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Elections in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 18, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

This year, Spring is the season of Middle East elections.
Syria has announced that on May 26th they will hold presidential elections.

Assad will win a third term as president. These are not true elections and his win is a certainty.

The Assad family belongs to a minority group in Syria. They are Alawites. And Syria’s Alawites control their brutal security forces. Opposition is not tolerated. A part of the Syrian election law is that a candidate must have lived in Syria for the past 10 years.

There is no opposition within Syria.

In 2011, protests in Syria began in the south of the country. The protestors were asking for election and political reform. The protests were crushed and so began a civil war that has, for the past ten years, devastated the country.

The only question about Syria’s upcoming election is whether Bashar Assad will win 85% or 95% or even 98% of the vote.

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US Displeased w Israeli Attacks
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 17, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The United States has made it known to Israel that they are displeased with the strikes on Iran.

The US is especially unhappy with Israel’s “boasting” about their success and claiming responsibility for the attacks - something that Israel has been loath to do in the past.

When there is an element of doubt it leaves the target, in this case Iran, questioning not just whether it was Israel but if the strike was a coordinated effort.
Was the United States involved? Was there intel from agencies from other countries? Were their neighboring countries involved?

The United States is concerned because Iran has announced that they are enriching uranium to 60%. That is 20 times the agreed upon enrichment level.

Because of strike on Natanz and the strikes on Iranian ships – all courtesy of Israel, the US is going to have a difficult time at the negotiation table in Vienna.

What we have here are two very arrogant nations. The United States is dictating to Israel. The US believes that they can tell the world what to do and what not to do. Israel, meanwhile, is telling the United States that they will do what is necessary in order to achieve safety for their citizens.

Neither country is about too change their point of view.

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PA Elections- Maybe?
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 16, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Elections for the Palestinian legislature are scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 22nd.

Presidential elections are scheduled for July 31.

Polls are telling us that Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, is having a difficult time getting a majority or - even a plurality.
Because of these polls, I anticipate that the elections will be postponed or even cancelled.

The Palestinians will blame it on Israel. They will claim that because Israel is not permitting Palestinians residing in Jerusalem to vote, they cannot hold a true election.

That of course is simply a smoke screen. It is a contrived excuse to save Fatah, with Abbas at its head, the embarrassment of losing. It really is a big deal. Losing this election would not just be an embarrassment – losing would mean the end of the Palestinian Authority and the end of Fatah as we know it.

In the meantime there are several parties that are contenders in this election.
They include Fatah and Fatah breakoffs - but Hamas is a contender as well.

If the elections take place there will be serious changes within the PA, if not a total implosion. The situation could certainly devolve into armed battle between factions.

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Biden Sanctions Russia
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 15, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The Biden Administration has slapped Russia with a series of sanctions.

The announcement about these sanctions was unclear as to the timing. There was no date given for when these measures would take effect.

It did, however, explain that included in the sanctions will be a list of banned companies. Also included is the expulsion of diplomats. And finally, the sanctions will prevent US banks from buying any Russian bonds from Russia’s central bank, from their national wealth fund and from the Russian finance ministry.

This is a major step in the right direction. Russia has been a significant agitator in the US political arena and in US financial markets. When it comes to foreign affairs, the Russians tease and taunt the United States.

In response to the Biden announcement, Moscow said that they are considering a response which may also include counter sanctions against then United States. The Kremlin spokesperson explained that: "The principle of reciprocity for such matters has not been canceled, but everything will depend on the decisions made by the (Russian) head of state.”

Every decision in Russia, we all well know, is made by the head of state.

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Israel @73
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 14, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel celebrated 73 year of independence.

This was no small feat. 73 years ago, most people doubted that Israel would survive a single year - no less 73.

This past year was tough for everyone world over. But Israel seems to have emerged out of the dark tunnel called COVID.

In honor of Independence Day, for the first time in thirteen months, the city of Tel Aviv held large outdoor concerts for children. There was a limit of 650 children per concert and all the children were given a free COVID rapid test within an hour of the concert. The test gave results in 15 minutes. The test was developed by an Israeli bio tech company and results came back in fifteen minutes.

As required for all large gatherings, even outdoor gatherings, masks were worn.

Life is not yet back to the normal we used to live, but in Tel Aviv as in all of Israel, a new normal is developing. And life goes on.

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Iran's Fiction
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 13, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Iran is masterful at using their own media to develop a narrative.
And one of the literary devices they often use, is making things up.

The Iranians exaggerate. For example: They say that they have more weapons than they really have, or that they have new weapons. They say that they have attacked and hit targets which never happened and is all sheer fantasy. And they deny the damage or the extent of the damage to their infrastructure, military and population, all the time.

So, when Iran threatens revenge against Israel on the same day that they claim to have discovered, conquered and destroyed a Mossad house in Iraq – fake news antennae must go up.

Fact is, there are no such Mossad houses in Iraq to discover. The entire episode looks great on Iranian media and it makes Iranian leadership look strong for having avenged the Natanz strike, which Israel purportedly perpetrated, but it is a total fiction.

But fiction and fantasy never stops Iran.

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Israel Changes Tune in Involvement
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 12, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Ephraim Halevy is the former head of Israel’s Mossad.

Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility was struck with a cyber-attack. The attack turned out the lights in the facility. It literally turned off the electricity in the Iranian nuclear enrichment center.

Around the world fingers pointed at Israel. Leadership in Israel did not deny responsibility – nor did they claim responsibility. They did, however, publicly comment that Iran was due for a lesson.

Halevy had something to say about the entire situation. He said: "Apparently, those in Israel in the political leadership want [the attack] to be attributed to Israel. Therefore, it must be assumed that the attack was indeed carried out by those who are now suspected [of perpetrating it]"
He continued:

"We will make a big mistake if [we will think of Iran] as an opponent who has two left hands, that is not true."

When Ephraim speaks, we should all pay attention.

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Saudis Against Iran Talks
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 11, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The talks in Vienna between Iran and the P-5+1 to kickstart the Iranian nuke deal are not pleasing everyone.

We know that Israel, for example, is very skeptical of the outcome of these talks.
So is Saudi Arabia.

Tariq al Humaid, a very popular Saudi columnist, wrote in the international paper of Saudi Arabia, Asharq al Awsat, that many people do not trust Iran. He wrote: “There is Gulf apprehension regarding the Vienna talks.” His comment should not come as a surprise. Iran and Saudi Arabia are arch enemies.

The 6 world leaders pushing the nuke deal will not pay much attention to Saudi Arabia’s analysis, just like they are not paying attention to Israel. But Iran is paying attention. And Iran is pleased that the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia are being ignored. It ups the Iranian advantage.

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Pfizer Not Good Against S-African Variant
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 10, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

According to a study done in Israel, the South African COVID variant can “breakthrough” the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

That is not good news. Actually, it is very bad news.

The study was composed of 400 unvaccinated people and 400 double vaccinated people. The result of the study is that people who were not vaccinated were 8 times safer against the South African variant than those who had been vaccinated.

The good news is that there is very little incidence of South African COVID in Israel.

In South Africa however, the variