builds on our values and interests as a country,"
"This approach has made me a resolute and strong friend to Israel."

Erin O’Toole was a member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration. He recalled that back then, Canada was known to be a staunch supporter of the Jewish state and "trustworthy friend" to Israel.

This is a very good sign - even if it ends up a close election and this friend of Israel loses. It means that, once again, Israel and support of Israel is an important political value in Canada.

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Real COVID Numbers
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

There has been a surge of COVID-19. The numbers are daunting. 50,000 in San Antonio in a single day.

The numbers of positives are up because the percentage of those testing is up. It does not matter how many people are testing positive – that number is not essential.

There are three important numbers:
#1: fatalities
#2: ventilated
#3: hospitalized.

And these numbers are significantly down.

They are certainly down in comparison to the numbers during March and April.
The argument that more testing creates more positives is correct.

It is also important to realize that younger people are testing because employers are requiring testing for employees. These younger people who are testing positive would never, until now, have been tested. Many are asymptomatic and would never have even known that they were carriers and positive.

However, once they do test positive, they must quarantine. And they must stay away from high risk populations.

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Israel is Heating Up
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 6, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Things are heating up in Israel on numerous fronts.

Hamas: Gazans shot three rockets into Israel yesterday. Israel shot back at Gaza, hitting Hamas sites.

Hezbollah: Israel targeted a convoy of weapons, in Syria, on its way to Hezbollah.
Corona: The virus has reached its peak and the numbers of ill and dead are receding. But frustrations are high. Group gatherings are limited. Family celebrations are severely restricted. Bars and restaurants are operating with severe limit. Neighborhoods in several cities have been sealed off. There are still no tourists permitted into Israel.

This has become Israel’s new normal.

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Explosions in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has been experiencing a series of explosions.

Over the past few weeks I have watched numerous electrical stations explode, a hospital go dark and now - a fire and explosion at Natanz, the secret Iranian nuke site just north of Teheran, Iran’s capital.

All fingers are pointing at Israel for engineering a computer hack that is causing these mishaps. It makes sense.

But recently Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that all the mysterious events in Iran are “not necessarily” the work of Israel. Iranians are also now looking at local sabotage as an option.

It may all be a smoke screen.

Israel is almost certainly responsible for the breakdown of the Iranian nuclear facility, an attack that set Iran’s nuclear program back at least a year.

Israel has said that they will never let Iran attain a nuke.

The downside of these counter attacks, assuming they were perpetrated by Israel, is that Iran will discover Israel’s secret cyber techniques.

Israel can use an attack method one time only.

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Palestinian Protests Against Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Wednesday was a “Day of Rage” in America.

In several cities across America, people came out to protest Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

All total several thousand people participated. The numbers were small.

Interestingly, the Palestinian Authority attempted to organize rallies in Ramallah and Jericho and those rallies fell flat. The PA gave people off from work and asked them to attend, but only a trickle came to the Ramallah protest while a few more were bussed to Jericho.

In the rally in Brooklyn, NY one female speaker said: “We don’t wanna go just back to our homes in Gaza and the West Bank. We want all of it...we don’t want your two states.”

Another speaker said: “we want it all.”
Another called for an “intifada”.
Of course, they also shouted the canard that “Israel kills children.”

These are powerful words. They are words that reject the idea of co-existence and reject the foundation of the peace process which has always been the “2 state solution.”

There is a movement in Congress, created by AOC, to defund all US support for Israel because of the plan and discussions about annexation.

Bernie Sanders is one of the signatures on the AOC letter.

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Jew Hatred Has No Bounds
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Jew haters will never let facts get in the way of their hatred of Jews.
The canard that Israel taught American police the choke hold that killed George Floyd is just another cruel example. Another lie.

However, and this will probably shock you, in 1983 the US Supreme Court ruled that city police may use the choke hold.

The court case began as the result of the 1976 arrest of Adolph Lyons, arrested for a broken taillight. Lyons, who did not resist arrest, was put in a choke hold. He survived the ordeal and sued the City of Los Angeles.

The case made it all the way to the US Supreme Court and the ruling came out against him by a vote of 5-4. Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice, wrote the minority opinion which identified the problem.


He wrote that "for many years, it has been the official policy of the city to permit police officers to employ chokeholds in a variety of situations where they face no threat of violence." Justice Marshall wrote that from 1975 to 1980, the Los Angeles Police Department used chokeholds 975 times. Sixteen of those incidents ended in death, and 12 of the dead were Black.”

The essential point is that Marshall was identifying the problem in 1983. He explained that choke holds were in place at least since 1970. What is critical here is that Israel had nothing to do with it. That the Supreme Court - despite Marshall’s powerful and prophetic minority opinion – still upheld police choking.

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Russia Iran & Turkey Summit on Syria
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 30, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran will join together for a video conference on Wednesday.

The topic is Syria. They are all invested in Syria. They all have troops in Syria.
They all want parts of Syria.
And they all want Bashar Assad to maintain power.

This is the second time this group of three is meeting. They met to discuss the same topic in 2018.

These leaders have important matters to discuss. They must create rules in Syria so that they do not cross paths. They need to make certain that they are not in conflict with each other on the ground and in the air.

And they will be assessing how to deal with attacks from Israel, attacks which have been coming more and more regularly in Syria. The Israeli attacks are designed to prevent Iranian troop and weapons build up.

This summit has very large implications for the region. It is very important for the stability and security of the region that Russia put the brakes on Iranian and Turkish expansion in Syria.

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Iran in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 29, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian media has reported that the head of the Iranian al Quds Force, General Esmail Qaani, has been visiting Syria.

Tasnim, an official outlet of the Iranian regime, reported that Qaani accused the United States and Israel of supporting ISIS and helping them.

He said: "Given that the existence of this group (Islamic State) is managed by the United States and the Zionist regime (Israel), we can be sure that the conspiracies of these two criminal regimes have not ended.”

What was an Iranian general doing in Syria - and why was he speaking about ISIS?
Iran is still deeply invested in Syria. Iran has advisers in Syria as well as weapons.

By speaking about ISIS and by pushing the idea of a conspiracy between the United States, Israel and ISIS, Iran - through Qaani - is trying to lump together ISIS and the US and Israel. They are trying to broaden their own ally base by creating common enemies. By so doing they are pulling at the heart strings of their supporters.

Iran is trying to re-shape the political landscape in the region.

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Israel and Arab Relations
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 25, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Yemen recently. Yemen and Israel are fast becoming good friends – but they are doing their best at keeping that friendship a secret.

Many Arab countries, Yemen among them, have been working behind closed doors with Israel. Among those countries are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Oman.

On the flip side, there are other countries in the region where their warm relations with Israel have cooled. Turkey is the best example. Then again, Turkey’s chilled relationship with Israel is parallel to their chilled relationship with the United States. So, no surprise there.

The good news is that this thawing with Yemen and the others looks like it will continue for a long time - even if Israel advances with their plans to annex part of the West Bank, especially the Jordan Valley.

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Abbas Rejects Treaties But Wants Peace
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 24, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians have officially rejected and discontinued all treaties with Israel.

The decision was made because Israel is discussing annexing parts of the West Bank – most critically the Jordan Valley. Israel has not yet done it – they are only discussing it. Maybe this is a test balloon.

In discussing the annexation issue with the Arab Parliament of the Arab League, a group that discusses issues and presents information within the Arab League, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas put forth that rejecting treaties with Israel is not a refusal of peace.

Of course - it is!

Peace is a treaty. The agreement, should it ever come to fruition, will be called a peace treaty.

One cannot even begin negotiating terms if you have decided not to talk. And that is the status today. The Palestinian Authority has nixed any and all conversation with Israel ever since the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem.

In his speech to the Arab League Abbas said that he rejects “every plan of the American and Israeli governments.”

And so I ask - with whom does he want to make peace?

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Interview w Chief Rabbi of Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 23, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

I read with great interest an interview with Iranian Chief Rabbi Yehuda Garami.

The interview was published in Al Monitor, an Arab website founded in 2012.
In his interview the rabbi gives spectacular insight into Iran and the Jewish community. Obviously, Iran’s Jews do not publicly support Israel.

The community appears to be stable in numbers and able to provide for their own needs and education.

Rabbi Garami says:
“I estimate that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 Jews in the country. Most of them live in Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan and Karmanshah, though there are other, small communities too”.

He went on to discuss the state of the community, saying, “We have total freedom of religion. All the synagogues are open, and Torah classes take place there. We have all sorts of educational institutions too, including elementary and middle schools.”

About security and safety he says:
“Unlike in Europe, for example, we do not have guards outside our synagogues and schools, and our personal safety is excellent. Of course, we sometimes encounter people who are anti-Semitic, but that happens everywhere. Most of the population respects us and lives in peace with us. What is important is that in Iran there is no such concept as organized attacks on Jews.”

Is the interview 100% accurate – probably not. But it does show an important side of Iran and Iranian Jewish life.

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US Warns Israel about China
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 22, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Just as the United States puts more and more pressure on China in a trade war, Israel and China are become closer and closer.

The Israel/China nexus worries Washington.

Israel sees their relationship with China as a great, expansive, economic opportunity. China wants to invest in Israel. The United states is not elated.

The US is warning Israel. They are saying: do not let China in.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Israel recently on a whirlwind trip. He made time for a TV interview and took the opportunity to speak bluntly. He said:

“We don’t want the Chinese Communist Party to have access to Israeli infrastructure, Israeli communication networks … This is the kind of things that endanger the Israeli people and the ability of the U.S. to cooperate with Israel.”

That was a direct threat to Israel. And it is not the first time that the United States has forced Israel to drop a big deal.

Israel has been warned.

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Iran's New Cruise Missile
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 19, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Iran announced that they have test fired a new type of Cruise Missile, a missile that is resistant to electronic hacking.

Official Iranian media covered the test and reported that the missile hit its targets in the Gulf of Oman and in the Indian Ocean at a distance of 280 kilometers (170 miles). According to the report two different types of missiles were tested.

If all this is true and Iran has a hack resistance cruise missile, they are a major step ahead of the West.

A Cruise Missile concept is a “smart bomb” with an adjustable homing device. The best defense against a Cruise is to jam the electronics or to fry the electronics.

It is easier to fry than to jam. Jamming requires the defense system to first find the transmission frequency. Frying destroys all electronics in the area that is targeted.

I am doubtful. I think this report is more intimidation than fact. It is highly doubtful that Iran has developed such highly advanced and protective technology.

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Annexation
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 18, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

According to press reports Jordanian Prime Minister Ayman Safadi embarked on an emergency helicopter flight to Ramallah to speak with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The obvious topic under discussion was Israel’s plan to annex the West Bank.
It is not known exactly what the conclusions of their conversation were. But this much we know: King Abdullah of Jordan has said that annexation could mean the end of the Jordanian peace treaty with Israel.

That might be an exaggeration. But there is no doubt that there will be a cooling off of relations between Jordan and Israel if annexation takes place.
Other countries have articulated a similar theme.

What is clear is that the Israeli cabinet is set to debate the issue on July 1.

US elections will be held in November. Despite President’s Trump’s support for annexation, it could be a small, albeit critical, issue that might sway voters away from the incumbent. So the United States is asking Netanyahu to slow down annexation plans and wait until after November.

And that’s probably what will happen.

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Twitter Should Ban the Ayatollah
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 17, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Twitter has a policy about abuse and language. The policy states that Twitter is not a place to articulate “violence against a group of people” or for “glorifying violent acts”.

The policy also states that “There is no place on Twitter for terrorist organizations... and individuals who affiliate with and promote their illicit activities.” One may not be “providing or distributing services (e.g., financial, media/propaganda) to further a terrorist organization’s... stated goals.”

That is their policy, at least on paper. In actuality – I’m not so sure.

Iran’s Grand Ayatollah and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been violating this policy since he began tweeting in 2011. In just the last few days this is what he has written about Israel.

“We will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime.”

“Iran realized Palestinian fighters’ only problem was lack of access to weapons.”
“The West Bank must be armed, just as Gaza.”
“The only remedy until the removal of the Zionist regime is firm, armed resistance.”

And, Israel “will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.”

The Grand Ayatollah needs to be censured by Twitter and removed.

If this is their policy, it should be applied. To everyone. All the time.

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Iran is Close to A Bomb
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 16, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel’s new Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, received a briefing on Iranian nuclear development.

According to sources that were published in the Hebrew press the report was ominous.

Israel’s defense intelligence predicts that Iran will have all the components necessary for a sophisticated nuke within the next six months. And then they will be on their way to assembling a bomb. Those same officials suggest that it will take them less than two years.

The job of the Defense Minister is to protect Israel and to advise the Prime Minister on these issues. Gantz was the IDF Chief of Staff. He knows there are risks and threats. But timetables are often simply guesses.

Israel cannot afford to wait and see if the predictions they were given are correct.
They need to stop Iran.

Israel has options – but their bottom line is that Iran cannot get an operational nuke.

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Billionaire Expelled from Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 15, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

In Israel even billionaires must quarantine. If not, even they will be caught and immediately deported

That is what happened to Brandon Korff, the thirty-something billionaire son of Shari Redstone, grandson of Sumner Redstone of CBSVIACOM fame.

Brandon was allowed into Israel on an appeal. No non-Israelis are permitted entry and everyone – and that means everyone, must isolate for 14 days.

Brandon’s appeal asked for an exception to visit his younger brother who is a lone soldier in the IDF. He was granted the waiver and arrived on Friday. Almost immediately after arrival, went to visit his girlfriend. Her name is Yael Shelbia
Cohen, a 19 year old Israeli actress/model who is also serving in the IDF.
Brandon was told to pack his belongings and leave Israel post haste.

This is a terrible public relations nightmare for the Redstone family and for his father, Rabbi Ira Korff, a very prestigious rabbi and Hassidic leader.

The Redstones like to fly under the radar. This “fashla” or snafu, projected them into the limelight. The optics were not good.

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Arab Diplomat's OPED in Hebrew Paper
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 14, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

It was a unique moment in Israeli journalism.

The front page of the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot had an opinion piece, in Hebrew, written by Yousef al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States. The oped column was about Israel’s decision to annex the West Bank.

It seems that Israeli American billionaire Haim Saban, inventor of Transformers, advised the UAE ambassador and even brought in his own media advisor.
Al Otaiba wrote that annexation would put in question the long strides that have been made between Gulf states and Israel.

As part of his conclusion the ambassador wrote: “Direct links. Expanded markets. Growing acceptance. That is what normal could be… Normal is not annexation.”

The UAE ambassador to the United States took his message directly to the Israeli reader.

Israelis are very excited about growing regional acceptance and expanding markets, so writing in Yediot in Hebrew, was an extremely wise political move. It demonstrated recognition of Israel and respect for Israeli readers.

In his own way, via this oped, Saban and his advisers may have achieved more than any political party or politician in bringing their opinion to the attention of the Israeli public.

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Syrian Baby Comes to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 12, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

A ten-day old Syrian baby was brought to Israel for emergency heart surgery.

Yes, a Syrian child brought to Israel for medical help.

The Syrian family is now living in Cyrpus as refugees.

Medical teams in Cyprus, after consultation with medical center professionals at Sheba Medical Center Tel Hashomer, decided that the only way to save the child was to bring him to Israel for emergency surgery.

The Israeli ambassador to Cyprus cleared a quick path to get the child onto a special medical evac plane and to the hospital – a patient in need of care.

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Guess Who's Flying To Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 11, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Since the beginning of COVID-19 Israel has shut down its air space and airport to almost every airline.

Only Israelis are permitted entry into Israel. And after arrival, every Israeli must
quarantine for 14 days. For months, no foreigners have been permitted entry into Israel.

From the start of Coronavirus, only two airlines continued to fly to Israel on a daily basis. They are United Airlines, flying from Newark, New Jersey and Ethiopian Air flying from Addas Adaba.

More airlines, carrying Israeli passengers only, have just begun running flights to Israel.

United from Newark is easy to understand - but Ethiopian Air?
Ethiopia is the centerpiece of Israeli business in Africa. From Ethiopian an Israeli CEO can hop anywhere else in Africa.

Equally important, but not well touted, is that the Mossad is extremely active in Africa and Ethiopia is their point of entry. Now it all makes sense.

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PA Rejects 2nd Plane of UAE AID
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 10, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

For the second time in two weeks the United Arab Emirates has sent a direct flight to Israel.

Ethiad Air sent a plane carrying 14 tons of medical supplies intended to help the Palestinian Authority fight Coronavirus.

But once again, the PA refused to accept the aid from the flight.

No one can say where the first set of medical materials went. The PA went as far as to say that they have no idea about the second flight.

The reason the PA rejected the aid is because the UAE flight flew into Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. Both flights were official Ethiad Air flights, but rather than carrying passengers, these flights carried cargo.

The PA cannot admit that the UAE is flying into Israel and that is de facto recognition of the Jewish State.

Both planes were unmarked so as not to raise suspicion.

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Saudi to Halt Haj
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia has been hit hard by COVID-19. Over 100,000 sick Saudis are infected.

The Saudis are considering seriously limiting the numbers of people allowed to come on this year’s Haj - the once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

One of the pillars of Islam is participation in the Haj. And each year 2.5 million Muslims visit Saudi Arabia for the Haj. Those Muslim visitors on their pilgrimage yield $12 billion of yearly revenue for Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis have already halted the number of people participating in the Umrah, the pilgrimage to Mecca. All because of Covie-19.

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Iran is a Split Nation
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is a split nation.

We cannot know what the true percentages are, but we know that there are two different and dramatically divergent groups in Iran.

One is traditional. This group embraces Iranian leadership and their conservative views. For the most part, they are an older group.

The other group wants modernization and openness. More than anything, this group wants cultural openness. They come out to protest almost every day, asking for more freedoms. They are young men and women. They are optimistic and they dream of a great future. They use computer software to end around the oppressive restrictions of their conservative leadership. They are hopeful. And they are pro-West.

They are at war with each other. At stake is the their hope for the future of Iran.

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Israel Air Strikes
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

AFP (Agence France Presse) reported that airstrikes killed twelve Iraqi and Afghani soldiers. The strike took place in the rural area of Deir Ezzor in eastern Iraq, close to the border with Syria.

Conventional wisdom says that Israel was behind the strikes, there were eight of them, that took place just before midnight.

According to the sources quoted by AFP new reinforcements had arrived in the area. That’s obvious from the presence of Afghani soldiers so far from home. They were there moving materials to the large Iranian Syrian bases just over the border. Equally obvious is that the Iraqis that were involved are Shiite allies of Iran and Syria.

In addition to the deaths, the strikes destroyed equipment and ammunition.

The build up of weapons, advisers and soldiers is worrisome. Israel needs to push them back and prevent a critical mass of equipment and professional soldiers from entering the area. Their presence tips the scale.

If the critical mass builds up, Israel can expect Iranian strikes from Lebanon and from Syria. They will use local and imported soldiers to do their bidding.

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Support Diaspora
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

“We have not done enough for the Jewish communities outside of Israel.”

This is the most important quote to come from an interview Benny Ganz gave to the Israeli daily newspaper Makor Rishon.

Ganz is Israel’s new Defense Minister and alternate Prime Minister. He is scheduled to assume the prime ministry in 18 months.

He is correct.

The relationship between Israel and the Diaspora is worse today than it has ever been.

Jews around the world should be connected to Israel The real challenge is in determining how Israel can present itself in a more approachable manner to those Jews, enticing them to connect to the Jewish State.

If Ganz can do more than simply speak about the disconnect and actually conceptualize, implement and fund realistic ways to connect the communities, he will be on the way to building a significant bridge for Jewish communities outside of Israel.

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PA Again is Wrong
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 4, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians have announced that they will not accept the tax money that was collected for them by Israel.

The Oslo Accords, signed in Washington DC in 1993 and then in Taba in 1995, outlined that Israel will collect all taxes on all imports to the Palestinians transported through Israeli ports and then transfer the taxes to the Palestinians monthly.

The taxes amount to 50% of the Palestinian budget.

Palestinian logic for rejecting their own money is that Israel is planning on annexing parts of the West Bank.

This is just another example of poor decision making and poor leadership on the part of the Palestinians.

Rejecting the money does not hurt Israel. Actually, not taking the tax money is helpful. Israel will earn interest on the Palestinian tax money.

Hoisted on their own petard, Palestinian style.

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PA Say Will Talk w Israel thru Russia
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 3, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians have sent a message that they are willing to resume talks with Israel.

The catch is that they want Russia to moderate – not the United States.

This is a major step forward on the part of the Palestinians. It is also a very sly diplomatic move.

This catapults Russia into a central role in the Middle East.

The Palestinians know full well that Israel has never agreed to talks run by Russia instead of the United States. Hopefully, they will not agree this time either.

Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said on Tuesday. “We trust President Vladimir Putin and are sure that such a meeting would bear fruit, and succeed in getting us back to the talks, as well as stopping the Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.”

Israel has a desperate need to find world approbation. That might just persuade them to take the bait and engage in a very destructive arrangement.

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How Iran Hacked Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


How was Iran able to hack into Israel’s water pumping computers?

How was it possible that Iranian hackers were able to get so deep into a secure Israeli system?

The answer is twofold.

First, Israel’s water system was compromised.

Second, Iran worked hard to find the water system’s weakness.

Iran is getting better and better at hacking. They are spending more time searching and finding weaknesses within systems. And they are sharing information with other hackers, especially with anarchist hackers.

All this can and should be expected.

What is surprising is that Israel did not immediately repel their Iranian hackers. And that’s why Iran was able to get in as far as they did, before being expelled.

This cannot happen again. Israel needs to do better. Israel needs to be better.

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How to Stop COVID
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Israel’s expert on the spread of COVID, Dr. Eli Waxman, has clearly explained how to stop a rise in cases now that the country has opened.

Obviously, when Israel - or for that matter any society, opens after having been shut down for a pandemic, there will be some reinfections. If the reinfections get out of hand, the country will need to shut down again.

To stop Covid-19 from spreading and resulting in a second shut down, Dr. Waxman says that there are three essentials and time is of the essence.

They are: Test - Trace – Isolate.

And, Waxman says, you only have 48 hours to accomplish it all.

Test – immediately, as soon as there are symptoms.
Trace – everyone the patient contacted and test them.
Isolate – immediately.

If it takes 5 days, the country will inevitably go back into lockdown. After 5 days the first patient will have infected the maximum number of people they will infect and all the other patients will follow this pattern quickly.

By day six, thousands of people would have been infected.

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Russia Expands in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 31, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed his defense minister to get approval from Syria for Russia to expand their military foundations there. Truth is, it’s really, simply, a pro forma request.

Russia already has two very large permanent positions in Syria. In Latakia they have an airbase and in Tartus they have a naval base. Putin wants to expand these facilities and probably wants to build new ones.

Russia has been in Syria supporting Assad since 2015. The Russians are committed to stability in Syria and they are securing President Bashar Assad’s position.

Without Russia, Assad would have fallen.

For this reason alone, Russia will get permission to build and expand within Syria.

The rest of us must carefully watch the interplay between Russia and Syria+.
Syria is the best place for Russia to be if they want to monitor the goings-on in the Middle East and to play a pivotal role in the Middle East. It is a perfect place for them to monitor everything that transpires in the region.

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Iran Bill- No Zionist Tech
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 28, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Iran passed a law making it illegal for anyone in Iran to use any Israeli technology.
That includes software and technology.

The law reads “confronting the hostile acts of the Zionist regime against peace and security.”

Fars, an official Iranian media outlet, quoted the bill: “Any cooperation or spying for the Zionist is equal to enmity towards Allah and corruption on earth.”

The Iranian bill spoke of Israel’s actions as “warmongering and terrorist moves, siege of Gaza and settlement construction, displacing the Palestinian people, occupation of other countries’ lands including the Golan.”

Interestingly, when the Grand Ayatollah Shirazi was asked recently if it was permissible to use a vaccine against COVID-19 if it was developed in Israel, he answered that “yes” it was permissible if there was no alternative medicine. But he also said that “it is not permissible to buy and sell anything from the Zionists.”

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Mossad Got Millions of Covid Masks
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 27, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel’s clandestine Mossad – translated as “the agency” - secured miraculous amounts of supplies to fight Coronavirus.

80 million masks, 30 tons of disinfectant, 10,000 respirators, 8 million goggles were procured. 142 million more masks are scheduled to arrive over the next few months.

Many of the supplies were made in China. Some were both made in and came from China.

But most of the supplies were procured from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. How could this happen? It happened because the Mossad, unlike the foreign ministry, has deep relations and interaction with people in many different positions in these countries.

These contacts were developed in order to unite against Iran. And because of those relationships the Mossad was able to secure all that protective gear for Israel.

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Iran Invested $30 B in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 26, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has been supporting Bashar Assad in Syria from the very start of the Syrian civil war over a decade ago.

Iranian costs for their involvement in Syria comes to $30 billion. That number comes from Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, an outgoing member of the Iranian Parliament's Security and Foreign Policy Committee. He is quoted in Etemad newspaper an official government media outlet.

That number is twice as large as Iran’s annual defense budget and 6.5% of the GDP.

In addition to supporting Assad with military assistance, Iran also helped by providing oil and cash. They also lent advisers and consultants. In exchange for their help in Syria, Iran has built a port in Syria and received a major stake in the Syrian telecom monopoly.

Helping and defending Syria was an investment for Iran. Their biggest return is a land bridge connecting Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. And that’s worth every cent of the ten years and the $30 billion.

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Butterflies Land in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 25, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Butterflies, millions of butterflies, have descended into the butterfly garden in Eilat.
The butterfly garden was created in 2018. It sits in the bird reserve just outside of Israel’s southern most city in the Red Sea.

People come from all over the world to see the stunning colors and the fluttering of butterfly wings.

Every year, butterflies use the garden as a place to rest, just like their bird partners, as they migrate from Africa to Europe.

The butterflies migrate 9000 miles. No single butterfly makes the entire trip. A migration can take six generations of butterflies to complete.

This is another example of how Israel has become a world capital and magnet - not just for technology but also for those interested in studying, watching or admiring the butterfly.

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Argentina Let Rabbis In
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 24, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Coronavirus touches all corners of the world. We tend to focus on where we and our loved ones are located – but there is a whole big world out there and whether we pay attention or not, very often, what happens in other parts of the world has an impact on our lives.

Argentina has closed themselves off from the world. No commercial flights in or out. This has had a huge impact on business.

Argentina is the 5th largest exporter of meat in the world. Israel is their 3rd largest client, buying over $100 million in kosher meat from Argentina per year.

Before Corona, in order to certify that meat as kosher, teams of Israeli rabbis, ritual slaughterers, would travel to Argentina to properly kill the animals according to Jewish law, thereby making them kosher. The rabbis would remain in Argentina for three months to slaughter the cattle and then return home.

Since COVID the rabbis had not been permitted into Argentina.

Until now. This week the government of Argentina said that they will co-sponsor a private jet to bring in the rabbis. They will permit them to prepare the meat for kosher certification.

This will help keep the supply of kosher meat at full capacity – which is good news for Israel. It also means that Argentina will maintain its position in the top 5 of world meat exporters – which is good news for Argentina.

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Palestinians Reject Arab Aid
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians have refused Coronavirus aid. The aid they have rejected is from the United Arab Emirates.

So why refuse the aid? Why refuse 16 tons of aid that includes 10 ventilators?
It’s simple – if you’re a Palestinian.

The aid was flown from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv on Etihad Air on the first ever commercial flight from UAE to Israel.

The Palestinians rejected the aid saying: “We refused the aid from the UAE because it wasn’t coordinated through us or any of our systems”.

At a press briefing in Bethlehem on Thursday, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila put it this way: “We are an authority and have our sovereignty and we can’t accept such aid without coordinating with us.”

Palestinians keep making mistake after mistake.

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Iran's Final Solution
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 21, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Iran’s Al Quds Day, which is really a “week of destroying Israel” has taken a new turn. An extreme turn, even for Iran.

The Grand Ayatollah has sent out a poster. The poster is both on-line and plastered all over Iran.

The poster reads: “Palestine will be free. The final solution. Resistance is referendum.”

Final solution is a very clear reference to Hitler and the Holocaust. The Grand Ayatollah clarified the poster’s message saying that he did not mean killing all Jews – just Israeli Jews.

Obviously, Jewish leaders took exception to the use of the term final solution. Remember, Iran regularly promises to destroy Israel and the Jews.

The poster was on the front screen of the Ayatollah’s website. The message was written in Farsi, in Arabic and of course, in English.

There was no misunderstanding. The message is perfectly clear.

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NYers Burying in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 19, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

It costs $200,000 to rent a private plane and fly to Israel.

During Coronavirus extremely wealthy American Jews have been renting planes and bringing loved ones to Israel – for burial.

In some instances, families have shared planes and brought several bodies at one time.

They enter, bury and leave, all under the radar.

And they are all in violation of Israeli law which requires Americans to quarantine for 14 days after arrival in Israel

On Monday a family of seven brought their mother to Israel. They are major philanthropists. The group went from the airport to a synagogue in Holon and met with people. From there they went to a cemetery in Jerusalem where over 100 people were gathered. That, too, is against the law.

After the funeral the family went back to the airport and returned to NYC.

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A/S is on the Rise
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 18, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

There has been a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism in the United States.

In the state of New Jersey, the rise is even higher.

Jewish leaders are now afraid that Jews will be blamed for the spread of COVID-19 and that will spark even more anti-Semitism.

The logic is sound.

The media has been covering numerous violations of social distancing in Hareidi Jewish cities, towns and communities. Almost everyone has seen large scale Jewish celebrations and funerals taking place despite Coronavirus.

Incidents of anti-Semitism in the US increased 12 percent.

Incidents of anti-Semitism in New Jersey jumped 73 percent.

These are numbers from the end of 2019 – they do not even reflect post Coronavirus attacks in 2020.

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Bad Season in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 17, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I’ve Been Thinking:

Every year, during this season, Iranians dedicate a special day to Israel. The day is called Al Quds Day. It’s other name is Destroy Israel Day.

Iranian Al Quds Day 2020 is scheduled for next week - right in the middle of
Coronavirus restrictions and social distancing. That shows you how badly official Iran hates Israel.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is organizing rallies in hundreds of cities and towns throughout Iran. Rally participants will be in cars - no marches and no one outside of cars. There will be virtual rallies in each town and city.

Iranians showed their hatred of Israel in another way this weekend.

The Tomb of Esther and Mordecai in the city of Hamedan was torched over the weekend. The tomb is a national heritage site in Iran. Fortunately, according to reports, the fire did not destroy the tomb. We hope those reports are correct.

Jewish leadership is calling for authorities in Iran to find and punish the arsonists.

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Iran Sending Oil to Venezuela
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 15, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has sent five oil tankers filled with unrefined oil to Venezuela. The first tanker left Iran in March and made its way through the Suez Canal and into the Atlantic Ocean. Four more have departed and are on their way.

All five tankers are being tracked via GPS and satellite. They are being tracked by oil tracking companies.

The tankers are obviously violating the sanctions imposed upon Iran. And they do not care.

The question begs asking: Why is Iran sending oil to Venezuela, one of the largest producers of oil in the world?

The easy answer is: Sanctions.

There are only a limited few countries that Iran or Venezuela can import from and export to. They are North Korean, Syria and Cuba.

Iran does very little refining of oil. Venezuelan refineries have been slowed down and even shut down because of the sanctions. These shipments will allow Venezuela to start refining again.

The West, especially the United States, is going to increase pressure and call Iran and Venezuela out on this violation.

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Who's Most Evil
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 14, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Which is the most evil country in the world today?

Several nations vie for that distinction. Iran, Russia and China top the list.

Then again, it’s all about perspective.

The Supreme Leader of Iran The Grand Ayatollah Khamenei announced that the most evil country in the world is the United States. His exact words were: “The worst and most evil government.”

The Grand Ayatollah proved his point by saying: “What government do you know which assassinates our military commander during an operation.”

The Supreme Leader was referring to the US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Suleimani on January 3, 2020 just as he was leaving the airport in Baghdad, Iraq.

For Iran, Suleimani was a national hero.

For the United States and the West, he was an evil terrorist.

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Jerry Stiller Dies- The Mighty Have Fallen
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Jerry Stiller died in his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan less than one month shy of his 93rd birthday.

Stiller was a legend. A true comedic actor and personality.

And yet, he is best known for being a father. Ben Stiller’s father, who announced his death. And George Costanza’s father, his TV son on the hit show Seinfeld where he was part of the ensemble from 1993-1998.

Jerry Stiller, together with his wife Anne Meara who died in 2015 and with whom he regularly performed, had an enormously successful career. The endearing and very funny couple joked that they would end their act before it ended their marriage.

Stiller was a comedian’s comic.

And because Seinfeld is still running in re-runs and on demand, Jerry Stiller is known to younger viewers as the ultimate Jewish father of a neurotic Jewish son.

I will miss seeing this small man with a big personality saunter through our Manhattan neighborhood.

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Yes Christians Want to Convert Jews
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 12, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

GodTV and the Hebrew Christian Channel has been in the news of late. They are clearly looking to attract converts from Israel.

Israelis are livid about the station’s content and their intent to convert Israelis to charismatic Christianity.

But can you really blame them? The station never hid their intentions.

Jews in general and Israeli leadership, in particular, misread their intent. They simply thought that they would be content with the support of Christian Zionists and table their ultimate goal of converting Jews.

They were simply naïve.

Israel should have stipulated that when the Christian media was sanctioned and allowed to broadcast conversion and issues related to conversion not be broadcast.

But Israel didn’t do that.

From the point of view of Christian TV, it’s quite simple. Christians support Israel because they want Jews to convert and because they firmly understand that supporting Israel is doing God’s will.

Christians who support Israel have an agenda that they do not hide. Israelis who nurture Christian support know well what the Christians want.
It is Israeli leadership that didn’t understand.

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Learn From Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 11, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Three Arab Gulf states have asked Israel’s Sheba Hospital for help in treating COVID-19.

Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and (probably) Kuwait have reached out to the Israeli hospital in Ramat Gan.

It is important to understand that the contact was made directly to the hospital - not through political agents.

It seems that members of the royal families and their emissaries travelled to Israel to visit the hospital in March. Apparently, they liked what they saw.

There is no doubt that other hospitals around the world have been approached by countries in need of assistance. Over time information about all of these contacts will come to light.

The world is watching Israel. Even traditional enemies of Israel are watching.

They are asking for help and learning from Israel. Finally, a positive comes out of Covid-19.

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Bibi Tells World Leaders About COVID
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 10, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

On Friday, via a conference call, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had a conversation with seven other world leaders about COVID-19.

Netanyahu explained how Israel has, thus far, been successful in attacking Coronavirus.

What is not clear is what will happen as Israel partially re-opens and returns to normal. Especially with the re-opening of schools and kindergartens.
Netanyahu spoke to his colleagues about “returning to a safe routine in the shadow of virus” and readying for a potential second outbreak.

In a statement from the Prime Minister’s office describing the call Netanyahu is quoted saying: “In fact, no one knows what will happen we open our economies and schools. We must be ready and prepared for an accordion effect and the possibility we’ll need to close again”.

The world is watching Israel very closely.

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Why Jordan Has No COVID
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Middle East has been devasted by COVID-19.

Except for Jordan.

Jordan, a country of 10 million people, has had less than 500 people testing positive for COVID-19 and has now lifted all restrictions from coronavirus.

Israel, which has a population of 9.5 million, has had 230 deaths and 15,000 cases of people infected by COVID-19.

Yes, Jordan closed itself to high risk countries like China.

Yes, Jordan shut down all travel. In fact, travel with vehicles was completely banned. 1,000 cars were impounded for travelling and 2,000 people arrested for driving.

Yes, 5,800 people who arrived by air were quarantined in hotels at the Dead Sea.
People were permitted to walk and buy food and necessities - but only on foot.

The shutdown in Jordan started on March 18th.

Whatever they did, until now, Jordanians have been successful in stopping Coronavirus.

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Syria in Crisis
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Behind the scenes things are worse than one thinks in Syria.

Rami Maklouf is Syria’s richest man and a cousin of President Bashar Assad. But over the past week Maklouf has taped and posted 2 scathing attacks against his cousin on Facebook.

Maklouf is claiming that the Syrian regime is arresting his employees and stifling his business. He asserts that Assad wants to nationalize his businesses.

That would be a rather hefty move for Assad and Syria. Maklouf owns 60% of all of Syria’s production and business. He has amassed a $10 billion net worth.

Maklouf and Assad are more than cousins. They are friends. Maklouf has backed and bankrolled Bashar Assad since his first day in office. He has contributed billions of dollars to support Assad and to fight the rebels trying to oust him.

So why the split? Why the dramatic change?

It all goes back to Russia.

Russia suggested that Assad tax his cousin. Maklouf responded that it was excessive and rejected the tax assessment. So Assad marched in and started arresting his cousin’s employees.

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Facebook Closes Iran Fake Sites
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 6, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Facebook has just shut down 500 accounts.

They are all fake accounts and they are all connected to Iran.

Every month Facebook issues a report about the accounts they have closed due to violations of terms.

In this case the 500 are all Iranian news sites - Iranian fake news sites.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. Two years ago, Reuters uncovered 70 sites created by Iran to spread fake news – total lies about what was happening in Iran.

This time Facebook investigated and easily discovered that these sites were produced by official Iranian government resources - disguised as Western news outlets.

These sites were spreading falsehoods building Iran up and showing the best side of Iran. The sites were all set up for Westerners to read and to learn about Iranian news.

But the news was totally fabricated.

This is just a beginning.

At first glance these sites resemble the Russian sites which Facebook has shut down. They are all similar in structure and style. They are all propaganda sites.

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Iran Changes Currency
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Iran has changed its currency from the rial to the toman.

Effectively, it means that four zeroes have been lopped off the existing currency.
1 toman is worth 10,000 rials.

The change of a currency happens when a simple re-valuation is not enough.

In this case US and UN sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy. Add to that coronavirus and the impact it has had on both the country and the economy of Iran and one can understand why Iran acted so drastically.

The toman was the official Iranian currency in the1890’s.

Over the years after the rial became the currency, the toman remained a denomination within the rial currency. It was a denomination one level higher than a rial.

Consider this another indication of Iran collapsing under pressure.

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ISIS is Alive
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 4, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS is back and getting stronger and stronger in Iraq.

In one of their attacks in Iraq, ISIS attacked an Iraqi Shiite force called Hashad al Shaabi and killed ten members of the group.

Hashad al Shaabi is also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

ISIS aka ISIL aka Daesh is growing throughout Iraq - especially in Anbar, Kirkuk and Mosul.

Hashad al Shaabi published this assessment of the attacks: “The Popular mobilisation forces and security forces have killed and wounded a number of ISIL [Daesh] fighters after being exposed to significant attacks on Balad and Mekeeshfah south of Tikrit … The Hashad also lost 10 members, while several others were wounded in clashes between the two sides.”

Egypt has announced that their forces, too, are in conflict with ISIS.
Fifty ISIS members were killed by Egyptian forces, many more were arrested.

This must be a wake up call to us all.

ISIS is back and ISIS is striking at their targets across the Middle East.

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Schools Open in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 3, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Schools began in Israel today. Not all schools - but about 1 million students went back to their classrooms.

First through third graders and eleventh and twelfth graders were the students chosen to return to traditional classes. Their classrooms were limited to 17 students each day, with students attending school on alternating days.

The cities of Tel Aviv and Beersheba decided not to follow the national decision. Their decision went back and forth – deciding to open and then not to open.

80,000 special needs students went back to school today, joining the 60,000 who returned to class last week.

127,000 hareidi students, in grades seven through twelve, went back to regular learning today, as well.

The choice of returning grades was not an arbitrary decision.

11th and 12th grade students will start preparing for their very important matriculation exams known as the Bagrut. These tests determine whether they qualify to attend university. In certain course and disciplines the entire year is solely dedicated to preparing for these matriculation exams.

Excluding Pesach, 5 weeks of traditional, classroom instruction have been lost.

Now the big test facing Israel’s Ministry or Education and Ministry of Health is determining how many teachers and school workers test positive for Covid-19 because they have returned to their classrooms.

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Iran Teams w Venezuela
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

In a press conference at the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo implored countries to prevent Iran from flying over their air space.

More specifically, the United States secretary of state was referring to the way Iran’s Mahan Air has been flying over and delivering support to Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela.

Reports say that Venezuela has paid Iran 6 tons of gold.

Pompeo said: "Over the last few days, multiple aircraft belonging to Mahan Air have transferred unknown support to the Maduro regime …This is the same terrorist airline that Iran used to move weapons and fighters around the Middle East."

Pompeo continued saying that the flights "must stop". He said that countries should prevent Mahan Air overflight rights "just as many have already denied landing rights to this sanctioned airline."

Iran and Venezuela are uniting to help one another. They are both also strongly committed to hurting the United States and her Western allies.

This is just the beginning.

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Israel to have Drive-in Concerts
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 30, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


The entertainment industry has a taken a huge hit from Coronavirus. From Broadway to Fenway they are feeling the pinch.

Two Israeli live concert producers have come up with almost the same solution for producing live concerts while adhering to social distancing.

The solution is a variation on the theme of a “drive-in movie.”

They are proposing using outdoor space large enough to accommodate 1,000 cars, stages, speakers, performers and screens. They would restrict patrons to two people per car.

Food would be available, probably through delivery to the cars.

The organizers have scouted spots in suburban Tel Aviv and in the South of Israel near Beer Sheva. They are investigating sites in the Haifa area, too.

This flashback to the era of the drive-in is a very good idea.

Live performances with the windows down augmented by individual car speakers or phones with apps could provide for the perfect concert during the era of COVID-19. The stage can be used to screen movies when not being used for a concert.

The more things change, as the saying goes, the more they stay the same.

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Happy Birthday Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 29, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Today is Israel’s 72nd birthday.

It behooves us to take a moment and consider just how miraculous it is that Israel exists today.

72 years ago, when Israel was declared, it was doubtful that the Jewish State would last even a week. With the announcement came a war by the Arab states surrounding Israel to annihilate the newly announced Jewish State.

We all know the result of that war. And 72 years later, remarkably, Israel continues to grow and help and influence not just Jews around the world, but the entire world.

Traditionally, on Independence Day, air-force jets fly over the center of the country including bases that are open to the public. Not today.

Today, because of Coronavirus, those jets flew over every hospital throughout the country. A schedule was published. Those patients who could leave their beds went outside to wave.

It is inspiring to watch the videos.

The 72nd birthday of Israel is inspiring. Yom Huledet Sameach. Happy Birthday Israel. May it be a year of health.

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Bombings in Damascus
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 28, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Several Damascus suburbs were bombed this week.

They were more than suburbs, they were the military bases of Iran, Hezbollah and other Iranian backed Syrian militias.

Israel was, most probably, responsible for the attack.

Here’s why:

These sites were hotspots. They were locations from which attacks against Israel were organized and staged.

Iran and Hezbollah, as well as the Syrian militias, are fighting on several fronts.
Their priority is defending Syrian President Bashar Assad. Their goal is attacking Israel.

They move weapons into Hezbollah storage depots in Lebanon. Israel needs to stop the advance of these weapons.

Iran often trains Hezbollah in advanced military strategies against Israel. Israel needs to interrupt this procedure.

The evidence isn’t is, but it is not unreasonable to think that Israel was responsible for the bombing of these suburbs.

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Boys Make Masks From Kippot for Homeless
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 27, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Two brothers from Houston, Matthew and Jeremy Jason, collected kippot and then together with the rest of their family they added elastic loops and created face masks. Masks for COVID-19 social distancing.

The masks were then given to the homeless of Houston.

They called the campaign “Kippahs to the Rescue.”

The boys transformed 160 kippot that they had lying around the house. They were kippot from bar mitzvahs and weddings.

These kippot are all double lined. The double lining makes them perfect for filter masks. The elastics attached on the sides go around the ears.

Matthew, one of the brothers, said: “In less than a week we were able to collect enough of them to make 160 face masks … My parents, brothers and I worked very hard to sew elastic bands on them, and they were ready to be delivered by Friday.”

Good for them!

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Cyber Attack hits Irael's Water
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 26, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Sometime between Friday night and Saturday night terrorists attacked Israel’s water system.

The attack came in the form of a cyberattack and it focused on chlorine and pumping departments.

According to an internal memo between the head of Israel’s water department and the head of Israel’s cyber security, the attack was repelled and Israel successfully defended itself. No damage was done. The memo ordered everyone to change their passwords - especially those in the chlorine control department.

If that was not possible, they were instructed to remove themselves and to take their system offline immediately.

This attack was sophisticated. It penetrated deep into the system. It leads me to infer that the attack came from one of three sources: either Iran, Russia or China.
Iran, Russia and China are the three biggest hacking governments in the world.

Penetrating Israel’s security requires a great deal of computer and hacking power.

This was not a high schooler having a good time or winning a bet.

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Israel Lifts Restrictions
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 24, 20Friday April 24, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Israel has decided to permit the re-opening of certain stores and services.

Stores situated on streets (but not in malls) may open. Barber shops and hair salons may also open.

Gyms, restaurants and cafes may not open yet. Delivery from those establishments will continue.

Each store must position an employee with a digital no-touch thermometer outside the door and everyone who enters must have their temperature taken. That includes employees.

Violating distancing laws could lead to half a year in prison and/or hefty fines.

Social distancing must take place within the stores and barriers must be placed between customers and employees. In barber shops gloves must be replaced after each client.

A store that is 250 sq ft large may only have 6 customers at a time while a store with 325 sq ft may have 8.

The government will discuss opening other business next week.

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Iran Responds to Trump
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

There is more happening in the spat between Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the United States taking place in the Persian Gulf.

Head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hussein Salami, has responded to US President Trump’s tweet threating Iran by telling the US Naval fleet that next time the Iranians threaten them, shoot them down.

The Revolutionary Guards head responded on National Iranian television and said: "I have ordered our naval forces to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens the security of Iran's military or non-military ships. Security of the Persian Gulf is part of Iran's strategic priorities."

General Salami was indignant. He said that whatever happens in the Persian Gulf is under their purview and control of the Gulf is Iran’s strategic goal and interest.

Speaking on National TV is significant. It demonstrates to the people of Iran that Iran is standing up to the United States.

What wasn’t covered in the Iranian press was another message from President Trump, tweeted later in the day on Wednesday. This tweet clarified the earlier aggressive Trump announcement about the US Navy protecting itself. Trump’s message was: “I have not changed the rules of engagement.”

Context and clarity count.

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Trump Says Shoot Down Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Following up on yesterday’s entry about Iran toying with US Naval forces in the Persian Gulf when 11 Iranian naval boats toyed with the US Navy’s 5th Fleet …

In a tweet, President Trump explained that he gave a direct order to the US Navy to shoot at the Iranians if this were ever to happen again.

The president’s exact tweet was: "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea."

At the same time, Iranian media announced that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards successfully launched a satellite into orbit.

It’s all happening as Iran confronts the devastating effects of Coronavirus.

Trump is pushing back by ordering not just warning shots but orders “to shoot down and destroy any and all.”

This is not an ambiguous command. It is very clear. Now let’s see if Iran does it again.

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Iran Toys w US
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 21, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The US 5th Fleet protects the Persian Gulf.

For sixty minutes yesterday, that’s one full hour, 11 Iranian Navy small boats dangerously and provocatively danced around the United States fleet. Included in the US fleet are the USS Paul Hamilton, a destroyer ship and the USS Lewis B Puller, a Naval Landing Base, home to a team of Apache attack helicopters.

The US Navy used tried to contact the Iranian vessels using speakers and even loud bursts of warning sirens. Finally, the Iranian boats responded and then left.
FARS, an official Iranian media outlet, mentioned the incident but without giving details.

The US Navy issued a statement that they were in international waters. The statement read: "The dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision ... and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area."

Iran is pushing the envelope. Iran is trying to draw the United States into conflict.

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Russia Intimidates US Navy
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 20, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

On Sunday, for the second time in 4 days, a Russian fighter jet danced around US reconnaissance planes.

This was not simply a fly by or a fly over.

The Russian SU-35 flew multiple times around the US P-8A, an unarmed craft that only receives and sends information. One of the techs on board the US plane filmed and then tweeted about one of the incidents.

The United States Navy acknowledged the events.

This US plane is attached to the 6th Fleet, the massive US presence in the Mediterranean. Since it began its mission the 6th Fleet’s mission is to check aggression in the area and maintain peace in the region.

On the other hand, Russia’s presence in the region is to gain power and influence.

This was not reckless. This was intimidation. It may have been the actions of officers in the arena and not in Moscow – we do not know. Maybe they were trying to impress Iran. These actions against a US plane are not in Moscow’s best interests.

Games of this sort have the potential to explode.

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3 Scenarios
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 17, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Here is what I see happening in Israeli politics.
There are three scenarios:

One - highly unlikely - Blue and White and Likud will sign an agreement to create a unity government

Two - more likely – efforts to form a unity government will be unsuccessful and the country launches into a fourth election

Three - most likely – Netanyahu successfully cobbles together a government

A Likud government, if successful, will not be the most stable. But then again, most governments in Israel have not been stable. Neither will it be the shortest government in history.

The 16th Israeli government was the shortest government in the history of Israel.

Golda Meir was elected in December of 1973 just after the Yom Kippur War. Her government was formed on March 10 and on April 11th Golda resigned. The government was replaced on June 3rd. The government lasted 85 days if you calculate from March through June. By the shortest standard of measurement, from March to April, Golda’s government lasted 32 days.

Another Bibi government would certainly last longer.

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20 Die in Amsterdam Home
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 14, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Jewish old age home in Amsterdam had 120 residents. Since Purim, only 5 weeks ago, 20 of those patients have died.

There are approximately 15,000 Jews in Amsterdam today. The death of 20 elderly Jews has sent a chilling current of fear and terror through the Jewish community of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is a city with a long and rich Jewish history. It was also the home of Anne Frank.

The threat of Coronavirus frightens everyone, for this community it is now even more frightening.

It has been determined that the virus began spreading at the old age home’s Purim party. Twenty deaths already and many more who will probably die.

The virus is particularly deadly to the elderly, they comprise the vast majority of coronavirus fatalities. This is one of many ghastly examples.

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Leaders Shouldn’t violate social distancing
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Israel is considering - and will probably institute, another total lockdown from Tuesday through Sunday.

In the end, there will probably be a compromise and the lockdown will be in force from Wednesday night through Saturday night.

In the midst of these lockdown discussions Israelis are voicing their distress over the behaviors of their beloved president, Reuven Rivlin, and of Prime Minister Netanyahu over the first day of Passover.

President Rivlin’s daughter Rivi and her children left their home and came to eat with him in his home. And Prime Minister Netanyahu’s son Avner came to visit and eat with his parents.

Rivlin apologized saying since his wife died his children have been helping him around the house and in his presidential tasks.

The problem is — that is exactly what most children do for their parents.
These children, like all others, must stay away.

There are no exceptions.

There is one law for everyone. Not one law for the people and another law for the families of leadership. That would be a classic form of corruption. Even more, leaders should live according to a higher, more demanding, standard.

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Bibi is a Master
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 12 2020

I've Been Thinking:


With Covid-19 taking over the headlines and with our concerns over spending Passover away from family and with matzah all around us tempting us to overeat and indulge in one of the few pleasures still available and permissible, we tend to forget that other events are still occurring. Events that should be, and are, of concern.

The deadline for Benny Gantz to form his government is hours away.
Before Passover Gantz asked Israel’s President, Ruby Rivlin, for an extension of that deadline. The request was denied.

Over the past few weeks Gantz supporters have bolted. Seeing an opportunity to reclaim his position as the sole prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu has requested that the president ask him to form a government.

Netanyahu has 59 of the 60 Knesset seats sewn up and secure. All he needs is one more, two would be better.

More than once over the years an Israeli prime minister has successfully cobbled out a government by swaying parties and people to join his coalition. The modus operandi is to offer sweet treats. The sweetest and most obvious treats are power and positions.

Once upon a time all you had to offer was a Mitsubishi - not even a Volvo - but those days are long gone.

If Netanyahu successfully forms a government he will have done it by pulling Gantz’s Blue and White party apart. The only thing that united them was their hatred for Bibi which, if Netanyahu is successful, makes it all the more ironic.

But when Bibi Netanyahu and Benny Gantz United to fight Covid-19, those who hated Bibi most jumped ship. It was a perfect plan, laid out by Bibi, to lead Blue and White to self destruction.

We will know what happens in a few more days.

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Muslims Suffering from Coronavirus
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The month of Ramadan starts on or around April 23. (The dating of Ramadan will be the subject of another entry.)

Ramadan is a month long fast during which Muslims fast during the day and break fast with friends and family and night.

That break fast is called Iftar.

In addition to massive family gatherings, most communities host public Iftar for the general public - especially the poor.

Egypt has just announced the cancellation of Iftar celebrations. They are asking that Muslims break fast in private and do not engage in large celebrations.

Under normal circumstances the fast ends with prayers in Mosques. People return home with friends and extended family. This Ramadan, that must not happen.

The last ten days of month of Ramadan taken on even more intensity. They are called Itikaf. Muslims spend more time in Mosque, repenting and the final fast days have even more significance.

Egypt and hopefully, other leaders in the Arab and Muslim world, will step up and enforce social distancing—not permitting either Iftar or Itkaf.

We are monitoring Muslim leadership. Hopefully, they will react with a strong united voice, standing up against this silent mass murderer named COVID-19.

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BDS Will Take Vaccine from Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Omar Barghouti is the founder of BDS.

Barghouti recently gave a webinar on the Arabic Facebook page discussing how Palestinians need to continue to fight “Normalization with Israel.” Normalization is code for accepting Israel’s right to exist. It is a term used constantly in Arabic and in translation.

While addressing this issue, the founder of BDS said that if Israel develops a vaccine against COVID -19 there is no problem with Palestinians getting that vaccine. He explained that there would be no issues of hypocrisy and no conflict with the goals and values of BDS.

He said: “if you use medical equipment from Israel – it’s not a problem. Cooperating with Israel against the virus – to begin with, we didn’t consider it normalization…

The BDS announced normalization criteria long ago. If Israel finds a cure for cancer, for example, or any other virus, then there is no problem in cooperating with Israel to save millions of lives.”

However, Barghout did add, “up until now, we have not been in a situation where we need Israel urgently and no one else can save us but Israel. If that will happen, saving lives is more important than anything else.”

The webinar was created because Palestinian leadership foresees a massive humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza and they are blaming Israel for that crisis in advance.

Ideology only goes so deep for BDS.

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New Masks for Beards
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 6, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel, like the United States and many other countries, is now requiring that facial cover be worn when going outside.

But masks do not properly fit bearded men. So now Israel is certifying the safety and production of masks that properly fit men with beards. This will be useful.

There is also discussion in the Chief Rabbinate, as well as in Israel’s Ministry of Health, about asking men - or even permitting men - not to shave so that they can properly wear masks.

The same discussions took place back in the Gulf War when everyone was required to wear a gas mask and beards prevented a proper fit. Then, too, there were special masks for bearded men but they were limited in number and were also heavier and less comfortable.

These masks are not N-95’s. They are surgical style masks that properly and more completely cover the nose and mouths of those with beards so that there is no seepage or spillage when exhaling.

Remember, in this case the mask protects others from you – not you from others.

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COVID Tests Slow- Chemical Shortage
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

COVID-19 testing should be at its peak – and yet it is slowing down.

Why? How can that be? The increased availability of test kits and the institution of self testing has resulted in a dramatic shift, allowing hospitals and doctors to test many more people than they could several weeks ago.

BUT there is now a shortage of reagents. In other words, labs that run the tests do not have the chemicals needed to stabilize the virus and evaluate the test.
That’s why. That’s how.

The reagent in this case is Guanidine Thiocynate. The compound is known as GITC - it renders the virus safe and allows the tester to focus on the RNA and run the coronavirus test.

Weeks ago, when Israel saw that they were running low, a lab at the Rabin Medical Center started to find an alternative. After all, they reckoned, GITC is a chemical – maybe they could they make a facsimile. They now think that they have succeeded.

This past week, as Israel ran low of the reagent, testing in Israel has been dropping. Hopefully, if the facsimile reagent is successful, those testing numbers will once again be able to rise.

This alternative could be critical in the continued fight against COVID-19.

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Health Minister - Irresponsible
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 3, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel’s Minister of Health and his wife have tested positive for coronavirus. He is 71 years old.

After the news broke it forced the prime minister back into isolation until he could be tested. Prime Minister Netanyahu had just come out of isolation because his adviser on the Hareidi community had tested positive.

Other cabinet ministers and advisers are in isolation until their tests return.
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is under attack for having spurned his own regulations against group prayer. Witnesses say that on Monday Litzman prayed in a Ger community prayer house.

Considering that nearly 30% of positive cases have been contracted in synagogues, it is likely he picked it up there.

If the story about Litzman engaging in group prayer is true, it was an extremely irresponsible act. If true, the prime minister should immediately relieve him of his duties and remove him from his post.

Even better, Litzman should resign. This would send a message of how very important social distancing is for the safety of the country.

Unfortunately, these scenarios are extremely unlikely.

While it is true that prayer in public is important in Judaism and Jewish law, saving a life in undoubtedly more important than public prayer. And killing is forbidden. When people flaunt social distancing regulations and go to synagogues the likelihood of someone dying because of that act is great. It is a simple and proven chain reaction.

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Cabinet Breifed on Mini Series
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I’ve Been Thinking:

Israel’s cabinet has been meeting regularly to update and decide how to confront the pandemic called COVID-19.

The cabinet is also briefed on how others are handling this crisis.

During one meeting the prime minister showed a clip of how Iran is dumping and burying hundreds of bodies in pits with bulldozers.

Or at least, that’s what he thought he was seeing. In truth, it was actually a movie clip from the Hallmark Network’s 2007 miniseries called Pandemic and starring Dustin Hoffman.

Obviously, Netanyahu did not know this. But neither was this clip vetted. The country with one of the greatest intel systems in the world made a big error. And so have lots of other people who have seen this video.

Iranians in the Diaspora have been circulating the clip. They want to paint the current leadership in Iran as evil. They are correct, they are evil. But there is enough real evidence of the bad acts of Iranian leadership - one need not spread untruths.

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Exit Strategy for COVID-19
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


The crisis of COVID-19 continues.

We should not yet begin to think that an end is in sight or to develop an exit strategy. Before that can happen, several other things must happen.

The growth of new cases needs to top out. When that happens, we will see it in the bell curve. The bell curve will show that in local studies, over a sustained period, fewer and fewer people have been infected.

The number of critical care patients needs to drop. Fewer and fewer people need to be on respirators. The key word here is “fewer” not “few” as in total numbers.

It is percentages, rather than numbers, that are the essential figure.
When that happens, when hospitals and their ICU’s are not backed up, we can begin an exit strategy. That strategy will probably come stage by stage, step by step, location by location – from community to county to city to state to country.

And it will also be determined by health status. Healthy with low risk communities will be the first to be able to ease up – not eliminate, merely ease up, on restrictions.

Monitoring of numbers is essential throughout the process.

If we are not cautious and very careful, we can create a revolving door situation. That is not what we want. It will only delay, dangerously delay, our eventual return to normalcy – or at least to what will be our new normal.

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Animals in the City
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 31, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Reports from around the world identify a natural yet startling and bizarre phenomenon directly resulting from COVID-19.

Animals are taking back the cities they were banished from when cities were built!

I have seen videos and still pictures of ibex walking down the streets of Eilat, Israel’s southerner most city, nestled between the Red Sea and the Arava Desert on the north and beautiful mountains to the east and west.

Malabar, an endangered animal that was thought extinct until seen again for the first time in 1990, is photographed walking down a street in India. A cobra jumps out of a moped’s steering wheel looking dangerously venomous.

Dolphins are swimming in places they have not been seen in centuries. 3,000 pound bison are pictured wandering around cities, many in the middle of the street just looking for food.

With humans and cars no longer creating a natural fence, wildlife is retaking their land.

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PA Spreads Blood Libel
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 30, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


For decades Palestinian leadership has blamed Israel for their dismal conditions. They have consistently accused Israel of Blood Libel – deliberately poisoning and murdering innocent Palestinians.

COVID-19 is just another excuse and another example of the Palestinian conspiracy theory that Israel is murdering Palestinians.

On Sunday Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shatayeh was the latest to add his voice to the conspiracy.

Shatayeh, who has a history of perpetuating this canard, said that Israeli soldiers are spreading the virus by putting it on car door handles of Palestinian cars. He said: "We were exposed to testimonies that some of the (Israeli) soldiers are trying to spread the virus on car handles."

He also said that Israel will be held accountable for their racist actions: "This is racism and hatred of people who long for the death of the other. We will record this in the list of crimes.” Shatayeh demanded that Israel pay 90,000 Palestinian workers for their missed work.

In the past Shatayeh has accused Israel of "waging war on the Palestinian narrative" and attempting to "Judaize the history of the Holy Land."

Thus far coronavirus numbers among the Palestinians, in Gaza and the West Bank combined, are at 100 cases and 2 deaths. Relatively speaking, those are low numbers for this deadly virus. Had Palestinians been exposed the way their prime minister claims, the numbers would have skyrocketed.

They will never admit it, but the best thing that happened for Palestinians was that Israel shuttered the crossings between Israel and Palestinian areas preventing Palestinians from being infected.

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Parrot Says "It's Corona!"
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 25, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Luca is a 22 month old parrot who lives in Kiryat Shmona in the very northernmost part of Israel, bordering Lebanon.

This parrot has become a celebrity in Israel.

Like all other Israelis, her owner, Zahava Shabbat, has been sheltered in her apartment since the arrival of COVID-19 in Israel. Zahava took advantage of the time and taught Luca to say “It’s Corona! Stay Inside.”

Little children have found this to be particularly fun and helpful. Reuters News Service picked up the story. In searching I found the video published on news websites as far away as Malaysia.

Luca is one example of so many ways in which people, around the world, hunkered down at home, find positive ways to occupy their time. It’s a nice alternative to playing video games, binge watching and noshing on snacks.

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Big Brother is Watching - Corona
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 24, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Hundreds of Israelis were startled Wednesday by an unsolicited text message.

"Hello. According to an epidemiological investigation ______ (fill in your name). You were near someone sick with the coronavirus. You must immediately isolate at home [14 days] to protect your relatives and the public. ... This information will be used only for this purpose and will be erased when no longer needed. Sincerely, Public Health Services."

Tens of thousands of Israelis are in self isolation, many because they received this message, as they confront coronavirus.

With this text message, Prime Minister Netanyahu pushed the envelope on violating personal liberties and freedom. He instructed Israel’s Internal Security Services, aka the Shin Bet, to use their highly advanced and sophisticated tools to help bring the virus under control.

These are the tools that are normally used to protect against terror. Now they are being used to fight a virus that has the potential to kill many more people than would be killed through acts of terror.

Cell phones identify the locations of people and are cross referenced with the locations of people who tested positive for the virus.

It’s a Big Brother tactic – but it is a tactic that will save lives.

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Getting Worse
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The US Surgeon General warned this morning that this is going to be a very difficult week. The reason is obvious - the number of Americans infected with COVID-19 is going to increase.

The Surgeon General knows what we all know, but he knows to take it seriously. He knows and, more importantly, he accepts what many of us have not been able to fully accept.

Many people than we know have contracted the virus. We do not know who they are for several reasons. Some have not been tested. Some do not show symptoms. Some have symptoms that are mild. All of these people can possibly transmit the virus to the people around them – and those people will get sick.

One doctor from New York sent a plea to President Trump laying out the details of the community he treats and suggesting an early treatment and even a prophylactic treatment.

He said that he has treated hundreds of people with the virus. Based on his practice, this physician estimates that 60% of his community has the virus. That alone equals 20,000 people.

Truly frightening.

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Punishment for VIolators
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

This is current Israeli policy:

If you violate self-quarantine you will be arrested, spend six months in prison and fined 5,000 NIS, which is about $1,800.

There are exceptions:
You are permitted to go shopping for food, to an essential job, help someone in need.

There are rules:

Only 2 people are permitted in a car, prayers are permitted but only with a maximum of 10, sports are only permitted 2 players only. You are permitted to go outside and stand very close to your home.

This is a very stern set of laws and a major limit on citizens’ rights and freedoms. But Israeli leadership has to clamp down in order to stop the spread of the virus. People especially older people, will die if they contract the virus.

Many people still do not understand that they are required to sublimate their personal, selfish, needs for the greater good by staying inside.
Selfishness is blind in another way, too:

By venturing outside, that very person pursuing their selfish acts may contract the virus endangering themselves and endangering their family.

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ISrael & Corona
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 20, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

As of 11am, which is 5pm just before Shabbat began in Israel, these are the most recent numbers of Coronavirus cases in Israel.

The numbers need to be divided into categories:
Most important is that as of Wednesday there are twenty testing labs, that’s eighteen more than Israel had until now.

Also since Wednesday, the Mossad successfully procured thousands of tests kits.
705 people have tested positive.

10 are in serious condition, 18 moderate condition, 271 light condition and in hospitals. 149 people are being treated at home, 58 in hotels transformed into Coronavirus facilities. 212 are awaiting decisions as to they should be treated.
15 people have been released from the hospital and are free of the virus and totally recovered – that’s an important figure.

Israel has been extremely aggressive in their approach. They are using GPS tracking on the phones of people who tested positive. They are fining and even arresting those who violate their restrictions.

The Coronavirus numbers in Israel are going up and up. The new labs and the availability of the testing kits will automatically increase the numbers. Many, many people have the virus and are asymptomatic.

The higher numbers should not serve as a source of alarm and panic. They are a more realistic assessment of reality.

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Iran is Suffering from the Virus
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 17, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is suffering from Coronavirus. That much we know.

We also know that the Iranians do not report the truth.

For two days in a row they have been reporting over 100 deaths each day.
There were113 deaths on Sunday and 129 on Monday. Total Coronavirus deaths in Iran, so far, is 853.

On Monday the Iranians said that new infections for the day hit 1,053 putting total infections in Iran at 14, 991.

There is no doubt that the numbers in Iran are far higher. How much greater is a serious unknown.

The one good thing is that Iran has been isolated for some time now, so few people have been in and out of the country. There is one major exception to that – and it is China. That does not bode for either of those nations, both of them centers of the virus.

If China has topped out and is now having fewer and fewer infections – which is the way it appears to be - it is because they closed down a city of 23 million people. That move localized the contamination to one region.
It was a good move by China.

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Israeli Poilce Arrest Violators of the Isolation
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 16, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I watched two videos on twitter that shocked me.

In both clips Israeli police were arresting people who broke their Covid-19 isolation. In one clip, all the police were in total hazmat garb.

It was right out of a spy movie.

Several days ago Israel announced that it was using tracking software on the cell phones of people required to be in quarantine to insure that they were not violating the procedures.

Isolation is not a suggestion - it is a requirement.

In both cases on the videos the violators were arrested and put into isolation.
They will have hearings and a judge will determine whether more punishment is needed.

Quarantine and isolation are in place not for the safety of the entire community. Coming out of isolation early could endanger thousands of other people.
Sometimes we need to put our personal needs on the side for the good of the larger community especially because people’s lives are at stake.

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Nothing But the Virus
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Television, radio, newspapers, internet, social media - almost all news is news about Covid-19, aka, Corornavirus. It’s blanket coverage relating to everything – sports, medicine, art, entertainment, business and of course, hard news.

Broadway shows are dark. Disney, the happiest place on earth is closed for the rest of March. March Madness is shut down.

There are important lessons to be learned. Most importantly is that epidemics are real. Epidemics, and certainly pandemics, do not follow a set prescription. Economic lines are crossed, international boundaries are ignored, race and religion play no role.

The risks are great.

This is not rocket science. We, the public, must follow the advice we are given and the guidelines that are set out. We can’t outsmart this virus. But we can do our best to limit its destructive power and the havoc it plays with our lives and with our health.

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Minority Gov in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 10, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Finally, there is talk about the possibility of a minority government in Israel.

I have been discussing this for months, so I say, it’s about time!
Let me explain.

A minority government is not a very stable government, but neither is a government with a majority of 61. Either way, the government can fall at any time. The principle of a minority government is that the ruling coalition has less than the 61 majority – but it comes with the promise of other members of Knesset that they will not vote against the coalition in the case of a vote of ‘no confidence’.

The life expectancy of such a government is short, but at least it can begin to function.

At this point, both large parties have the ability to create a minority government.

To do so, the Blue/White coalition will depend on 15 members of the Joint Arab list. Several members of that list reject Israel’s right to exist so they are not dependable. Two members of the Blue/White party are against an agreement with the Joint Arab List. They may bolt bringing the Blue/White number to 60.
And if they bolt, that also brings the Likud coalition to 60.

Not enough to fell a government, but enough to swear in a government.

Minority governments have successfully existed in the past in Israel. But they had a purpose. In European parliaments they have also been successful - in the short run. Again, with a purpose.

If the two Blue/White members leave, they will have to create their own, new party. They cannot switch parties – if they do they will not be able to run in the next election cycle.

If nobody switches, or if no agreement for a minority government is reached, Israel is in for a fourth election.

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Coronavirus & Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is responding to Coronavirus very aggressively. 150,000 people are in isolation - most in self isolation. Many borders with neighboring countries, specifically Egypt, are closed. Flights from many other countries, in Europe and Asia, are not permitted in.

Now they are seriously considering isolating every single person who arrives in Israel from any destination - Israelis, tourists and business people.

All this may backfire. The virus has already arrived. As of late Sunday 39 Israelis have tested positive. That is more than most other counties in the world. Actually, Israel ranks 33 in the world out of 196 countries with numbers of people with coronavirus.

Israel’s response probably has a political side to it.

Netanyahu needs to be seen as a capable leader handling - and or protecting - his country from a huge danger. No one else can do this. But the more leadership responds and comments, the bigger the crisis becomes. And by extension, the better a leader Netanyahu becomes.

On all levels, Netanyahu can do things and make decisions that his counterpart, Benny Gantz, cannot do, especially because his counterpart is embracing the Joint Arab List which is anti-Zionist and some membrane even preach the destruction of Israel.

If the virus spins out of control Netanyahu's plan could backfire. It could also backfire if Gantz can show that Netanyahu is causing more damage than good.

The tourism industry, a major source of revenue in Israel, had ground to a halt.
The virus is not just a medical headache. It’s tendrils reach all segments of society and government.

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Saudi Internal Tensions
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The youngest brother of the Saudi king was arrested by his nephew over the weekend in Saudi Arabia.

He was not the only person arrested - several other members of the royal family were also arrested including a nephew of the king.

Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince, is the son of the King. Since 2017 he has been the de-facto total leader of the kingdom. And since 2017 the Crown Prince has periodically arrested high ranking members of the royal family in an attempt to consolidate power and eliminate challenges to authority.

He has also been clamping down on corruption and kickbacks. It is a system rife with kickbacks - the family controls everything. Corruption is an easy tool to apply against political rivals.
We will watch and see

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Pundit Wrong about Israel's Elections
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

There are several essential takeaways from Israel’s election.

#1: Rather than exhibiting voter fatigue during their third election in the course of one year, Israeli were energized with more people voting in this election than in any election since 1999.

#2: Predictions about Netanyahu being punished by voters and about voters being unable to overlook the legal issues he is entangled with, proved false.

#3: Labor and Gesher have truly imploaded, Israel’s founding political party is now barely breathing.

#4: The Joint Arab List leached voters from Labor and are now the real left in Israeli politics, steadily increasing with each election and has become, as they are about to receive 14 or 15 Parliamentary seats, the third largest political party in Israel.

#5: Israelis have long believed that, because there are 120 seats in the Knesset, 61 was the magic number for coalition building, yet governments have been built and functioned with as small a coalition as 53 seats. A coalition of 61, or even of 59, is very difficult to keep together and is not a stable government, it works for a short time, but Israeli governments do not last.

Not a single Israeli government has ever survived its entire term.

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Super Tuesday
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 4, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

With Super Tuesday behind us, it seems clear that there are two leading candidates within the Democratic party.

Elizabeth Warren will most certainly drop out.

Michael Bloomberg, just pulled out despite his desire to stay in the game and walk into the Democratic Convention with over 100 - maybe even 200 delegates - out of the 1991 delegates needed to nominate the candidate who will lead the Democratic ticket against President Donal Trump.

A week ago it was unthinkable that Joe Biden would be a competitor, let alone a leader, for that nomination. A week ago it appeared as if Bernie Sanders was the presumptive candidate and nothing could stop him.

But the exits of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar and the throwing of their support behind Biden served to unify the party and bring it back to its home.

Biden embodies the traditional, old time, Democratic party. Sanders is not a Democrat. He is an independent and describes himself as a Social Democrat.

The people will decide.

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Tourism in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Azerbaijan has shut its borders to Iran. No Iranians or Iranian products can cross the border and no one from Azerbaijan may enter Iran – all because of coronavirus.

The tourism industry in Iran has already been decimated by US sanctions and now, because of this virus, Iranians are taking another economic hit.

This is the season of the Iranian New Year, called Nowruz. The Nowruz Holiday stretches over a two-week period.

Reports are that 80% of hotel reservations in Iran have been cancelled. One media report said that in the northern holy city of Mashad 90% of the hotels have no guests. No one is visiting the city.

These are devastating numbers.

Iran will not be having a happy New Year.

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Drones
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 28, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is a leader in drone and anti-drone production and defense. There are many Israeli companies in this segment of the market.

One company, Bluebird, just concluded a deal to provide 150 drones to a certain unnamed European country. Elbit, a much larger company in this niche, has sold over 1000 drones to an Asian country.

Israel needed to develop a defense system against drones coming from Gaza and Lebanon. And they have. They developed drones that can carry weapons and cameras. Some are tiny and some are huge.

Israel has also developed an anti-drone weapon that shoots drones down with lasers. The laser dissipates after several hundred meters so it will not damage anything beyond the target.

Before this new technology was developed the best way to strike a drone was with another drone.

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A/S in Europe
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 27, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

A new study about Europe’s attitudes concerning Jews and Israel has just been released. Be prepared, your worst nightmares are about to be confirmed.

The study was conducted in sixteen European countries. One thousand representative samples were culled with a degree of error from each country of only 0.8%.

Here’s what they found:

20% of Europe believes that Jews control the world.

20% believe that Jews exploit the Holocuast for their own interests.

25% of respondents said that Israel’s policies explain why people hate Israel.

25% disagree with the statement that Israel is acting in its own defense.

33% agreed with the statement that during World War II people from their country suffered as much as the Jews.

The numbers are baffling. But they must be believed. Given the representative sampling in this study, those surveyed accurately reflect the attitudes of their nation.

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Confilct w/in Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 26, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has announced that they have completed their attack against Israel. That’s not an easy thing for Hamas to say.

Hamas is stuck between the proverbial rock and the hard place. They are stuck between two very different points of view and approaches.

On the one hand, Hamas defines itself as being about defense and fighting Israel. Hamas’ message has always been that they are non-stop fighters against Israel.

On the other hand, Hamas governs Gaza and they need to maintain calm. Calm is defined by a society that can function. Hamas knows that as a government, they cannot tolerate ongoing regular targeting by the Israeli air-force.

That means that a cease fire and quiet becomes an essential objective. Even though a cease fire and quiet with Israel is in direct conflict with Hamas’ role as fighters and defenders of Gaza.

Hamas needs to embrace the ceasefire. They might just do it. Their self-preservation is at stake.

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Rabbi in Saudi Royal Palace
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 25, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Times are changing. I've said it before and I know I'll be saying it again - and again.

An Israeli rabbi was invited, as part of a group of interfaith leaders, to meet the King of Saudi Arabia in his palace.

Rabbi David Rosen spent 2 1/2 days in Saudi Arabia.

The group is called the King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. Rabbi Rosen is a member of the board.

Quoted in the Times of Israel, Rabbi Rosen said: “would not have contemplated inviting us, and primarily me as a rabbi. This would have been too much for them”. He went on to explain that, in this sense, the reception at the royal palace was a “revolutionary moment.”

Rosen, is American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious affairs, was one of nine KAICIID board members who attended the meeting with King Salman, and the only interfaith leader representing Judaism. The other eight attendees represented Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.

According to the official statement of the organization: “The Custodian of the
Two Holy Mosques welcomed the board members, who were holding their first meeting in Riyadh, and stressed the importance of KAICIID’s role in consolidating the principles of dialogue and coexistence among different religions and cultures, promoting the values of moderation and tolerance, and combating all forms of extremism and terrorism.”

Other rabbis have visited Saudi Arabia, most notably Rabbi Marc Schneier, who met with the foreign minister earlier in February.

This is real change and real progress. But remember, these changes must be taken step by step, the process must go slowly.

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Iran's Elections & Caronavirus
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 24, 2020
I've Been Thinking:


Iran just conducted their national elections. The result proved to be and it was a dismal failure for the leadership.

42% voter turnout. This was the lowest turnout in history - lowest since the 1979 Revolution.

"The turnout across the country was 42.57 percent," Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told a televised news conference on Sunday. "In [the capital] Tehran, it was around 25 percent. Across Iran, over 24 million people voted.

Only 25% turnout in Teheran. And not for lack of trying. The president had urged people to vote. The Supreme Leader, the Grand Ayatollah, pronounced that it was a religious obligation to vote.

National elections happen every four years in Iran. In 2012 there was a 66% turnout. In 2016 a 62%. This is the first dip below 50% - significantly below 50% and 20% off the last election.

The election was a referendum on the government. People are expressing their displeasure with the religious leadership. 1000’s of candidates were disqualified by religious leadership including 84 sitting members of parliament.

The government and the Grand Ayatollah have a different reason, however, for the lackluster turnout. Coronavirus.

Iranian leadership is claiming that enemies of Iran and enemies of Islam spread terrible rumors of the virus.

In truth, until now, 50 Iranians have died from the virus. That is more than any other country outside of China.

Yes, there is a fear in being in crowded places like polling stations. But that’s not why voters didn’t out.

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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 Punishes 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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Israel Strikes Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 31, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's air-force struck six targets in Gaza. They were all military sites. Many were lookout and observation posts.

Since The Deal of the Century was announced Hamas has increased its launching of rockets and balloons against Israel.
Hamas' objective is to show their anger at the deal.

Many of the Hamas launched rockets were intercepted or fell in remote locations. One rocket did, however, land and a child and mother were hospitalized for trauma.

That is really the objective of Hamas: Inflict as much terror and trauma as possible.

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Locust Plague in MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 28, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Over a billion locust are devouring 200 tons of food everyday as they make their way through Africa and the Middle East.

The locust swarm is so dense that it looks black. It is impossible to see outside and it is impossible to walk outside. It is the largest swarm in 25 years.

A locust plague will destroy crops and trees and almost every herb and tree, everything green.

This locust swarm can travel 4,000 miles in 10 days. Locust can fly 200 miles without setting down to rest and eat.

Using the word plague is deliberate.

Locust destruction is Biblical.

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Russian US Tensions in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 27, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

There is increased tension on the ground in Syria between the United States and Russia.

US troops are in Syria to secure the oil fields and keep them safe from ISIS and other terrorist groups.

And now - four times in eight days the United States has intercepted and blocked a Russian convoy going into the oil region.

On Sunday, when the US stopped them, the Russians turned back. Then the Russians sent a helicopter. In response to the Russian helicopter the United States dispatched two helicopters - and they brought the Russian chopper down.

These tensions are fierce. They could easily escalate, at any moment, into a full-blown attack if any step is exaggerated or mistaken.

These events are not covered in the Western press. That’s a mistake. We need to monitor this situation very closely.

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Perception of the Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 25, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The Trump Peace Plan, labeled the Deal of the Century, is back in the news.
The Israelis have been invited to Washington, DC to hear the plan.

The Palestinians have not received an invitation.

Since December of 2017 the Palestinians have been officially boycotting the United States. The last high level discussion between the US and Palestinians took place under the presidency of President Obama. Those talks were conducted with John Kerry, Obama's secretary of state.

To get a good sense of the status of the Palestinians in world diplomatic affairs it is helpful to look at who visits Ramallah and where Palestinian President Abbas goes to visit.

This week 46 world leaders came to Jerusalem to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. There were kings, prime ministers and presidents. Only five leaders went to Ramallah to visit Palestinian President Abbas.

They were: Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Australian Governor-General David Hurley and Britain's Prince Charles.
By my count, they are the only world leaders who took the time to make the twenty minute drive from Jerusalem to Ramallah.

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Putin Changing History
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Rule # 1: Whoever owns the history, possess the power.
That is why history is so often in dispute, why it is so often fought over. And that explains why people, especially those with leadership roles, create history.

Rule # 2: At all costs, avoid the role of perpetrator.
That is why history is so often re-written, often by perpetrators. It is better to be a victim than a perpetrator. It is better to be a bystander than a perpetrator.
This week commemorates the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz - Birkenau.

And with that we must remember these rules as we listen to leaders who are trying to transform themselves into victims or bystanders. When in reality they were mostly bystanders and perpetrators.

It is easier to explain to your children and grandchildren that you were a victim than explain that you participated in the evil murderous policies of the Nazis. It is easier to say that you were simply silent.

We are seeing a revision of history by certain leaders as they distant themselves from the Nazis. Most blatantly is President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Putin is continuing a historical rewrite that has been part of the Russian narrative since the end of WWII.

They assert that they were victims. Victims of the Nazis. At the Auschwitz Memorial in Jerusalem, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that 40% of the Jewish victims of the Nazis were Soviets. There is no doubt that between 26 and 50 million Soviets were killed in the War - many froze or starved to death. But Putin's statistic does not hold.

The Holocaust happened under the veil of WWII. It was a policy of the Nazis. One cannot conflate the two. The purpose of the Nazi Holocaust was to murder all the Jews first of Europe and then, all the Jews in the world.

Russia is deliberating forgetting important parts of history. They were not victims. They had an alliance with the Nazis. On August 23, 1939 Russia and Germany signed a treaty called the Molotov - Ribbentrop Pact named after the foreign ministers of both countries, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov.

They agreed to simultaneously invade Poland from opposite sides. Germany invaded on September 1st and Russia on September 17th.

For decades, first as Soviets and now as Russians, they have conveniently forgotten this essential fact. Russiaian leadership has chosen, instead, to emphasize Operation Barbarosa when, on Sunday June 22,194,1 Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

I will never forget the first time I heard this. I was in the then USSR and a tour guide explained that the Soviets entered WWII in June of 1941. I tried to correct her. She did not believe me. She thought it was I who was creating history.

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India Drops Oil Imports From MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I've Ben Thinking:

India is the third largest consumer of oil in the world.
India needs oil. They realize they need oil and they have been implementing a plan to insure that they continue to receive a regular stream of imported oil.

For three years in a row India has reduced the amount of oil they import from the Middle East. To give you a sense of the numbers, in 2018 they imported 65% of their oil from the Middle East while last year, in 2019, that number dropped to 60%.

India understands the need to reduce their dependence on Middle East oil. The political situation is too volatile. Iran has made the region unpredictable. And so India and other countries are responding.

During the same period that India has been cutting back on their Middle East oil imports, the United States has become energy sufficient. The US is now producing enough oil that there is no need to import oil. The US still does import, but they are now significant exporters as well.

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46 Leaders Visit Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 21, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Forty-six presidents, kings and prime ministers will visit Israel this week.
That number is truly impressive.

The United States is being represented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The last time so many leaders converged in Israel was in 2017 and the occasion was the funeral of Shimon Peres who served the country as both prime minister and president.

Actually, fewer high level dignitaries came for the Peres funeral than are coming this week.

Israel is marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. The official ceremony will take place on Thursday at Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial and educational center in Jerusalem.
The central theme of this memorial event will be confronting anti-Semitism.

No other country in the world could successfully invite that many leaders to attend a memorial and receive so many positive responses. It shows how important and well respected Israel is and it shows how important the fight against anti-Semitism is.

Again, truly impressive.

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Jordan Says No to Israeli Gas
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 20, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


Media in the Middle East has been covering details of the new gas deals developed between Jordan and Israel and between Egypt and Israel.

According to the deals, Israel will soon begin providing natural gas for both Jordan and Egypt.

Jordanian and Egyptian leadership are pleased with the arrangements - otherwise, they would never have signed on to the deals.

The Jordanian Parliament, however, just passed a bill forbidding the deal.

The bill is symbolic. The parliament has no real role in the decision making, all control rests in hands of the King. The King can, and in this case certainly will, disregard the parliament’s new bill.

But the move by the Jordanian Parliament should not be totally discounted. And that's because this parliament passed bill represents the masses in Jordan who do not want a deal with Israel.

The bill was passed on to the government for approval. According to the Speaker of the Parliament the bill "answers the calls of the people who refuse an agreement with Israel. Governments recognize Israel, but the peoples do not recognize Palestine's occupying entity."

And so it goes.

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Tunnel Tech on Border w Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 19, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The IDF recently announced that they are installing their new seismic and acoustic anti-tunnel defenses on the northern border with Lebanon and Syria.
They devices are called tunnel buster sensors.

This is a very new cutting edge technology that can detect tunnels that are being built and tunnels that have already been dug.

This new technology marks the first effective weapon in history to defend against tunnel. Tunnel warfare has puzzled defense strategists for millennia.
As for the installation of the tunnel busters on Israel's northern border, the IDF says this is just a preventative measure.

They say that there is no immediate threat. However, one must note that Israel has already detected a number of tunnels dug deep into the rock.

So - while there may not be an immediate alert, there is an ongoing threat. And that ongoing threat is now being partially neutralized because Israel is taking the steps to install this new technology.

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2 Defections in 1 Week
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 16, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Another defection from Iran. That makes it number two just this week. Both are women.

Shohreh Bayat, 32 years old, is a chess hero famous all around the world - and especially in Iran. This week she was the referee of the Women's World Chess Championship.

During one of the matches there was a picture of Bayat refereeing and it appeared that she was not wearing her head scarf, her Hijab.

Iranian media picked up the picture and it went viral.

In response, Bayat said that she was in fact wearing her Hijab, but that it was not visible from that particular camera angle. None-the-less, she received death threats.

It is against the law in Iran not to wear the Hijab and all female competitors, even in active sports, are required to wear a Hijab.

Bayat is afraid. At best, she fears that she will be arrested if she returns to Iran. At worst, she fears for her life. There are many Iranian women in prison for violating the Hijab law.

No word yet on where Shohreh Bayat will go.

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Another Hero Defect from Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Another dramatic defection from Iran by a national hero.

Kimia Alizadeh is the only Iranian to have won a medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Her sport is Taekwondo. And now she has defected.

In her Instagram post Alizadeh wrote that she defected of her own volition, that she was not tricked or wooed into defecting, that no country offered her asylum or refuge. It is a chilling message that highlights what is now happening in Iran.
She wrote: “No one has invited me to Europe and I haven’t been given a tempting offer. But I accept the pain and hardship of homesickness because I didn’t want to be part of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery."

Alizadeh continues: “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they’ve been playing for years ... I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated."

And there's more: “None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”

The young athlete is referring to herself and to her sports colleagues. She is indicating that the Iranian regime uses them as propaganda tools for both the outside world and inside Iran.

Alizadeh concludes her message on a sad and sorrowful note: “Should I start with hello, goodbye or condolences? Hello oppressed people of Iran, goodbye noble people of Iran, my condolences to you people who are always mourning."

Kimia Alizadeh is the second athlete to defect from Iran in the past few months. A male judo wrestler defected after he refused to throw a match to avoid the possibility of competing against an Israeli athlete.

Iranian citizens, young and old, are bringing about change in Iran. They are standing up and taking a stance.

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Iran Lies
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 12, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

At the Israeli cabinet meeting this Sunday morning Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made an opening statement just as he does every Sunday morning. In today's statement Bibi spoke about Iran. He explained that: "Iran lied; just as she lied about the nuclear deal, now she lies about the Ukrainian airliner."

We have all witnessed Iran's denials, and then witnessed the reversals and changes they make. This time, they came clean - well, nearly clean. This time the Iranians have acknowledged that, indeed, the Ukrainian airline was shot down by an Iranian missile fired by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Iran now asserts that the shooting was human error and unintentional.
That part of the confession is the highly unlikely part.

Anyone who knows anything about anti-aircraft systems knows all anti-aircraft systems can distinguish between every kind of aircraft if only by the pitch and speed of the plane's engine. An F-15's engine is nothing like the engine of a civilian 737 jetliner.

For Persian Muslims, just like for other Arabs in the Middle East, any Westerner is considered an outsider and a foreigner. They are all lumped into the same group and they are all infidels. A Ukrainian airliner could have as easily been a US airliner or an airliner from British Air. They are all the same - interlopers and invaders treading on Muslim land - and, most importantly, they do not belong.

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Putin is Not Worried
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Vladimir Putin is not disturbed by the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani. Neither does the Iranian rocket strike faze him.
How do we know this?

On Tuesday, Putin landed in Syria to meet with President Assad and visit Russian bases. He spoke to his soldiers and inspected his bases.

Then on Wednesday Putin travelled to Turkey. Actually, Putin’s trip to Turkey was planned long before the Syrian trip. The Syrian visit was an add-on to the Turkey trip.

Putin was not afraid and not worried about being in the region. He was not afraid for himself nor for the Russia mission. He was not expecting any surprise Iranian generated surprises or moves.

Maybe he knew in advance that Iran was not going to escalate – that they would modestly respond by sending missiles to hit Iraqi bases. If Iran and Russia are that close, in this instance it's good news. It means that with Putin's influence, tensions would be shorter live and reduced.

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Iran Warned Iraq of Airstrike
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Things are heating up in the Middle East.

It has been reported that Iran warned Iraq in advance of the airstrike which took place early Wednesday.

Iran was aware that they were striking Iraqi air bases - true, that was where US soldiers could be stationed, but nonetheless, they were still Iraqi bases.

France also has several thousand troops in Iraq. The French have made it clear that there is no plan to withdraw them.

For the Middle East Arab and Persian mind, there is no difference between France and the United States. They are both Westerners and foreigners on Arab soil.

So the French are certainly a target for Iranian revenge.


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Iran's Possible Response to Suleimani
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 7, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The US assassination of Iranian al Quds head, General Qassem Suleimani, continues to be big news. Politicians, talking heads, anyone who has an opinion on the subject is spouting off about why the assassination was right or wrong and if the situation will or will not cascade into an all out war.

Israel and Israelis are justifiably worried. They are a convenient target for Iran if only because Israel is the biggest symbol and the most effective unifying tool in the entire Middle East.

My best analysis says that if Iran chooses to respond, they will use their proxies to attack US interests in the region and not engage directly with either the United States or with Israel. This was actually the role of Suleimani. He was tasked with the planning and execution of missions outside Iran using their proxies to strike at enemies of Iranian interests. He bolstered and trained the very groups and people who will now be called on to strike.

A full scale frontal war between Iran and the US is very doubtful. A direct strike from Iran and even from Iranian soil into Israel or to US bases is also unlikely.
Iran's most likely response will be calculated strikes by Hezbollah and by pro-Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq - all, of course, with the assistance of Iranian advisers and weapons. The most likely target being US bases in Iraq.

Israel will not be entirely forgotten. Israel will likely be on the receiving end of a barrage of rockets, maybe even drone attacks, from across their northern border - but not from Gaza. (Gaza is a powder keg that even Iran will not be able to control.) The important calculation vis a vis Iranian proxies is which action will make the biggest statement. But the action cannot be so larges as to tilt the momentum so that Israel or the United States respond with even greater force.

Israel's counter response to Iran's proxy response to the US assassination of Suleimani will be based on damage assessment. If missiles land in areas without significant damage but still big enough to make PR splash in the Arabic and Persian press, escalated tensions will recede and revert to normal tensions.

However, should there any real damage - especially to human life, Israel will be forced to respond by ratcheting up the tensions. The United States will probably use the same calculus in deciding on their counter response.

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Targeting Suleimani
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 3, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Targeting Iranian General Qassem Suleimani was a game changer in confronting world terror.

Morally and ethically this was a justified attack, not simply because of all that Suleimani perpetrated in the past but also because he was certainly planning more attacks and the murder of innocents.

General Suleimani was not the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as so many have reported. That distinction goes to Hossein Salami. Qassem
Suleimani was the commander of the al Quds Brigade. The Revolutionary Guard is an elite division of the Iranian army. The al Quds Brigade is the most elite group within the elite Guard.

Suleimani was responsible for ALL operations outside of Iran. His great strength was his strategic and tactical planning. He was responsible for literally hundreds of operations as well as Iranian activities in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. General Qassem Suleimani cannot be easily replaced.

This is a sampling of his diabolical achievements: He armed Hezbollah and brought them to their current strength. He did the same with Islamic Jihad in Gaza. He bombed the Saudi oil fields. He planned every operation against Israeli and Jewish targets tied to Iran. He masterminded the most recent storming of the US embassy in Baghdad.

It was no coincidence that Suleimani was in Iraq when he was targeted.

Over the past decade there have been numerous, erroneous, reports of his death. In 2006 he walked away from a plane crash that killed almost everyone else on board. In 2012 a bombing in Damascus killed his aides as well as aides to Syrian President Assad. In 2015 his death was reported during a battle in Aleppo. Then he was said to be badly injured. All of them untrue.
Today, he is dead.

The United States and Israel have both been waiting for the perfect time to try again. This time the US succeeded-- almost certainly with a little help from Israel.

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Iran Responds
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is responding to the United States.
The United States hit six Iranian targets in Iraq. Western media clumped them all into one attack, but they were six individual attacks.
Iran is responding with rhetoric.
And not the kind of rhetoric that most of the Western world would expect. The Iranian response is atypically calm, calculated and clear.
The more one learns about Iran, the more one realizes how skillfully they use the media how artfully they compose their responses. They responses are not emotional at all. It is all about strategy. It is akin to a long term game of chess.
Look at the response of the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Brigadier General Hossein Salami. This response is quoted by Tasnim, an official media outlet in Iran. It was picked up across the international world and was read by everyone monitoring the situation.
“We are not leading the country to war, but we are not afraid of any war and we tell America to speak correctly with the Iranian nation. We have the power to break them several times over and are not worried.”
In addition Iran’s Army Chief of Staff Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi also quoted in Iranian official radio announced on Thursday that Iranian forces were ready to confront the “enemy”.
“Our armed forces ... monitor all moves, and if anyone makes the slightest mistake, they will decisively react, and if the situation heats up, we will show our abilities to the enemy."

As if that was not enough, on Wednesday Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the U.S. attacks on Iranian-allied militias in Iraq, blaming the United States for violence in Iran’s neighbor Iraq.

Iran is dialing down the tensions just as the United States is dialing them up.

There is a possibility of all out war - but more likely is a scenario in which the next few weeks will be tense. We will witness a series of tit for tat, of actions and reactions.

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Israel Exports Natural Gas To Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 31, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The Middle East is such a traditional region and yet, it's changing.
Israel is the cause of the change -- and it is very positive change.

Traditional ideas about energy sources were that the Arabs have it and Israel does not. For decades there were even jokes about it.

That's changing. As of mid-January, Israel will begin exporting natural gas to Egypt.

The agreement between Israel and Egypt was leaked to the media in October.

According to the details of the deal Israel will eventually provide 9 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to Egypt. That process will begin in January of 2020.

Jordan has also signed natural gas contracts with Israel.

Our parents would never have imagined a day when Israeli companies would be providing fossil fuel energy to an Arab country.
Never would have imagined!

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Optics & PA Pay to Slay
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 30, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

“Optics” is a concept in politics and PR. The principle is that public perception of an action or inaction reflects directly on the cause or candidate. Leaders in democratic societies always want to optimize good optics and reduce the impact of bad optics.

Even dictatorships embrace the concept of optics. They, too, are concerned about international perceptions and pressure despite not preserving the rights of their residents.

Israel recently announced and now passed a new policy. They will close bank accounts used to pay terrorists and their families. Israel also announced that they will deduct $150 million from the tax money they collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority at Israeli ports. The $150 million is the amount annually given to terrorist and their families. It is a concept known as “pay to slay.” The more you murder the more you get paid. A failed attempt to murder Israelis is rewarded less than a successful mass murder.

In response to Israel’s new policies, the PA has said that they will continue to pay those wounded, arrested or killed. They will find ways to pay their murderers – whom they call martyrs. It is their right to pay and they will not adhere to an Israeli blockade.

Palestinian Minister of Coordination of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh said that this, “is another step of escalation meant to impose a financial blockade on us … "We will continue to pay stipends to the families of the martyrs and the wounded - no matter what's the cost."

Several Palestinian ministries are responsible for this “pay to slay” policy. The Ministry of Prisoner Affairs, for example, is dedicated to work on behalf of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

There is very little that Israel can do to successfully incentivize Palestinians to stop their policy of mass murdering Israelis. The pay scale for terrorists is one of the highest pay scales within the PA.

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New Anti-Semitism
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 29, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

We are witnessing new anti-Semitism. It is spreading and spreading quickly.

Never would I have envisioned so many blatant attacks against Jews. Never would I have imagined that Jews would physically be attacked for simply being Jewish. Verbal and physical attacks have reached new heights and I do not see them diminishing, I see them increasing.

Last night’s terror attack in Monsey, when a machete wielding African American attacked a Hanukkah celebration wounding five people is another example of this new anti-Semitism.

Of course politicians decried the attack. But it is is silence from leaders – role models who need to speak out and really condemn these acts, that is deafening.

These attackers are no longer outliers, they are not marginal people. They are attacking every day and often in broad daylight.

Where are the religious leaders? Where are the African American religious leaders? Why are Jews standing all alone confronting this scourge? Why has the community at large not stood up and said these ideas and actions are not acceptable?

Could it be that these leaders are silent because it is they who stimulate the hatred and tolerate the hatred?

Religious leadership of America step forward! Jewish America needs you to step forward. If not for our sake, do it for your own sake. If you do not stand with the Jews of America, you are, in essence, telegraphing the message that you are complicit in this growing scourge of anti-Semitic attacks.

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Israel Prepping for War
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 27, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

When Israel’s IDF chief of staff speaks, it is important to listen.

Aviv Kochavi recently spoke at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herziliya. His address had a far larger audience that simply those in the room - and he knew it.

The IDF chief of staff was speaking to Israel and to Israelis. He was speaking to Iran. He was speaking to Hezbollah and to Hamas. Believe me, everyone was listening. He was taking about the next war.

Kochavi said that Israel’s pre-emptive strikes in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza could push the enemy to attack and even tip the response to a full blown war.

To Israel and to Israelis, the chief of staff said that he was prepared for the next war. He said the next war will be costly to the home-front and to the soldiers.
He explained that to win, it will require boots on the ground. He said that Hezbollah’s storage piles have at least 150,000 rockets. He said that Israel must destroy Hezbollah’s ability to strike.

To Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, Kochavi said that Israel is prepared way beyond air strikes. He emphasized that Israel’s reputation for not having the fortitude to take losses is incorrect. He said that a real win requires Israel to use more than missiles and air force jets.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said that Israel will do what needs to be done to win.

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More Protests in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 26, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is blocking mobile internet - again. They are doing it for the same reason they always do it – to make it more difficult for protestors to communicate and organize.

In certain Iranian provinces, the internet is totally shut down.

Iran is expecting huge demonstrations starting Thursday. Protestors are hoping for 250,000 people. One of the motivational tools protest organizers use to get people out to the protests is video clips of others protesting. The obvious messaging and announcements of the protests are important but they only go so far in penetrating the intimidation and fear factor that Iranian leadership has perfected.

On the flip side, Iranian TV is broadcasting clips of protestors being beaten and shot while protesting. Their message, too, is obvious. If you protest this will happen to you!

Now we wait and see. Will the Iranian masses swarm to the streets? Will Iranian leadership authorize the killing of masses of innocent protestors in order maintain their power?

By tomorrow we should have answers.

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Message App Spies on US
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 24, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Spying, by way of a communications app, means that someone can see and hear everything and everyplace you go.

The UAE has literally forced everyone to use the messaging app To Tok. They have outlawed and blocked Skype, Facetime and other similar apps. That means that anyone in the UAE who communicates with anyone outside the UAE is being closely watched. It also means that all those outside the UAE who were
communicated with, are now also being watched.

Even if you delete the app you are still being watched.

The UAE company behind the To Tok app is called Breej Holding. They are directly linked to and quite possibly the sponsor of the hacking group Dark Matter.

Dark Matter is responsible for numerous disruptions and hacks around the world. They are probably all connected to PAX-AI, a nefarious hacker company headquartered in Abu Dhabi.

This is very bad. This is an app sent out to hack and downloaded in the open market that lends government the ability to watch your every move. The kicker is the app was developed by evil hackers and put right onto the phones and tablets of unsuspecting people.

The NYTimes has uncovered this story. They ran an excellent piece explaining just how deep spying goes. The hacker and cyber security communities are buzzing and reeling from this discovery.

The app was removed from the App Store and the Play Store. That is a small consolation. The damage is done.

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Iran Cracking down Killing 1500
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 23, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is experiencing a phenomenon not typically seen in that country - huge protests.

According to Reuters Media which quoted three separate Iranian Interior Ministry sources, 1500 Iranian protestors and security officers have been killed since December 16th.

That would make this the bloodiest two weeks in Iran since the 1979 Revolution.

The sources say that orders came from the highest level of leadership to shut down the protests and the anti-government movement fueling the protests. In Iran, “shutting down” often mean kill.

The Supreme Leader has demanded that the protests stop now – if not he will hold the leaders of the protest responsible. According to a source in the inner circle of the government, the Grand Ayatollah said: “The Islamic Republic is in danger. Do whatever it takes to end it. You have my order.”

At first, Amnesty International and other groups originally estimated 300 deaths.
Then the US State Department upped that to 1000 deaths. Now the Iranians are giving even higher numbers. These numbers include 17 teens and 400 women.
Iranians are saying that over 200,000 people are taking part in the demonstrations against the government.

We don’t know how this will end, but we do know that, for Iran, this is transformative. Iranian leadership is running scared.

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Athens Burned Israeli Flag at B-Ball Game
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 18, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

On Wednesday Israeli Basketball team Hapoel Yerushalim played in Athens against AEK Athens. It was part of a GameDay 9 Match.

400 Hapoel fans accompanied their team to cheer them on. The Israelis were met by and totally surrounded by security. The Israelis were not welcome in Athens.

The Athens fans burned the Israeli flag. They held up Hamas flags and pictures of convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti, now serving time in sn Israeli prison. The Israeli's were stunned.

On one twitter post an Israeli can be heard saying how painful it was to watch her country's flag burn, but there was nothing that could be done.

At one point a large group of Athens fans converged on Israelis, chanting and shouting. Security stepped up and the crowd retreated.

The Israeli team made an appeal to the International Basketball Federation arguing that this kind of behavior does not belong in sports. Several investigations have begun. I hope that the Athens fans who behaved in this way are disciplined and that these kinds of fans are banned.

Basketball cannot fall victim to the violence and politics of European football and hooliganism.

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Christmas in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 18, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Christmas was celebrated in Israeli schools this year.
Arutz 7 reported that in a school in Herziliya, Christmas was given preferred treatment. I was stunned

A parent explained that: "Our son, who is in eighth grade, told us he doesn't understand why the school's staff is working to provide preferential treatment of Christian holidays at the expense of Jewish holidays. It seems that the school made a concerted effort to make the Christian holiday attractive, while neglecting and marginalizing Hanukkah."

The parent described school exhibits about Hanukkah and Christmas commenting that the Christmas display was well thought out while the Hanukkah display was drab and rundown.

Israel is the Jewish state. Israeli culture is Jewish.
While 2% of Israel is Christian and minority rights are very important, schools should teach about other traditions - celebrating them is a different story.

Interestingly, at 2% of the population, Christians are a smaller group than "other", which numbers at 4% of Israel's population in response to the question of religion. There are more "other" than Christians in Israel.

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More A/S in NYC
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 17, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Anti-Semitism is much more prevalent than we even imagined. People now feel free to shout and say and even physically hit Jews.

I'm not certain how it happened - but everything has changed in the span of a few years. What was deemed unacceptable just a few years ago in the United States has transitioned from an isolated incident into a common occurrence.

I just watched a Facebook video of Lihi Aharon, an Israeli who defended a Jew on a NYC subway and was attacked in the process. The video shows a black woman shouting anti-Semitic vitriol, vile statements about Jews and at the Jew - unaware that Lihi was also Jewish. She continues to shout even after police come and subsequently arrest her.

Included in the woman's tirade was that more Jews should have been murdered in Jersey City. She called out to the obviously Jewish looking man that he was not Jewish because he is white. That particular phrase is from the standard script of many Jew haters. They believe that Jews are not Jews, they believe that blacks are the true Jews. That is what the Jersey City terrorist/murderers believed.

This movement is gaining in strength. It has become much stronger and leaders, especially responsible Christian Black leaders, must stand up and work hard to set the record straight. This hatred must be stopped.

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Israel's Numbers
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 16, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A new study from Israel's Census Bureau has posted a remarkable figure: 3.3 million people in Israel are immigrants.

That is a remarkable number, given the total numbers of Israel's population.

Israel's total population is just over 9 million and the Jewish population is just over 7 million. From the years 1990 to the present, 43.7% of Israel's immigrants made their way to Israel.

In real numbers, that means that nearly half the Jewish population and 1/3 of the total population came to Israel from elsewhere.

What a remarkable set of statistics.

Israel always saw herself as a refuge for Jews in trouble. Over the years the Jewish State has also become a magnet - a place where Jews do not just run in times of crisis, but as a place they move to in order to replace their home elsewhere in the Diaspora.

It is the Diaspora that is a temporary home - Israel is their permanent home.

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UK Blowout Election
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 13, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The British blowout election has many lessons to teach us.
Yes, it was a vote for Boris Johnson and especially his plan to exit the European Union - aka Brexit.

It was also a vote against Jeremy Corbyn and his new Labour Party.
Corbyn has not just embraced anti-Semitic rhetoric, not just articulated anti-Israel stances, the wannabe prime minister literally paid honor to a mass murderer - to the planner of the Munich Olympic massacre.

British electorate went to the polls not only to oust the EU, they went to oust Jeremy Corbyn. This was a clear disciplinary move.

Reading the results of the election the message was clear: Labour was informed that the new direction heralded by Cobryn did not bring votes. Cobryn failed.

This was about a vote against Corbyn’s new Labour Party.

Voters wanted to bring back the moderates - their message was loud and clear.

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Trump's Order Against A/S
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 12, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

President Trump signed an executive order that will withhold federal money from colleges and universities that do not stand up against anti-Semitism.

The US cannot either sanction or condone anti-Semitism or, for that matter, any form of hatred. The government certainly cannot financially subsidize that behavior – and that behavior is running rampant on campuses across the country, campuses that take money from the federal government.

For too long, anti-Semitism has run unchecked on campus.

This is not an issue of freedom of speech. This is not a first amendment issue. People’s hatred and their ability to spout that vitriol is, was and will continue to be protected.

This is something else.

This is about the United States government giving money to agencies that support hatred. And this practice will now be stopped. Obviously, it includes public colleges and universities, but private institutions of higher learning are also the recipients of significant sums of federal money and they, too, fall under this executive order.

This executive order could have huge implications. The president signed the order, now there must be follow up.


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Rhouhani To Visit Japan
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 11, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

It looks official. Iran’s President Rouhani will visit Japan on December 19th where he will have talks with his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

These are important talks.

Japan is a perfect country for Iran to use as a conduit to the West. They are a world force and yet small. They are pro US, but are Asian and their interests are in keeping Asia safe.

Iran trusts Japan. And at the same time Abe has a direct line in to the White House.

The meeting is an opportunity for Abe and Rouhani to speak frankly.

Very seldom is there a situation in which we can witness the behavior and eavesdrop on the conversation of Iran. The Iranians are, typically, either extremely defensive or simply creating a veneer.

This meeting may give us insight into the method and madness of the Iranian thought process.

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Erdogan Again Spews A/S Lies
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 10, 2019

I've Been Thinking:


Turkey’s President Erdogan is once again fabricating anti-Semitic lies about Israel.

Literally, right out of the Middle Ages, Erdogan is spreading evil canards about how Jews attack non-Jews.

He said, for example, that Israelis are just “mercilessly” murdering Palestinians on the streets.

These are statements from the official translated Turkish president’s website:

“We today face a Palestine on the streets of which innocent girls, fathers, mothers, elderly people, children and young people are openly executed and mercilessly murdered by Israel … What is more, Western countries and — I regret to say — some Arab states practically encourage this brutality of Israel. We, as Turkey, most of the time feel ourselves left alone in our objections to the oppression in Al-Quds and Palestine.”

True to form, Erdogan is fomenting anti-Semitism.

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Israel is Not A Banana Republic
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 8, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is scheduling a third election in one year.

Israel is not a banana republic, it is a strong democracy, and Israel is still in the laboratory stages.

Think about it. The United States is going through crazy political gyrations and no one is questioning its democratic foundations.

There are many who draw parallels between the leadership of Israel and the United States, between Netanyahu and Trump. There are some similarities but the differences are tremendous. What most critics are latching on to is that both Trump and Netanyahu face public hearings. Impeachment in the United States, trial in Israel.

Ahmed Tibi, Arab member of Knesset, said that his constituency will come out to vote in force this next election in order to oust Netanyahu. He said: "The Joint List will be strengthened and will gain more seats in the upcoming elections."

Tibi then added his opinion offering that both Trump and Netanyahu will removed from office and the world will be better. He said: "2020 will be the year of impeachment of two people without whom the world will be better - Trump and Netanyahu. We will replace Netanyahu with the election where some Arab voters will cast more votes than the last election."

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Merkel in Auschwitz
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 6, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

On Friday morning German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Auschwitz.

This was her first ever trip to Auschwitz and the third time a German head of state has visited. Merkel has visited other camps and has visited Yad VaShem which is Israel's Holocaust Museum located in Jerusalem.

The visit is significant. Auschwitz is the "camp of camps". It was at Auschwitz that the Nazi murder factory was most efficient, it was there that the Nazis murdered 1.1 million people.

That Germany has acknowledging their responsibly for the murder of the Jews of Europe, is an essential act. The Chancellor's visit to Auschwitz clearly broadcasts that message to all those who question the Holocaust.

In addition to her visit, Merkel committed an additional $60 million to maintain and preserve exhibits in the Auschwitz Museum. This brings the total gift of the German government to $120 million, all earmarked for preserving evidence that has been deteriorating over time.

Auschwitz impacts everyone. It is hard to imagine a single place where an industry of death was created in order to murder so many people, in such a short time, for no reason - other than being Jewish.

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Bibi Meets w Pompeo
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 5, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Lisbon, Portugal where he met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They spoke about Iran and the role of Iran in the Middle East.

Netanyahu said, "Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak" in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and Gaza. The Israeli prime minister thanked US President Trump for applying pressure on Iran.

Pompeo talked about Iranian protesters and how they yearn for freedom. He said, "These are people that are seeking freedom and a reasonable way to live, and they recognize the threat that's posed by the kleptocrats who are running the Islamic Republic of Iran."

It's obvious that the United States and Israel see eye to eye on Iran and the damage that Iran is creating in the region and around the world.

The question is: What now?

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Israelis Help
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 4, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

There was an earthquake in Albania. Now 54 people are dead, 2,000 are injured and about 4,000, people have been left homeless.

Most of us can’t find Albania on a map. Yet, Israel sent off a team of earthquake specialists to help.

Israel has developed an expertise in helping countries and communities regain their equilibrium following a disaster.

The Israelis send teams across the world wherever there is a natural disaster. The teams include engineers, doctors, social workers, local specialists, master communicators and community organizers. Every team also has a dog or several dogs that have been trained as canine survivor sniffers who help find people who may be trapped as a result of the disaster and destruction.

There are multiple teams like this in Israel that are dispatched to save lives and help those who have survived in the wake of earthquakes.

This is a part of the character the Jewish State of Israel. Israelis help people in need. Official representatives of Israel travel all over the world helping people.

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China Russia Iran - Wargames
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 3, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Russia, China and Iran are planning join war games in the Straits of Hormuz and the Indian Ocean - on land, sea and air. This is an important move by the great powers in the world, countries that set themselves up as a check against the United States and US interests.

The link between Iran, China and Russia is incredibly dangerous.
In November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "We, the People's Republic of China and Iran are preparing naval drills for fighting terrorists and pirates in this part of the Indian Ocean,"

Iran announced this week that in December: a "joint war game between several countries, whether on land, at sea or in the air, indicates a remarkable expansion of cooperation among them."

Secretary of the National Security Council in Iran, Ali Shamkhani, explained why this is happening. He said that: "The countries that have had the biggest share in creating tensions and insecurity in the region and plunged the region into chaos and destruction by waging multiple wars and spreading terrorism have never been after the Persian Gulf's stability and security, and only seek to fulfill their own interests and plunder the region."

The problem is that Iran has stimulated and sponsored some of these vile elements he describes. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse.

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Trump Talks to Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 2, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

US President Trump spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday. The White House released an email statement following the call.

According to the White House email statement: "The leaders discussed the threat from Iran, as well as other critical bilateral and regional issues".

There has been some distance between DC and Jerusalem.
The tension has more to do with Trump's lack of patience with Israeli politics than with actions or statements.

Donald Trump does not understand why Bibi Netanyahu has been unable to secure the premiership despite his two two attempts. The US President thinks of Bibi as a winner and a great leader -- and yet, after two elections, his leadership is in question. A third election is on the horizon in Israel. It will probably be held in March.

In the meantime, Israel has an interim PM … but that will not lift the tension or change the perspective of the US President.

Trump likes Netanyahu. More than anything else, Trump like success.
Donald Trump is not a patient man. In this case he is going to have to wait until March, Israeli politics do not march to his drum.

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Disunity among Arabs
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 1, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The actions and counter-actions during the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, when Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched rockets into Israel and Israel responded by targeting Islamic Jihad and not Hamas, was unique.

That Israel did not hold Hamas responsible for the rocket fire and that Hamas did not respond and defend Islamic Jihad, was also unique.

What requires more attention is the response of the Palestinians in the West Bank to the conflict.

West Bank Palestinians were, effectively, silent.

Thirty-four Gazans were killed and one hundred and eleven were wounded. There were no West Banks protests. No uptick in attacks against the army or against Israeli settlers. No increased terror attacks. There was a serious conflict going on in Gaza and no response from fellow Palestinians a few miles away.

This is not unique, in fact, it is very common. Palestinians of the West Bank do not share common goals or even family ties with Palestinians in Gaza.

Throughout the years of conflict, certainly since 2007 when Hamas brutally threw the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza, there has been little or no official or unofficial interaction.

In Arabic this cultural separation is called "Ya Wahdana"- "You are Alone." It comes from a famous poem by Mahmud Darwish describing the Palestinian situation in the larger Arab and Muslim world. In this case, it refers to Gazans and Gazans only.

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Hamas Cancels Riots
By Micah Halpern

Thursday 28, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

For the third week in a row the leaders of Hamas in Gaza have cancelled Friday’s March of Return.

The March is a massive weekly riot on the border between Israel and Gaza. Every Friday, for well over a year, Palestinians organized a violent set of attacks against Israeli soldiers. They rushed the border, threw firebombs, shot guns and slingshots at Israelis and launched balloons and drones with bombs.

Until now.

Now, for the third week, Hamas has called it off. The reason for the cancelations is clear. Hamas is holding up their end of a ceasefire, part of which included reducing tensions with Israel.

Let’s see if it lasts.

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Arab Journalists Tour Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday 27, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A group of Arab Journalist toured Israel last week as guests of the Foreign Ministry. The journalists came from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Egypt. They spent five days in Israel.

This was the second trip of its type in six months. Unlike the last trip, none of the journalists in this group wanted to go public and make people aware that they were visiting Israel.

If you remember, in the last group a famous Saudi blogger went public and was subsequently assaulted on the Temple Mount went he went to pray at the Mosque of al Aqsa.

Ironically, this visit coincided with the London Conference, a meeting of forward thinking Arab leaders that endorsed a call for Arabs to stop boycotting Israel.

Two steps forward, one step backward - change is slow but it seems to be on the way.

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Pompeo Tells Arabs to Recognize Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday 26, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Monday that the Arab world should stop boycotting Israel. He said that if they would just talk to Israel, the Arab world would gain so much.

Pompeo tweeted: “It’s time for Arab countries to abandon boycotts and engage #Israel,”

Pompeo tweeted. “#MiddleEast divisions = instability.”

Pompeo tweeted: “Arab thinkers who risk their lives to bravely advocate a regional vision of peace and coexistence shouldn’t face retribution. We need dialogue.”

Secretary of State Pompeo was referencing the Conference of Arab Thinkers in London that called on the Arab world to accept Israel. Leading, forward thinking, unafraid Arab thinkers from fifteen countries bravely gathered to assert that the time has come for Arabs and Muslims to embrace Israel.

Kudos to those who attended the conference. Kudos to Mike Pompeo.

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US Chiefs of Staff Visits ISrael
By Micah Halpern

Monday 25, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, visited Israel on Sunday. He met with his Israeli counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi.

The IDF released a statement about the meeting. The official statement read that Milley’s visit was a sign of “the depth of the partnership between the forces and its importance in promoting regional stability.”

This is no small event. Tensions in the region are high. Iran is flexing its muscles all over. Their support for Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon and in Syria is two examples of Iran’s involvement very lose to Israel’s borders.

Iran has forces and advisers on the ground in Syria. That is way too close for Israel’s and the United States’ comfort.

Add to that Iran’s nuclear expansion activities and their moves against the US drone and against Saudi oil sites. Iran is feeling very secure.

Israel and the United States need to be on the same page to be able to check Iran when necessary.

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Arabs Against BDS
By Micah Halpern

Sunday 24, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The New York Times ran a piece recently about the Arab Council for Regional Integration, a conference that took place in London.

The conference consisted of a group of Arabs who came to the conclusion that rejection of Israel has failed and actually hurt the Arab cause. They determined that the time has come to not just recognize Israel, but to cooperate with Israel.

The conference was sponsored by the Center for Peace Communications, a US group and it featured Arabs from business, academia, the media and even from political families.

It is essential to realize that there are Arab leaders who understand that dealing with Israel can be mutually beneficial. That, even when the parties disagree, there are still benefits to meeting and creating deals that will help grow the region.

This is a major step forward.

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Russian Tourists to Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday 22, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Two Russian tour agencies are offering excursions to Syria.
The itineraries include Damascus, Aleppo and Roman remains of Palmyra, also known as the “Bride of the Desert.”

The cost of the 8-day trip is $1950, US dollars. This does not include flights, visa fees and insurance. Pricey -- but people are signing up.

According to the website of the Russian foreign ministry, they strongly advise against traveling to Syria.

So far in 2019, 334 Russian tourists visited Syria. That was three times the number of Russian visitors in 2018. It looks like Syria will host even more Russian tourists in 2020.

It is hard to imagine why any Russian, or anyone at all, would want to visit Syria. Then again, there are people who are actually excited going into war zones. There is a niche market for tourist who want to be the first or for those who want to explore dangerous areas.

These Russian tour agencies have tapped into that culture.

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Iran Shuts the Internet
By Micah Halpern

Thursday 21, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iranians have been protesting over huge hikes in the price of gasoline.
There was a real chance that these protests were going to grow and expand and maybe even topple the Iranian regime. So Iranian leadership jumped in and reacted.
They sent in brutal police to intimidate the protestors. And the Iranian Revolutionary Guards announced that if the protests do not stop, they will step in. The threat was well understood.
I addition, on Saturday Iranian leadership shut off the internet. It was off for four days and when turned back on – only 4% of the internet actually resumed.
When the internet is turned off in Iran real communication is effectively squashed.
Iranian leadership had never before choked the internet to this extent. They liked what they saw. They saw how effective this method was.

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US Carrier Thru Hormuz
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday 20, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The USS Abraham Lincoln, a US aircraft carrier, passed through the Strait of Hormuz yesterday along with accompanying ships.

The carrier group went through the Strait very slowly. The entire passage was tense.

On one side of the Strait is Iran.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have been very high.
The United States blames Iran for hijacking oil tankers and for shooting down a US drone. The United States is also claiming that Iran attacked oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Iran has threatened to attack a US military ship in the region.

The USS Abraham Lincoln and the carrier group are in the region to try to protect oil, shipping and other interests of the United States in the region.
Iran is monitoring every move.

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Russia Poaching US Clients
By Micah Halpern

Monday 18, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Russia is expanding their weapons program.
The Russians are on the prowl for new clients interested in buying their fighter jets and missiles. Egypt has been enticed and they are in talks with Russia about augmenting their air force.
If the sale goes through, it would a violation of US contracts. Until now, ever since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been supplying Egypt with weaponry.
R. Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary of State in the US Bureau of Political- Military Affairs, issued a very bold and direct statement at the Dubai Air Show. The assistant secretary said that if Egypt buys Russian hardware: "It puts them at risk of sanctions and it puts them at risk of loss of future acquisition."
There are other sanctions that the US would apply. These would include spare parts and technology and anything that is connected even remotely to military assistance.
It would Egypt in the long run. But Russia really wants to break the US hold on countries like Egypt and is making their offers sound very attractive.

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Iran:"We're Not Anti-Semitic"
By Micah Halpern

Sunday 17, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The Supreme Leader of Iran, the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, announced that he is not anti-Jewish at all.

At an Islamic conference in Tehran The Supreme Leader told the participants: “Calling for the elimination of the state of Israel does not mean the elimination of the Jewish people.” The comments were posted to his official website.

He continued “It means that the people of Palestine - be they Muslim, Christian or Jewish - should choose their own government.”

Iran is responding to the claims that they are planning to destroy Israel. The Supreme Leader wants it to be clear that his attitude toward Israel is political and theological.

It is certain that The Supreme Leader does not really think that there should be an election to determine the political leadership of the area. He is making a gesture to rebut his vehement threats to destroy Israel.

When you plan to wipe out a nation of 7 million Jews that is called anti-Semitism. Most of those 7 million people are not religious - they are simply Jews and they will be targeted because they are Jews.


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Cease Fire In Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Thursday 14, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A cease fire between Islamic Jihad and Israel went into effect at 5:30am.
As has become the custom, air raid sirens and rockets attacks persisted even after the cut off time.

The military exchange started on Tuesday and ended on Thursday. Thirty-two Palestinians were killed. Israel maintains that almost all were terrorists.
Islamic Jihad launched well over 450 rockets into Israel in a 48 hour period. That averages out to nearly 10 per hour - one rocket every 360 seconds on average.

Islamic Jihad threatened the international diplomats who were delivering messages from Israel. The threats were that intermediaries could get hurt because they are in the way and they are delivering messages from Israel.
It's over, technically, but it's never really over between Islamic Jihad and Israel.

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New Gaza Conflict
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 13, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The conflict out of Gaza is unique in many ways:
It pits Islamic Jihad against Israel - Hamas has stood on the sidelines
No one wants an escalation
Hamas is pleased with the ceasefire that has been in place since May

Israel's first strike was extremely surgical as have been their subsequent strikes. They are now taking out many above ground Islamic Jihad rockets.
Hamas does not control Islamic Jihad. They will watch, and smile, while Israel takes Islamic Jihad down a few notches.

In an effort to display unity, Hamas and Islamic Jihad released a joint statement saying that they are united. But it is not true. Their statement read: "We will not accept efforts by the occupation to resume their cowardly policy of targeted killings."

Islamic Jihad is unpredictable. Targeting their leader saved Israeli lives - never doubt that. The aftermath was predictable. But after a serious operation in which Israel depletes or destroys much of their weapons caches, the status quo and quiet will resume.

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Russian Sub in Israel's Waters
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 12, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A Russian submarine was spotted in Israeli territorial waters. The sub ventured eight nautical miles in. That's a lot, given that the area spans only twelve nautical miles.

The story was broken by YNet news, the Yediot website. The incident took place three months ago.

Once Israel discovered the Russian sub, they contacted Russian leadership.

Russia and Israel have a mechanism in place to avoid conflict. They have a direct line of communication. Within minutes of activating the mechanism, the
Russian submarine returned to the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Luckily, this did not become an international incident.

Russia did not mistakenly wander into waters so close to Israel. There was a definite agenda. The closer the submarine got to Israel, the easier it would be to latch onto Israel’s computers and other electronic resources.

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Iran Discovers New Oil
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 11, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran’s president announced that the Iranians have discovered a huge new oil reserve.

President Rouhani said that they discovered a source containing 53 billion barrels of oil about 100 yards below the ground.

If true, this treasure trove would be only slightly smaller than the largest Iranian oil system which contains 63 billion barrels.

If true, this would move Iran into the # 3 slot in the list of countries with the greatest oil reserves.

If true, this discovery is so large that it would increase total OPEC reserves by 34%.

Add that to the announcement Iran made last month about a new discovery of natural gas. Something very big is happening in Iran.

The announcements are made publicly in an effort to reposition Iran in the eyes of supporters. The message Iran is sending out is that they are not down in the dumps – rather they are major players in the sphere of oil and natural gas.

The most important, albeit unspoken, point in these messages is that the United States is preventing Iran from tapping these resources. The United States will not permit Iran to extract and sell their badly needed natural resources.

The resources are badly needed by the world, the revenue is badly needed by Iran. These announcements help resuscitate Iran’s image.

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Israel Gives Land back to Jordan
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 10, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty on October 26, 1994.
The signing took place "somewhere: in the Arava Desert. I was there. It was historic and it was emotional.

Now, twenty-five years later, Jordan is walking back two elements in the treaty. The Jordanians are not breaking the treaty, provisions to reclaim certain areas were included in the original document and the Jordanians have decided to exercise that option.

# 1: Naharayim
Naharayim is an island, it is where the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers merge. The spot is a very important fresh water pumping and control station for the entire Jordan valley. Parenthetically, it is also the site where in 1997, a terrible massacre took place and seven Israeli high school girls were gunned down by a Jordanian soldier.

# 2: Tzofar
Tzofar is a plot of land in the Arava. Once dry and barren, thanks to Israeli care and agricultural science, it is now cultivated and flourishing.
Both areas are reverting back to Jordan. The government of Jordan put forth the requests a year ago as clearly articulated in the 1994 peace agreement.

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Pompeo At Shul
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 8, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the synagogue in Halle, Germany where last month a man threw bombs and shot people outside their synagogue. A Jewish massacre in the synagogue was averted only because those already inside the synagogue for prayers locked themselves in.

Secretary Pompeo wanted to take a stand against anti-Semitism. He also urged others to fight against anti-Semitism.

The secretary of state said, "Anti-Semitism is not just limited to certain places. We can find it everywhere… like in Pittsburgh. We must work together against this vicious attack on religious freedom.”

Pompeo is more than correct to fight anti-Semitism. Where he misses the point, however, is that hatred is not about religion and the practice of Judaism – the problem anti-Semites have is not universal hatred against religion, their problem is with Jews.

Anti-Semites have no problem with Judaism.

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Saudis Spy Using Twitter
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 7, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

According to charges filed in San Francisco, Saudi Arabia is directly connected to spying on Twitter users in America between May 21, 2015 and November 18, 2018. Two dual citizens of the United States and Saudi Arabia and one Saudi national were charged with accessing Twitter details and delivering the data to the Saudis.

The case is shocking.

Two Twitter employees and one handler were responsible for collecting the data of 6,000 critics of the Saudi regime. Not just their names, and usernames - they also accessed the meta data, the material that can show the geographic location of the user.

They did it In exchange for money and gifts.

Ahmad Abouammo, one of the dual citizens, was a media partnership manager at Twitter. He received $300,000 and a $20,000 Hubolt watch, paid by an unnamed person referred to as Saudi National -1.

Ali Alzabarah, the second Saudi/US dual citizen worked at Twitter as a site reliability engineer. He was confronted for accessing private Twitter info which was outside his job responsibilities. The next day he resigned by sending an email from a plane. He was on his way back to Saudi Arabia with his handler.
With the info gained from these spies the Saudi government boldly put in a request to Twitter for information on 33 Twitter usernames in what they called an "emergency disclosure".

Twitter admits that the nature of the industry creates "bad actors" who will try to undermine its service and that the company "limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees."

The company statement read: "We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable ... We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work."

This entire episode is very troubling. The redeeming point is that the Saudis were charged and that the government was named.

If you remember, the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis. Mysteriously, despite the fact that all flights in the US were grounded, private Saudi planes flew returning many Saudi nationals to the kingdom. The United States has and continues to block any move to investigate how the Saudis were involved.

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Putin Invests in Libya
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 6, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

You probably don't know this, most people don't, but Libya has been enveloped by a civil war. As a land mass, Libya is enormous, it is three times the size of Texas. It is the Tobruk aka the House of Representatives versus the General National Congress. It may sound purely political, but this is true military warfare.

Who does know about it? Vladimir Putin, for sure.

For years the Russians have been investing money and weapons in order to sway the outcome of the conflict. They are rooting for and supporting the Tobruk. Now -- and I mean right now -- Russia has put specialists with experience on the ground in Libya.

The numbers are, of course, unclear. This is Russia we are dealing with. But we do know that there are dozens of Russian snipers, Russian hardware and at least 200 Russian soldiers. Russian weaponry includes guided missiles and fighter jets. And there are many, many Russian mercenaries. These mercenaries function as a private Russian army and they are extremely useful. Because they are not soldiers, the mercenaries are unshackled and can do things an army cannot do.

Hundreds of drones are being used and they are all operated by people with great experience in civil wars. The Russian soldiers and the mercenaries all came to this war with vast experience gained in Syria.

What is the reason for Russia's interest in Libya? The answer has three letters. O-I-L.

The reserves are immense. Despite the internal conflict, Libya is still pumping 1.3 million barrels of oil per day.

Libya is so close to Europe that it is very important to secure those oil fields.
Moving the oil via pipeline or tanker is simple. Libya sits only 300 miles off the coast of Italy. That means that Libya is a valuable asset to acquire.

Russia knows it. Putin has his eye on the money and the oil. In Libya he can get both for a very tiny investment.

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Iran Breaks Nuke Ceiling
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 5, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has announced the third stage of their reaction to the pullout by the United States from the - now infamous - Nuke Deal of 2015.
In September the Iranians declared that stage three was in the works and on Monday, as promised, the announcement was made.
Iran is now producing more than the 5,000 rods of uranium way beyond what was agreed upon in the Deal. Until now, the Iranians were using old IR centrifuges, now they are using newer and better IR-6 centrifuges. They are enriching their uranium ten times faster than stipulated in the agreement and ten times faster than what they were enriching in September.
The announcement was made on Iranian TV.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Vice President of the Islamic Republic and Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency made the announcement. Salehi also said that Iran was working on IR-9 centrifuges which will be able to enrich fifty times faster than the IR-1.
The Iranians are public relations whizzes. They chose to release their information on TV, rather than at a press conference, to show the Iranian masses that Iran is snubbing its nose at the West, in particular, at the United States.

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Iran To Re-Build Syrian Electricity
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 4, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Syria and Iran just signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

Iran agrees to rebuild Syria’s electricity infrastructure. Iran agrees to rebuild Syria’s power plant transmission line. Most importantly, Iran agrees to link their electric grid with Syria’s electric grid.

Syria has been isolated by the Western world. Russia and China have not come forward to rebuild the Syrian electricity infrastructure – Iran has.

This link between Syria and Iran demonstrates a deep interaction between the two states. They are linked by mutual interests and by mutual gains and more than that, they are linked because they share mutual enemies.

Iran and Syria need one another.

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They Still Blame Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 1, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

President Bashar Assad claims that the protests in Lebanon and in Iraq as well the civil war that has ripped his country apart for the last eight years are all the fault of Israel and the United States. The Syrian president said that all these events are “tools serving Israel directly or through the Americans”.

He said “this is self-evident. Even if we do not discuss it, it is one of our national givens in Syria.”

Iran has joined the chorus. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif is also claiming that the protests in Lebanon and Iraq are sponsored by Israel.

Of course, this is totally absurd.

The blame Israel game is an old story. Blaming Israel for all things gone wrong is a historic tradition that has enveloped the Middle East.

These voices are becoming stronger. But so are the voices of other Middle East countries willing to break down traditional views of Israel and move closer and closer towards normalization.

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Is It A New Arab Spring
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 31, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Given the prolonged protests in Lebanon and Iraq, there is talk about another Arab Spring.

In Egypt, in Gaza, in Iran and in other countries across the Middle East there have been massive police crackdowns in response to protests and rallies against dictatorships, authoritarian leaders and monarchies.

Protests of this sort can shake a society to its core.

In Syria, the protests which started far away from the capital grew and spread and have now enveloped almost the entire country, including the capital city Damascus. It is those protests which resulted in the Syrian civil war responsible for the bedlam we are seeing today.

The situation in the Middle East is explosive. Protests can spread as quickly as wildfire. Middle East leaders know this well. They are acting to protect their power and their positions.

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New Poll on A/S
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 30, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A new poll about Anti-Semitism was published recently.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) sponsored the study of 1,283 people over a period of a month.

The most telling or even shocking result of the poll is that 1/3 of the Jews are afraid to wear Jewish identifying marks in public. They were referring to wearing Stars of David and other Jewish symbols and jewelry. The exact wording of the questions was "avoided publicly wearing, carrying or displaying things that might help people identify them as Jews."

1/4 of the respondents said that they avoided public Jewish events for fear for their safety. 9 out of 10 Jews asked say that Anti-Semitism is a real issue today.

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Wrong Headlines- Shame
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 29, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Why should any of this surprise me. The headline in the Washington Post called one of the most brutal murderers in the modern era an “austere religious scholar.” The headline continued "Dies at 48."

Remarkably, this was the second headline the rework. The first called Baghdadi "Terrorist in Chief."

Finally on Monday morning, a new headline emerged on the website. "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48." No doubt this third headline is much better - but it is still far from a true depiction of the magnitude of the news.

I am an equal opportunity critic. Everything President Trump does as president is not perfect. When I disagree, I explain where he is off base in my analysis. I think he would appreciate the honesty and the analysis. It is how we play the game. All thinkers can and should be able to disagree about ideas.

But when Trump does the correct thing and scores a huge victory for freedom and democracy and the US. Everyone should applaud.

Everyone should applaud even if you dislike Trump. This no different than when your arch rival team makes a great play -- a one in a million perfect triple play. Honesty, intellectual honesty and ethics demands that you acknowledge the greatness of the moment. Enjoy it and compliment the other team.

Shame on those who did not see how significant this moment is.

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Killing Al Baghdadi
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 28, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Al Baghdadi, arch terrorist, founder and head of ISIS, was killed in a US Special Ops mission in Syria.

Now that Baghdadi has been killed, will that put the nail in the coffin of ISIS?

Unfortunately, Baghdadi’s death will probably not make a big difference.

Killing Baghdadi was important for the United States. It spoke to our sense of justice, but it has very little to do with ISIS.

Many of Baghdadi’s underlings have already been targeted by the United States. There are still many more senior ISIS members and an internal power struggle will emerge for the new ISIS leader. While Baghdadi was the terrorist organization’s figurehead while alive, in death his position could be even more powerful.

ISIS is as strong as ever and still growing. 11,000 ISIS prisoners have walked out of Syria’s Kurdish jails. They are now regrouping, organizing and readying to fight under their original mandate.

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Protests Ripple Effect in MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 25, 2019

I've Been Thinking:


The protests in Lebanon are having a ripple effect in the Middle East. People in
Lebanon have been taking to the streets to protest against government corruption and mismanagement.

Hamas in Gaza is afraid that the residents will learn form Lebanon and swarm to the streets and protest in Gaza.

So Hamas has arrested dozens of political leaders from groups and parties and organizations that might want to challenge Hamas especially those who have the potential to gather protesters.

This is another great example of the inter-connectedness of the issues across the Middle East. Even the small internal politics of Lebanon impact Gaza and probably many other places in the Middle East.

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Palestinian Converts to Judaism
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 24, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A 50 year-old Palestinian man from Hebron converted to Judaism on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

His name has not been made public. But we do know that on the eve of Yom Kippur the new convert paid a visit to Hebron, his home town.

And then, as he was visiting his children, Palestinian police came, dragged him out and beat and arrested him. He is still in prison. All because he converted to Judaism.

The convert is proud of his status. His grandfather saved 26 Jews during the horrific massacre in Hebron in 1929.

There is an important lesson here: Palestinians are not open to any alternative to established, Islamic, Palestinian lifestyle.

How narrow minded. How sad.

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Israel to Attend to Summit in Bahrain
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 23, 2019

I've Been Thinking:


Israel’s Channel 13 reported that an Israeli delegation will attend a two-day summit in Manama, Bahrain starting on Sunday.

This is part two of a meeting that was sponsored by the United States and originally held in Poland in February.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman will attend the conference and they have made it clear that they will certainly address the "Iranian threat in the Persian Gulf.”

This conference is another example of how relations with Israel are being normalized.

The normalization has caused others to be upset. Like Hamas, for example, which has condemned the meeting.

Now Hamas will probably target those countries that are publicly working with Israel against another Muslim country.


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Arabs Warn Against Trips to Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 20, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have issued travel warning against visiting Lebanon.
The warning also urged those in Lebanon to stay inside or even leave.

Over the past few days protests have enveloped Lebanon. Thousands have rushed to the streets and caused traffic jams. The military has cracked down. The protests continue.

It is all about economic reforms and the changes people are demanding from
Lebanese the government. Prime Minister Saad Hariri has promised reforms.
And Hezbollah, the powerful terror group that controls southern Lebanon, is the de facto king maker in the country and has thrown their support behind Hariri.

Until recently, Lebanon, especially the capital city Beirut, was returning to its old cultural self - a city of cafes and international appeal with a vibrant night life.

These protests are unique. Never before has here been such civil engagement in Lebanon about policy.

For decades the conflict and the protests were always about Christian/Muslim and Shiite/Sunni divisions. Now the protesters are demanding that the government, especially the cabinet, work together to solve the economic crisis and free up $11 billion to go towards infrastructure.

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China Buying Iran's Oil
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 18, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

China is the by far the country importing more Iranian oil than any other country in the world. The Chinese are doing so in direct opposition to US President Trump’s demand that they sanction Iran.

The Chinese have been turning off their GPS transponders making it impossible to know the exact location of their ships. That means that Chinese ships are not trackable when they go to Iranian ports. Then, after picking up their oil load, they turn their GPS back on and go on their way.

US sanctions have been successful. Before Trump imposed these sanctions Iran was exporting 2.5 million barrels of oil each day. Now their oil output has been cut to 400,000 barrels a day.

The White House is not happy with this situation. They are contacting Chinese shipping companies and warning them not to play games when it comes to sanctions.

It does not appear that China is taking the White House’s message to heart.

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UAE Luring Israeli Techies
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 17, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

DarkMatter is a cyber company headquartered in Cyprus. In reality, DarkMatter is actually a company that is run and controlled by the United Arab Emirates.

What makes this interesting fact even more interesting is DarkMatter is recruiting ex Israeli intel officers. They are luring them with annual salaries of nearly $1 million.

The Israelis were part of 8200, an elite cyber command unit that is responsible for the defense of Israel as well as creating offensive strategies to attack Israel’s enemies.

DarkMatter’s official goal is supposed to limit their work to defense but that is highly unlikely. They have already been accused of threatening and attacking activists and journalists.

Israeli leadership is concerned. Is Israeli know-how being used to attack innocent people? Is it helping an Arab dictatorship?

There is little doubt that people act in their best interest and $1 million is a huge incentive.

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Tensions Btw Israel and PA
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 13, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian leadership is preventing Palestinians from buying Israeli sheep and calves.

This is now a serious bone of contention.

Israel responded that if Palestinians continue with this policy, Israel will no longer buy Palestinian agricultural products.

Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Kamil Abu Rukun, said: “Israel will not allow boycotts of any kind against Israeli produce." He continued: “Because of the Palestinian Authority's unilateral decision, which is hurting the economies of both sides, and after several inquiries to resolve the issue on various levels, I have warned that if the situation does not return to normal, we will not allow much of the Palestinian agricultural produce to enter Israel."

Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem responded that Palestinians have the right to diversity in the items in its markets, including replacing Israeli products with Arab products.

This kind of economic gaming will hurt and even destroy the local economies. There is no doubt that it is much more efficient to trade locally.

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Gaza Arrests ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 8, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Can you imagine a situation where one terrorist group arrests a group of terrorists?

The leadership of Gaza arrested four ISIS members. They were planning attacks against Hamas leadership. All this was reported in the daily paper Al Akhbar a daily newspaper publishing in Beirut. The paper also said that these same four assassins were also involved in launching rockets against Israel.

This is where the story gets interesting. Hamas in Gaza has handed down a directive to stop firing rockets into Israel. The reason for this policy is purely practical. They want to stop Israel from countering or even invading. The cost is too high.

ISIS on the other hand is livid that Hamas is not attacking Israel at every possible moment. So, they have recruited Gazans to join their terrorist cause to not just attack Israel but to attack Hamas too.

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Putin Does it Again
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 7, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Russia is always finding ways to step up their game on the international stage. They are constantly pushing the buttons of the United States.

Vladimir Putin is a master of strategy. Russia's president never misses an opportunity to stick it to the US. He does that most effectively by challenging the authority and power of the United States and its role as leader of the free world.

At a conference held recently on the topic of International Politics held in the famous Russian resort city of Sochi, Putin announced that Russians are helping China build a warning system against missiles. That's big news. Until now, only the United States and Russia have had this exclusive kind of advanced technology.

Putin acknowledged the magnitude of this endeavor when he said: "This is a serious thing that will drastically increase the defense capabilities of the People's Republic of China.”

By helping China build this defense system Russia masterfully both advanced their own position and aided China - all of which further diminishes the position of the United States.

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Iran's Oil Exports
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 6, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

On Sunday Iran's oil ministry website posted a statement by Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh. The Iranian oil minister said that Iran will go to any length to export its oil and that it is their right do so.

Zanganeh said: "We will use every possible way to export our oil and we will not succumb to America's pressure because exporting oil is Iran's legitimate right."

He is correct on both counts.

Iran is going to great lengths to export their oil. And exporting their oil is their legitimate right.

US sanctions are on buying Iranian oil - not on Iran exporting their most significant natural resource, which happens to be oil.

Iran is not violating either international law or US sanctions by finding ways to export oil. Rather, it is the purchasers of that oil and the middle-men facilitating the purchases who are violating sanctions.

The most powerful and influential countries helping Iran are China and Russia. India is also getting oil from Iran -- but far less than China and Russia.

To get the oil, ships are turning off the tracking devices on their oil tankers and using pipelines to avoid being monitored by the United States. The problem with turning off transponders is that pirates have not lowered their profile since these tensions with Iran have surfaced and the tankers are making their job of boarding and taking over ships easier.

Turning off tracking devices can be extremely dangerous.

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Ships Waiting in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 3, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

20 ships with over 10,000 tons of grain are just sitting outside Iranian ports.
They are waiting to be off loaded.

The ships just sit and sit and wait.
The grain is badly needed by the people of Iran.
The grain has not been brought into port for several reasons.

Most significantly, Iran does not have the money to pay.

US sanctions have made it nearly impossible for Iran to purchase basic
necessities. But it's not just the cash crunch. Ships want to make certain that their delivery will not be seen by the watchful eyes of the United States.
Ship owners fear US economic retaliation. And rightfully so.

The United States is utilizing all forms of intelligence, satellites, drones, computers and human intel to monitor the situation. The US can find out whatever it needs to know.

Nonetheless, despite the pressure and the intel, two ships managed to unload their cargo over the past two weeks. But that is almost nothing relative to the tremendous needs of Iran.

US sanctions against Iran are having a significant effect, that seems obvious.

What seems equally as obvious is that the sanctions are, quite literally, starving Iranians.

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Russia: No Proof Against Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 2, 2019

I've Been Thinking:


The situation emerging in the oil and energy world is anything but simple.
Russia has proclaimed that Iran is not responsible for the bombing of Saudi oil infrastructure fields and refineries. Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani personally assured him that Iran had nothing to do with the bombing.

This interaction took place at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Yerevan, Armenia on Tuesday, October 1, 2019.

Putin said: "We condemn these (attacks) but we are against shifting the blame to Iran because there is no proof of that.” He went on to says that the US has provided not proof that it was Iran who launched the missiles and the drones.

This creates a sticky issue for the US and Saudi Arabia. How can they retaliate when Russia strongly and publicly asserts that Iran was not responsible?

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Saudi Pro Israel Blogger
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 29, 2019

I've Been Thinking:


Remember Mohammed Saud, the Saudi Blogger who speaks Hebrew, loves Israel and visited in July?

Saud has a following of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. And in honor of Rosh HaShanna he tweeted a New Year’s message in Hebrew.

On Friday Saud sang a beautiful sang called Achila Le’ayl, a prayer from the High Holiday services and addressed the prayer to his Ashkenazi brothers. He also tweeted a blessing to his Sephardi brothers.

When Mohammed Saud visited the Temple Mount back in July, some of the Muslim worshippers threw plastic chairs and plastic bottles at him. He is a lightning rod for and against him.

It should not surprise anyone that there is a negative response to a Muslim who loves Israel.

What is a surprise is that despite his love for Israel, Mohammed Saud has such a large and positive following. His popularity is growing daily.


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Abbas @ UN
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 27, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. He took advantage of the opportunity to lambast the United States and Israel.

Abbas used the term “aggressive” numerous times. That is in and of itself telling.

Of the subject of US and President Trump this is what Abbas said: "The United States has taken illegal and aggressive measures.”

No surprise there. Abbas is very upset that the Trump administration has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Speaking about Israel Abbas used the same term “aggression” but this time around he a very different tone and said: “The international community must put an end to Israeli aggression and arrogance."

“Aggression and arrogance”. Abbas is not even dealing with the legal aspect of aggression, but with arrogance -- the attitude. In this speech Abbas invoked the arrogant and aggressive stereotype of the Jew. It is a classic anti-Semitic canard. The Jew is pushy. The Jew is demanding. The Jew is haughty. The Jews is out of his place.

The speech delivered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly was vitriolic and anti-Semitic. Not surprisingly when Abbas spoke the words “Israeli aggression and arrogance,” he was met with great applause.

Welcome to the United Nations GA, circa 2019.

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Accidental Mtgs @ The UN
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 26, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Many very positive and often unpublicized developments take place during the annual UN General Assembly in NYC.

The GA is the perfect place for world leaders to unofficially meet or even plan to “accidently meet”. It is the place where aides meet and lay the ground work for future quiet dialogue. These meetings can be extremely successful and helpful, far away from the judgmental eyes of the public and the media.

It’s happening already. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz had an unofficial meeting late last night with his Russia counterpart Sergey Lavrov. They obviously discussed Syria and Iran.

And now the official statement of the Israeli Foreign Ministry mentions that Katz invited Lavrov to visit Israel.

This is a classic Jewish initiative – it is also very effective. Hospitality works. Seeing Israel and the issues facing Israelis first hand is a very useful way of convincing Russia that Israel’s concerns about Iran are very real and justified.


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Iran Says Israel Supports ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 25, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Just watched the Mike Wallace interview on Fox News with Iranian President Rouhani.

Rouhani said that Israel supports ISIS. He said that Iran actually destroyed ISIS.

He said that Trump destroyed the mutual trust by pulling out of the nuclear deal.

WOW -- talk about spin!!!!

A senior Iranian foreign ministry source added:
"We will never renegotiate a deal that took us years to reach ... Iran's leadership supports diplomacy but if Americans want to ease tension, they should lift sanctions and end pressure on Tehran."

These comments from the Rouhani and from the Iranian source show the true stance of Iran. Iran seems to see things only through their eyes. Rouhani says that they support those who are defending themselves and that Israel is the greatest terrorist in the world. Iran helps protect people against that Israel's terror. He asserted that Iran gives aid to help those oppressed and that they help defend the defenseless against Israeli aggression.

They certainly live in a different world.

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Iran is Hurting
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 24, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

US is acting against Iran. This is a direct response to Iran’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities. US has concluded that Iran perpetrated the attacks on September 14. England, France and Germany have also concluded that Iran attacked the Saudi oil fields and refineries.

So, the US is tightening sanctions on Iran. Brian Hook the US Special Envoy for Iran says that the US must move "prudently". The US does not want to move too quickly or to make a drastic mistake by attacking or acting too aggressively.

Hook spoke at the Asia Society in NYC he said: "It is that Iran has crossed the line by this attack on another country's sovereignty."

This kind of calculated, slow response to Iran is very unlikely to intimidate Iran.

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Iran's Game
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 23, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is waiting for an American response to their attack on Saudi oilfields and refineries. The Iranian strike resulted in collapsing Saudi oil production by 50% and reducing world oil by 5%.

A combination of 30 drones and cruise missiles launched from Iran into Saudi Arabia was the cause. It was an Iranian response to the west’s sanctions. Now Iran is awaiting the counter by the US and Saudi Arabia.

The verbal US response was not very intimidating. Both the US President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo both spoke strongly but then couched and trimmed their anger. This tamed response will not be interpreted as a threat by Iran – actually the opposite.

If sanctions are all that the US is intending to enact against Iran – then the Supreme Leader will undoubtedly release another military strike. He is playing a game by pushing the envelope. That is exactly what he did by downing the US drone earlier this summer. The lack of response or a limited response by simply imposing more sanctions led the Supreme Leader to consider and then embark on this attack on Saudi oil infrastructure. The Supreme Leader loves these games and he gets a perverse pleasure out of making the US squirm.

He will continue to play until he is put in his place. He knows that the Saudis cannot do it alone, so he is challenging the US. It seems that he believes that US President Trump cannot or does not have the personal strength to take to blowback from Iran and the rest of the world. The US is taking the easy way out through sanctions.

But know, Iran is going to continue to push the envelope. They will once again strike at a US ally. Maybe they will strike another Saudi refinery or maybe one in the UAE instead.

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China Invests in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 20, 2019
I’ve Been Thinking:

Things got much more complicated between the US, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

China just entered the scene in a gargantuan way. They recently signed a $400 billion deal with Iran. It is an investment in the form of a capital investment into the Iranian economy.

China is doing exactly the opposite of what the US is asking countries to do. China is providing the badly needed US dollars Iran needs in order to provide for basic necessities for the economy.

Now the US must confront China but will they.

If they do not it will signal to everyone else including Iran that the US has no bite behind their roar.

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Iran's Judo Champ
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 19, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Saeid Mollaei the Iranian Judoka who followed country's leaders’ orders and threw a match so as not to compete against an Israeli has been in hiding in Germany for fear of his life since the end of the competition.

He cannot contact his family in Iran for fear that they will be punished for his actions.

The fly in the ointment is that he really wants to compete in the upcoming Olympics in Japan but certainly cannot and will not compete for Iran. He now has no country.

Now there is a solution for Mollaei and others. The International Olympic Committee has created a special team for refugees for this very purpose.

But there is another problem --- an athlete of the level of Mollaei needs to practice and needs to internationally. That draws attention. He will not be able to stay underground for long.

Mollaei is in Germany under a sports visa he did not request asylum.

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Israeli Election Results
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 18, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Israel just finished their second election in 5 months and the results are important. Very important.

It does not matter who got more votes. What matters is -- who can carve out a coalition of 61 of the 120 members of Knesset to govern.

Many pundits are saying the best bet is a broad-based coalition of the two largest parties Likud and Blue and White. This is doubtful. A broad based coalition may not be stable.

There is a very important point to be made. The Joint Arab List will not and
cannot join any Israeli government coalition Blue and White or any other one.

So counting them as part of the center left block is dishonest and wrong.

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More Oil Disruptions By Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 17, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

I’ve Been Thinking:

Iran has made it clear. There will be no meeting between US President Trump and Iranian President Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City at the end of September.

President Trump is saying the same thing. In speaking about “fake news” which, he says, is claiming that he wants to meet with Iran without conditions: “That is an incorrect statement as usual.”

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the possibility of a Trump/Rouhani meeting “speculation” and said “this meeting will not happen.”

Those statements come as a major relief for Israel. Hearing that Trump is not running to Iran means that Israel and the United States are still on the same page regarding Iran.

Iran is expanding plans to destabilize the West. Their attack on Saudi Arabia oil which reduced world output by 5% was intended as a crippling blow to the West.

Expect to see more of these disruptions.

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Israel's Elections
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 16, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

It is the eve of elections in Israel and we need to go over some ground rules.

Do not trust polls.

Elections in Israel - as in the United States, are not easy for pollsters to predict.

When polling results are as close as they now are, polls cannot be a good indicator. Yes, there are two larger parties and yes, there are several moderate size parties and yes, there are many smaller parties that are just on the cusp of getting Parlimentary seats. But does anyone needs polls for that information?

The real strength in Israel's elections is not with the party that wins the most seats. The real strength - and the power, sits with the party that joins the ruling coalition and holds out and gets what it wants.

The follow-up to the election is where the action is.

That is where we will, once again, witness the trading and the negotiating and the manipulation. And eventually, hopefully, we will see a government emerge.
If that doesn't happen - and I'm not sure it will, prepare for another election come January or February.

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Bolton Fired or Quit
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 11, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

It does not matter whether John Bolton was fired or whether Bolton resigned.

The question is what kind of impact his departure will have on policy.
Bolton was a hawk on issues like North Korea and Iran. He did not believe that the US should run towards dialogue.

On the issue of Israel there is no doubt that the Netanyahu administration has lost a very close friend in the White House. Bolton was an unconditional ally and friend of Israel.

The difference between Bolton and the US president were obvious to everyone who monitored the White House. There is an important role for advisors who disagree with the president. But the National Security Advisor and the President need to step in tandem.

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Shiite Holy Day
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 10, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Today is the Shiite holy day of Ashura. Ahsura means 10 in Arabic. Ashurah is the 10th day of the first month in the Muslim calendar, the month of Muharram.
It commemorates the battle of Karbala when the Husein ibn Ali the grandson of Mohammed was killed in 1060.

Shiites which means most Iranians and Hezbollah mourn on this day.

Speaking to all Shiites, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said he and his allies, including Iran, were in the middle of a "major campaign." He used military terminology to invoke a connection to the Battle of Karbala.

"We are in the midst of a major campaign, (and) the United States and Israel are trying to outflank us," he says in a speech to mark the Muslim holiday of Ashura.

"The leader of this camp is (Iranian Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei and its center is Iran," he said.

He added that "tonight and tomorrow we will tell (Benjamin) Netanyahu and (Donald) Trump that we are a people not affected by blockades, sanctions, poverty and hunger."

We will wait and see. It looks like they have a plan.

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More Rockets From Gaza
By Micah Halpern

September 9, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

It’s been a weekend full of rockets in Israel.

On Sunday night sirens blared in the region that abuts the Gaza Strip. More rockets were being fired at Israel from Gaza.

One of the rockets fell short and it actually landed in Gaza. Several others, we don’t know exactly how many, landed in the Israel.

The situation has reached such a pitch that Egypt dispatched an emergency team of military and diplomatic advisers to Gaza. They will shuttle between Egypt, Gaza and Israel. The Egyptians want to become major players in the area. Keeping peace between Israel and Gaza would serve both to position them as influencers and to keep their own country safe.

To risk stating the obvious, this is a dangerous situation and could easily spiral into a larger and larger conflict. The situation needs to be controlled. It needs to be contained.


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MidEast Food Battle
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 8, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Another battle is being waged in the Middle East. The intensity keeps rising. This battle - is over food.

For years, Arabs have accused Israel of appropriating their food and making it "Israeli". They claim that falafel is not Israeli food, it is Arab food. They claim that humus is not Israeli, it is Arab food. The assertion is that just about any of the foods created by Israeli chefs, is in fact a rip off of Arab food.

Now labeneh, or laben, a goat cheese yogurt is on the proverbial chopping block.

Enemies of Israel say that Zionists should create their own culture, not expropriate it from the Arab culture that surrounds them. They are claiming that appropriating their foods is another example of Israeli occupation. Israelis, they say, are not only stealing Arab land and Arab culture, Israeli is stealing Arab - or Palestinian, food too.

Israeli chefs and Israel's culinary creativity have become world famous. And while many of the dishes borrow from the region, to suggest that Israeli Jews stole the culture is preposterous.

These attackers want Israel to be seen by the world as interlopers, replanted into the Middle East from Europe. But in reality, most Israelis are descendants of Jews from Arab lands - not from Europe.

Part of Israel's culture comes from Europe, but much more of Israeli culture, including food, originates in the Arab world.
Blending those traditions is what makes Israel so interesting and so very Israeli.

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Israel Worried about US/Iran Dialogue
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 28, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The G-7 meeting was very worrisome for Israel.

Let me explain. President Trump publicly announced that he would gladly meet with his Iranian counterpart President Rouhani.

Here is the worry.

If the United States advances toward Iran in a path similar to the paths the US has taken with North Korea, it will mean that dialoguing with Iran will become a priority. It will weaken Israel's ability to influence the US.

More importantly, Israel has a series of priorities for their country's security. There are certain red lines in the sand that Israel wants to make certain the US does not cross with Iran.

This situation, this diplomatic warming between the United States and Iran, is not good news for Israel.

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Tensions Btw Israel & Hezbollah
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 27, 2019
I've Been Thinking:

Tensions are rising between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Add into the mix the terror group The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, also known as PFLP - GC and the tensions are pulsing even higher.

There are obvious reasons for these tensions. Hezbollah and the PFLP are sworn enemies of Israel and their raison-d'être is the destruction of Israel.

But of late there has been serious Israeli engagement in Lebanon and Syria. The groups are shouting about it. They are saber rattling.

Several important points of clarification - These groups do not awaken one day and hate Israel more than they did the day before.

Hezbollah has at least150,000 rockets. That is a conservative estimate. They have more rockets than 95% of the militaries in the world. Many of those are short range unguided rockets but a significant number are guided missiles with long range capabilities.

Another important point to make is that the Israeli elections are upon us. The will take place on September 17. Prime Minster is being portrayed as weak in Gaza by other contenders because he has not acted in Gaza. There is no magic solution to Gaza. So, Netanyahu has to show strength. He is attacking in Lebanon and Syria where it is easier to strike.

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Muslim Edict Against US Soldiers
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 26, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A fatwah is an Islamic edict declared by a leading authority.

Shiite theologian Grand Ayatollah Kazi al Haeri is held in very high regard by Iraqi Shiites. And he has declared a fatwah forbidding US troops to step foot in Iraq.

Grand Ayatollah Kazi al Haeri called on Iraqi forces to attack and stop all US forces.

The edict comes after media from all over the world covered stories that described Israel's attack on Shiite bases in Iraq - bases that are affiliated with Iran. Two Israeli officials confirmed that Israel was responsible for the attacks.

Many locals in the Middle East do not countenance any non-believers anywhere in the Middle East - not in any Arab lands.

The US brings out vicious animus in some people.

Over the years there have been numerous fatwahs involving the United States. This Grand Ayatollah is not alone.

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Saudis Track Hajj Pilgrims w Chip
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 23, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia has announced that they are instituting a smart chip for everyone joining the Hajj - the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

Over 2.5 people, or pilgrims, travel to Mecca every year.

For many pilgrims, the chip will certainly be considered an invasion of their privacy. It will allow the organizers to monitor all movements of all participants. The chip can detect mass movements. It can rearrange and reorganize transportation.

The chip can and will also direct and redirect people and police to provide a more efficient movement.

It will also track where people are sleeping and what they are doing. Every person who enters will be tracked.

There is a positive side for the 2.5 million people who will now be tracked - the chip can help in health emergencies and get immediate aid to people in distress.

The Saudis know this chip works. They quietly tested it out this year and it was a great success.

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How to Tell an Anti- Semite
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 22, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A nonsensical school of thought has been making its way into all sorts of forums and discussions. It goes like this: Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic. Don't label every criticism and critic of Israel an anti-Semite. As an example, proponents of this erroneous thinking will point to former President Barack Obama and say that Obama was a great lover of Israel, but he was also a vocal critic. He would say "friends need to call friends out when they make mistakes."

That may be true, but - and it's a big and important but - some people couch their anti- Semitism as criticism of Israel.

There are two factors that determine if the person criticizing Israel is an anti-Semite.

#1: does the critique allow for Israel to exist or does it suggest that if Israel were not there the problem would be solved

#2: the tone of the critique

Tone is everything. Critique is done with respect and love and is immediately identifiable. That kind of critique does not seek to harm or destroy but rather to help and assist.

Much of the recent and very vocal public criticism of Israel does not stand up to these factors. Certainly, US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib fits into the category of anti-Semite.

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Is Israel Bombing Iraq- Maybe!
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 21, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

On Tuesday, an arms depot north of Baghdad was blown up. The depot was hit by an aerial strike. It belonged to an Iraqi, pro-Iranian militia. Last week, an arms depot south of Baghdad, also belonging to pro-Iranian fighters, was also destroyed by an airstrike.

Sounds like someone is targeting Iranian fighters in Iraq.

The finger is pointing toward Israel.

Israel has, over the past few years, publicly warned of the Iranian influence in Iraq and has insisted that Iran is becoming a major military force inside Iraq.

Israel now has stealth capabilities. They operate F-35s which can travel without being detected. So it is certainly possible, if not probable, that Israel is testing out its efficiency and abilities by hitting Iranian bases in Iraq.

This is not a new front for Israel, it is an experiment. And while perfecting their capabilities, they are also effectively clipping and trimming Iranian influence and Iranian weapons caches.

Iran is an arch enemy of Israel. At this stage Israel will not strike Iran directly. However, pro-Iranian militias in Iraq are fair game.

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Iran Made Mistake Signing Deal
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 20, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Ali Shamkhani is a very close and trusted adviser of Iran's Supreme Leader. He is an official in the inner circle of Iran.

Lester Holt of NBC News sat down for a face-to-face with someone who almost never addresses the West and is as close as you can get to the Grand Ayatollah.

In the course of the interview Shamkhani said that Iran should never have signed the famous JCPOA, simply known as the Iranian nuke deal.

He said that it was not good for Iran. He also explained that, at the time, there were people who believed that a moderate approach was the best avenue to pursue.

He said that most of Iran, and certainly Iranian leadership, fervently believes that the entire strategy was a mistake and that Iran has suffered because of that moderate approach.

What Shamkhani is actually doing is telegraphing is the ouster of the current leadership, the President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif who were the architects of the agreement.

Shamkhani agreed to the interview only after he received the okay from the Supreme Leader, who also crafted the message he wanted to have presented and provided Shamkhani with his talking points.

There are big political changes on the horizon in Iran.

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ISIS is Alive & Well
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 19, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan which murdered 63 people and wounded 183 others is rock solid proof that ISIS is alive and well.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing at the Shiite wedding celebration.

This is what they do best.

They are mass murderers of Muslims.

That might sounds strange because we, in the West, think of ISIS as targeting the West. While that is true, their main objective of ISIS is to intimidate and influence Muslims in the Muslim world.

ISIS announced the reason for their attack in Kabul. They said they attacked because the United States was negotiating a deal with the
Taliban and establishing an end to the 18 year old conflict in Afghanistan.

This bombing was a message to Muslims.

ISIS is back and alive and well and if you dare to stand up and oppose ISIS, you will be targeted - beware, you’ve been warned.

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UK Strips Jihadi Jack's Citizenship
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 18, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Jack Letts is best known as Jihadi Jack, a dual UK / Canadian citizen who joined ISIS in 2014. Two years before joining, Jack had converted to Islam. In 2014 he changed his name to Abu Mohammed, married an Iraqi woman had a child.

Abu Mohammed has been interviewed on the BBC, pledging his allegiance to ISIS and promising to fight for the cause.

His parents sent him $300 and were subsequently tried and convicted of sponsoring terror. He claims he bought falafel and a pair of glasses with the money - not nuclear weapons.

Now Jack Letts cum Abu Mohammed cum Jihadi Jack wants to return to the UK.

The British Home Office not only said no - they stripped Jack of his UK citizenship and said he is Canada's problem now.

Meanwhile, Canada says that Jihadi Jack has no real contact with Canada and is a Canadian citizen only by virtue of his father, an organic farmer, who holds a Canadian passport.

The UK is correct to reject him.

Jihadi Jack must live with his decision.

Joining the enemy and fighting against your home country is treasonous and an act of sedition. It is easier to pull citizenship than to try someone as a traitor. Let Jack live in the community he selected when he abandoned his home and chose instead to take up arms against the country that nurtured him.

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Israel Denies Entry to US Congresswomen
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 16, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

I usually touch on subjects before they become headline news, but today I am making an exception. Today I must weigh in on the news of the day.

Israel deciding not to permit entry to two United States Congresswomen.

As everyone knows, the two members of Congress in question are Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim females in Congress.

On their trip to Israel the Congresswomen wanted to focus only on Palestinian sites and interests. They scheduled no visits with
Israeli officials or, for that matter, any Israelis. Actually, in their invite to other members of Congress they explained that they were only entering Israel in order to pass into Palestine.

Both these members of Congress have proposed a bill to support BDS.

Israel has passed a law permitting leadership to prevent entry to those people who are known supporters of BDS.

I do not think it was wise of Israel to prevent entry to the Congresswomen - BUT, Israel was certainly justified in blocking them from entering the country.

All those who claim that Israel was violating freedom of speech are totally incorrect.

There is a limit to freedom of speech. That freedom stops when people are trying to destroy a state. The state - any state has the right and the responsibility, to protect itself against those advancing against it and attacking it.

BDS is not an idea. BDS is not an issue of speech. BDSers intend to galvanize supporters to unite and destroy Israel.

About that there is no question.

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Israel's Anti Drone Drones
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 15, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Drones are extremely difficult to defend against and now, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries named ELTA Systems has improved on their already very effective Drone Guard.

This improvement is called the Bird. One of the many advances the Bird has over the Drone Guard is a suicide mission that attacks incoming drones.

The new system identifies the drone or set of drones from take off.
It even predicts the direction the enemy drone will take. This system differentiates the incoming drone from other aircraft. Even if the other drone tries to deceive it with balloons, kites, hot air, even if it uses live ammo and shoots. The Bird knows it is a drone.

The Bird also employs the Drone guard technology of zapping enemy drones with electronic beams and rays that will cause the enemy system to implode.

Best of all is technology that enables the Bird to hijack enemy drones.

A new cyber war is taking place. ELTA's Bird is a major player in that war.

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Hamas Claims
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 14, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Speaking at an Eid al Adha ceremony, the head of Hamas, Yihya Sinwar, said that Hamas will teach Israel a lesson if it invades Gaza again.
Sinwar emphasized that Hamas will launch hundreds of rockets into Israel simultaneously. Israel, he said, will be broken.

"If Israel launches a campaign in Gaza, hundreds of rockets will be fired at Israeli cities in one go ... Hamas will break the IDF if it enters the Gaza Strip."

This is bravado, it is hyperbole.

Hamas really believes that they will strike and seriously hurt Israel - but it is pure bravado, hyperbole.

In Israel, any loss is a huge loss.

It is Hamas and Gaza who will suffer if Israel is forced to attack Gaza again.

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Caspian Oil Battle
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 13, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The five nations that surround the oil rich Caspian Sea (or Lake) met on Monday to figure out how to divide the great natural wealth - oil, that lies there.

Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan all have a stake. Russia and Iran are most insecure about what might happen.

Because of that insecurity they have not ratified an agreement that was drawn up last year. The other three countries are waiting for Russia and Iran to make the first moves and sign.

Both Iran and Russia are afraid that this newly found oil will change the supply of oil on the world market. They are particularly worried about Western countries that are urging the construction of a Caspian natural gas pipeline that will bring that oil over land to the West, especially Western Europe.

Iran and Russia need to preserve their reserves, keep the supply down and make certain the prices of oil and gas stay high.

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Muslim Holiday
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 12, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday was the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha. It is the Festival of the Sacrifice, also called Eid al Qurban.

Eid al Adha is one of two big Muslim holidays, the other is Eid al Fitr.

This holiday commemorates the story in the Koran of Ibrahim taking his son Ishmael and offering him as a sacrifice to God. At the last minute God stops Ibrahim and provides a lamb that is sacrificed instead of Ishmael.

If this sounds eerily similar to the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis chapter 21, that's because they are, indeed, the same story.

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Iran Claims Military Greatness
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 11, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is masterful at propping themselves up as undefeatable.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Naval Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi spoke to FARS, the official Iranian news agency, and said that: "Americans have always been the ultimate and full-scale losers in all their encounters with the IRGCN [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy], and the most notable cases of their defeats were on April 14, 1988, and January 12, 2016 before their drone was shot down on June 20."

Fadavi was referring to three incidents:
#1: the April 1988 incident when an Iranian mine badly damaged the U.S. frigate Samuel B. Roberts
#2: Iran's kidnapping in January 2016 of two American riverine boats and ten sailors after the boats mistakenly strayed into Iranian waters
#3: the downing in June 2019 of the US Triton drone

Fadavi continued and said: "that all failures and defeats of the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf are illustrative of the Americans' desperation, frustration, and agony in the face of the Iranian nation in the past 40 years."

This is simply - and not surprisingly, not what happened at all.
In 1988 the US responded, launching Operation Praying Mantis and crippling Iran's navy. Luckily the situation deescalated and did not turn into a full blown war.

As far as Fadavi's other two examples, the United States wisely chose to neither react nor overreact.

It's all about the spin.

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ISIS Re Booting in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 9, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Here's a surprise. ISIS is re-establishing itself in Syria. Don't just take my word for it, a report released this week by the US Department of Defense Inspector General's office spells it out very clearly.

"Despite losing its territorial 'caliphate,' the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria" from April through June.

The report begins with Principal Deputy Inspector General Glenn A.
Fine writing that from April through June, U.S. forces in Syria fulfilled the Trump administration's directive to partly withdraw from the country. Military officials told the inspector general's office that "the reduction of U.S. forces has decreased the support available for Syrian partner forces at a time when their foces [sic] need more training and equipping to respond to the ISIS resurgence."

Officials told the inspector general's office that ISIS continues to function as an insurgency in both Iraq and Syria partly because forces there "remain unable to sustain long-term operations against ISIS militants." ISIS is also "likely reestablishing financial networks in both countries."

Beyond that, military officials warned, ISIS "maintains an extensive worldwide social media effort to recruit fighters."

This means that ISIS is bouncing back.

It also means that ISIS is waging war against US allies and others who targeted them. Are you surprised?

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Iran is Jamming Ships' GPS
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 8, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is playing dirty tricks in and around the Strait of Hormuz. For one, they are jamming the GPS of tankers, causing ships to wander off course - and in to their waters. They are also spoofing and radioing as if they are friendly and US navy ships.

US Central Command in the area, known as CENTCOM, said in a statement that Iran "spoofed bridge-to-bridge communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be US or coalition warships."

"Due to the heightened regional tensions, the potential for miscalculation or misidentification could lead to aggressive actions against vessels belonging to US, allied and coalition partners operating in the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman ... GPS interference, bridge-to-bridge communications spoofing, and/or other communications jamming with little to no warning."

Bridge-to-bridge communication is when ships speak to one another.

Jamming and spoofing by Iran explains quite a lot of what has been happening in the Strait. Iran is not playing a fun game. And as always, the Iranians are playing by their own rules.

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Amazon Coming to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 7, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Amazon is going to open operations in Israel in September - before the September 17th elections which falls a few days before the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

Amazon wants the site to be all in Hebrew.

Amazon has very stringent demands on writing, pictures and clarity of message. They are also very precise about handling and delivery. If it cannot happen in Hebrew, they will launch in English and then switch over to Hebrew. If everything is not in place and ready by September, Amazon will wait until after Sukkot and launch in November in time for the busy shopping period called Black Friday.

Amazon has already gobbled up several Israeli tech companies including a huge cloud service.

This is huge for Israel.

Having Amazon will be a huge boon in the local markets of delivery and move Israel's markets to an entirely new level. It will also devastate brick and mortar store fronts and ma and pa stores in Israel as it has done around the world. The competition will force Israel's big retailers and chain stores, including food stores, to up their game and move into internet sales.

Change can be great, change can also be very scary.

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Palestinian GPS Around Check Points
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 6, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A Palestinian tech company named Doroob created and app that can be downloaded through Google that will avoid Israeli check points and the long lines and waits that are involved.

The root D Ra Ba is found 58 times in the Koran. It's mentioned as Yadriba or as the noun Doroob and it means "to set forth."

Doroob Navigation uses crowd sourcing so people use their phones and the GPS to show where traffic in building up and to offer get updates and preferred routes.

Doroob operates much like Waze and Google Maps. But those systems were not very effective in the Palestinian areas - and this one is.

This company made their own maps and their own program.

Many check points are permanent, others change all the time. The IDF does that for security reasons. Although not its primary purpose, this program helps terrorists avoid the check points.

The IDF will have to work hard to stay out in front of this new software.

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Left Can't Oust Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 5, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The media is spending much energy showing how Israel's left and center left parties are trying to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

They are offering up a valiant set of descriptions - but their cause is hopeless.

All studies show that fewer and fewer Israelis connect with the left -- 12%.
In fact, in Israel, more and more voters lean right than left -- 59%.

Actually, the left numbers are almost as low as the numbers for those who simply do not care.

That does not mean that Bibi cannot be ousted ... Just unlikely.

Avigdor Lieberman is convinced that he can oust Netanyahu by creating a swing party. He thinks that his party will be big enough to make them essential to any coalition and that they will then decide if they want to take the government left or right.

Lieberman decided that Likud, Netanyahu's party, should select a number two. That way Netanyahu can step down when Lieberman - once again - refuses to join with Likud under Bibi Netanyahu.

Lieberman is also threatening to go to join the left. That is an empty threat. His voters are hardcore right and hard core secular. Lieberman's supporters would never countenance the moderate points of view of the Blue and White party.

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J.Lo in Tel Aviv
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 4, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

J.LO - Jennifer Lopez, performed in Tel Aviv on Thursday to a crowd of 50,000 admirers.

The performer, her fiance A Rod and her twin daughters spent five days in Israel. The performance was part of J.Lo's "It's My Party Tour" that they turned into a family vacation.

While in Israel, they visited the Western Wall, took in Tel Aviv culture and generally enjoyed their time. There were great shots of her on the Tel Aviv Beach.

Tremendous pressure was put on the world famous dancer-actress-performer not to accept the invitation to bring her show to Israel and then later, to cancel her trip. The BDS movement has been successful in intimidating many performers - but not this time.

J.LO is only one of two A-list performers who have come to Israel - the second is Bon Jovi.

J.LO posted dozens of selfies and family pictures. She declared how wonderful Israel and Israelis are. She said that she would be back.

JLO has 100 million followers on social media. She is more than a star, just like her fiance is more than a former baseball player.
They are icons. They are idolized. J.LO and A Rod's trip and their posts reinforced for Israelis that they are part of world culture.

This past year Israel has felt beaten up and abused on the international scene. BDS has been very effective. JLO helped invigorate Israel. She accomplished more for the case for Israel than any diplomatic initiative or PR campaign could have achieved.

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Japan Won't Help in the Strait
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 2, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The United States has been working on creating a coalition of countries to patrol the Strait of Hormuz.

It should seem like the obvious thing to do - the Strait of Hormuz is now the most dangerous maritime region in the world. And responsibility for that lies totally and completely on Iran's aggressive maneuvers in trying to exert influence on Western policy and force the United States and other countries to reconsider the sanctions that have been crippling the country.

Without a broad based world coalition, a true defense strategy to protect the oil tankers using the waterway will fail. A broad coalition is both a practical and public relations necessity. It is the only way to condemn Iran effectively.

And yet, there is opposition. Japan has said that they will not join.
They are afraid that it may trigger a war. Japan has said that they may escort their own ships (highly unlikely) and that they will provide airplanes to assist in monitoring the Strait.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said that they: "... are closely monitoring the situation and continue to collect information while working closely with the United States and other countries."

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Iran's Economy
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 1, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The currency of Iran is the rial.

The most recent US sanctions against Iran have hurt Iran badly.

The economy of Iran is suffering.

In order to survive the tremendous inflation they are suffering, Iranian leadership has decided to lop off four zeroes from the rial.

Iran's inflation is so high, we have no idea how high it really is. There are official inflation numbers of 30%, but we know those numbers aren't true. Unofficial numbers put Iran's inflation at 1,000% - that's one thousand percent.

The announcement about the rial was made by the Iranian government spokesman after a government meeting.

To get a sense of what has happened to the rial and the economy of Iran let's look at the rial over the past 4 years. In 2015 $1 was worth 32,000 rials. Today the official exchange rate is 120,000 to $1.

Wow!

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Lieberman's Demands
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 31, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Avigdor Lieberman, the head of Yisrael Beitaynu, declared that the only way for his party to join the next coalition would be that will demand three points.

#1: There must be a mandatory draft for the ultra -orthodox.

#2: Public transport must be accessible on Shabbat.

#3: Civil marriages must be permitted and instituted.

These demands signify that, almost certainly, Yisrael Beitaynu will not be part of the next government.

It also means that the right needs to gather the required 60 members of government without Lieberman's party which is one of the right-wing parties.

We do not know how many seats Yisrael Beitaynu will earn in the September election. But we do know that the reason there is a second election taking place in September is because Lieberman refused to join the Netanyahu coalition in April, thereby torpedoing the possibility for Netanyahu to form a government.

In the end - what did he really gain?

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Turkey Lashes Out Against Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 30, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The president of Turkey is once again lashing out against Israel.

Erdogan never misses an opportunity to attack Israel. This time he went out of his way to attack Israel without any reason or provocation.

At a meeting with provincial officials, as reported on Press TV in Turkey, Erdogan went on his rant.

He said: "Whoever is on the side of Israel, let everyone know that we are against them ... We do not approve of silence on the state terror that Israel blatantly carries out in Palestine."

This is more than a policy dispute. This is Erdogan drawing up teams and threatening discipline for those who break ranks with him.

While many barriers have broken down between Israel and other countries over the past two years, Turkey wants to turn back the clock.

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Iranian Youth Search www
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 29, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian youth works very hard to break through their government's block on the internet.

The government has shut down almost all forms of contact and any access to the West through the internet - the World Wide Web, aka the www. The Iranian web is a cheap facsimile of the www.

Iranians who want to jump on the West's www have gone to great lengths. They spend hours attempting to bypass governmental blocks.

The youth use VPNs, or Virtual Personal Networks. VPN artificially makes it appear as if the user were located someone else.

Here's how: Let's say you live in Teheran. When you go online, you click onto a VPN and it shows that you are in Los Angeles. The Iranian can now surf the net, and no one will know.

The bigger problem is that VPNs are overloaded. So many people want to get on that it can take an hour before you get on and that many users causes the server to be slow and users to be regularly bounced off.

Iranian leadership does not have the same restrictions. Iran's president and foreign minister tweet constantly - even the Supreme Leader, or at least the Supreme Leader's office, tweets regularly.

Iranians use the internet because they want to learn what is happening in the West. That's a good sign.

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Iran is Petrified of Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 26, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is petrified of Israel's new stealth F-35. Israel has already flown the planes over Iran.

A Kuwaiti newspaper reported about it.

According to an "informed source" quoted by the newspaper Al-Jarida: "The fighters crossed Syrian airspace into Iraqi airspace, including to Iran, where they carried out reconnaissance missions and targets in the areas of Bandar Abbas, Isfahan and Shiraz, flying at a high altitude over other sites suspected of a relationship with Iran's nuclear program".

Iran did not detect the F-35. Neither did the Russians. This F-35 is a secret weapon. This worries Iran, but it is not their only worry.

Israel's character worries Iranian leadership even more than the weapon. The Israeli military is bold and tends toward quick and decisive action. That, combined with the F-35, is a real threat to Iran.

Israel can and will strike Iran if necessary - and Iran knows it.

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Barak Merge with Meretz
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 25, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli elections are coming up and the final lists for each party are due in two weeks.

The most curious of all lists will be the result of a speculated merger between Israel Democratic Party leader Ehud Barak and Meretz chair Nitzan Horowitz.

Meretz is the most left Jewish party on the electoral spectrum. Barak is a former prime minister and former leader of the Labor Party.

This potential merger will take voters away from both the Blue and White Party and the Labor Party.

Israel Democratic Party and Meretz are trying to create a genuine left. The problem is that the Israeli electorate is center right - not center left or left anymore. And that will almost certainly translate into failure for this merger at the ballot box.

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Israel Keeps The Lid on The MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 24, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

As I mentioned yesterday, Israel's Foreign Ministry invited Arab bloggers to Israel. In the end, six bloggers visited Israel.

They guests of the foreign ministry met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During their meeting the PM told them that actually, Israel is keeping the region safer.

Netanyahu said: "but within the region, Israel is the irreplaceable power, because there is no other power in the region that without its presence and activity here, I would say the region would collapse ... Without Israel, without the things we do, the things we stand for and the things we protect, I think the entire Middle East would collapse by the forces of Islamic radicalism, whether Shiites led by Iran, or Sunni radicalism led by the Islamic State."

The prime minister continued, saying that Israel "is the one indigenous force in the Middle East that prevents the collapse of the Middle East."

I have not thought about it until now. Prime Minister Netanyahu is correct.

Israel keeps the lid on so many issues. Without Israel, Islamic extremism would have taken over major swaths of the Middle East. And then the world.

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Saudi Blogger in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 23, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The Foreign Ministry of Israel is hosting a group of bloggers from Arab and Muslim countries. We do not know how many bloggers came on the trip - but we do know that one of them is Muhammad Saud from Saudi Arabia.

Saud is a very popular blogger. Saud is also fluent in Hebrew.

Like any good Muslim, Saud wanted to visit the Dome of the Rock. He dressed in traditional Saudi religious garb and ascended the Mount.

Locals were not pleased. Some people threw chairs at him. Video shows Saud standing at the Dome of the Rock when one youngster ran up to him, grabbed his arm and spit in his face.

This was not part of the Foreign Ministry's objective in bringing the bloggers to Israel.

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Shaked Can Unite the Right
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 22, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Former Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked and her political colleague and party member Naftali Bennett had a meeting. It was agreed upon that Shaked will become the head of their party, The New Right Party, and that they will work to unite the entire right wing community behind her.

In Israel, many religious parties fall under the right wing umbrella. And some rabbinic voices are suggesting that a woman - certainly a non-religious woman, cannot lead the religious parties.

The problem with that point of view is that Ayelet Shaked is, by far, the best and most significant force in the right wing world and probably the only person capable of bringing the right together.

Shaked has national presence. She has experience. She has been successful in maneuvering and navigating around Bibi and his government. She is the best shot they have. The question is - will they give her the chance?

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Iran Takes Another UK Tanker
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 21, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

I just watched the video of Iranian commando rappelling from a helicopter onto the Stena Imperio owned by Stena Bulk, a British oil tanker.

The 90 second video was spliced together from several cameras. At least two of the videos were taken by the small Iranian boats that surrounded the oil tanker and one from inside the helicopter as the five commandos jumped out.

It was impressive. The operation took only a few seconds.

Iran has stepped up their game. This is the second UK ship they have taken. And just as Iran is stepping up their game, an Iranian ship that was in the Port of Jedda was released. The ship, which suffered from engine trouble, was being held by the Saudis. After its release the Iranians publically thanked the Saudis.

It is the long game here that is important.

Iran is becoming more and more brazen. But with each move they push Europe and others closer to US President Donald Trump. They are effectively unifying the world around Trump - a leader they would normally reject.

Right now the game is on. Iran is playing very seriously. The West's counter move may or may not be commensurate with Iran's moves. We should know soon.

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Iran Proposes a Compromise
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 19, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has offered a very nice deal to the US. It goes in both directions.

In New York Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said that Iran will permanently permit enhanced inspections. While at the same time the US will permanently lit all sanctions against Iran.

Zarif said that the Iranian offer was a good deal it was "a substantial move."

Zarif continued that "It's not about photo ops. We are interested in substance," he told reporters at the Iranian mission to the UN in New York on Thursday. "There are other substantial moves that can be made."

He said: "If they [the Trump administration] are putting their money where their mouth is, they are going to do it. They don't need a photo op. They don't need a two-page document with a big signature."

Zarif is calling Trumps bluff.


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Shelly Leaves Labor
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 18, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The politician who has been the back bone of Israel's Labor Party for the past 15 years announced that she is taking time out from politics.

Her name is Shelly Yachimovitich and she has been the most successful of all Labor politicians for the past 15 years.

Not only has Shelly been the backbone of Labor, she has also been Labor's heart and their soul.

The April election proved that the fire that once fueled Labor has dimmed and is about to be extinguished. The party is a shell of what it once was and Yachimovitich, who almost single-handedly kept the party alive and relevant, no longer has the burning desire to fight for change the way she once did.

Shelly as she was known - her first name was all she needed, came to politics after a long and successful career in media. She was the most popular radio talk show host in the country. Shelly affected change through her media platform. Then she left the media and joined Labor in order to better bring change to Israel.

Shelly's departure is another example of the death of the once great Labor party.

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Hezbollah & Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 17, 2019
I've Been Thinking:

Last week Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah issued a warning to Israel and a description of what was to come.

With the warning Nasrallah informed Israel that Hezbollah rockets could hit anywhere in Israel. And then he went on to describe, more or less, where the attacks would take place.
In response, Israel bolstered 20 strategic targets.

Certainly Israel has the ability to respond to Hezbollah attacks, but that is not enough. They must secure their important sites again missiles. With the passage of time missiles become more powerful, their range becomes longer and their accuracy increases.

It would be irresponsible of Israel not to take the threat by Hezbollah seriously. Back in 2016, after an official assessment, Israel allocated 150 million shekel ($43 million) to improve the security on these 20 strategic sites. Attacks on these sites could cause serious damage and certainly inconvenience to Israelis.

It would also be irresponsible of Hezbollah to attack Israel's sensitive sites because Israel would counter attack - and counter attack very seriously.

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Hamas: Murder the Jews Everywhere
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 16, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

In the middle of his recent Friday sermon, a fiery charismatic Hamas Sheik named Fathi Hamad shouted that Arabs should murder Jews all over the world. He demanded that followers murder Jews in Israel and everywhere else.

A few days later Ahmed Yosef, who has a direct line to Hamas leader
Ismail Haniyeh, publicly condemned Hamad for calling for the murder of all Jews.

Yosef said: "The language of knives and explosive belts is not suitable for statesmen ... And the talk of killing Jews using this kind of language contradicts religion and morality."

Yosef continued: "Hamas is not against world Jewry, and not even against Judaism as a religion."

This exchange is illustrative of an important issue.

Traditionally, Palestinians terrorists struck out against Western targets, and, of course, against Jewish targets. Particularly in Europe. Then they changed course, turned inward, and focused on Israel only.

Today we are witnessing a conflict between the two perspectives and focus of Palestinian terror. There are those who still believe that Jews around the world should be murdered and those who believe in targeting only Israeli Jews.

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Why is Russia so Involved?
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 15, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Ever wonder why Russia is so involved in the Middle East and so committed to Iran?

I'll explain:

First and foremost, there is a significant Muslim population in Russia. And Russia needs to placate their citizens. There has been some Russian / Muslim tension and it is important to tamp it down.

Next is that the United States has significant influence in the region. And for Russia, it is very important to keep US interests in check. It is that attitude alone that informs large swaths of Russian foreign policy.

Third comes proximity. Russia itself, is actually located in the region. Their former states are even closer, extremely close, to Iran and to the entire Middle East.

Finally, Russia and Iran are linked economically. They are enormous oil producers. Russia is also a huge provider of much of what Iran needs.


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Hezbollah Threatens Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 14, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah went public today outlining the next conflict with Israel.

Nasrallah announced: "In the next war with Israel we will have surprises in land, air and sea." He went on and explained that "the resistance" which means perpetrators of terror and his own forces can reach "the whole of Israel until Eilat." Eilat is the southern-most part of Israel.

There was more. Nasrallah said he is "confident of victory" and confident that "Israel is weaker than a spider web ... Life and death are in the hands of God, yet logic points to me praying in al-Aqsa mosque."

Nasrallah described how Hezbollah could strike "sensitive targets" in the southern and northern Israel. 'In a next war with us, Israel will be fighting for its existence ... and I will be praying in Jerusalem".
The comments were made during an interview on Al-Manar TV, the Hezbollah TV cable station.

Explaining that Hezbollah is not afraid even though Israel has previously killed many Hezbollah members and will target them, he said: "Hezbollah is an organization that doesn’t depend on anyone ... There were those who died and those who left the organization, and it didn't affect us."

Nasrallah cautioned that Hezbollah will target the city centers: "There's no need for us to harm soldiers. Instead of wasting missiles on the north, we will attack the south ... "We'll bring Israel back to the Stone Age."

Explaining one of his targets Nasrallah explained that: "Israel tried to get rid of the ammonia tanks in Haifa and did not succeed. We only need a couple of rockets to hit these tanks, and the number of fatalities will be very large, even Israelis themselves say that."

The leader of Hezbollah emphasized that: "Everything I've presented is the minimum of our abilities. It's important to me that Israelis understand that."

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu responded very quickly to Nasrallah's remarks by saying: "Over the weekend we heard Nasrallah's remarks on his attack plans. It should be clear that if Hezbollah dares to do some nonsense and attacks Israel, we will hit him and Lebanon with a crushing military blow."

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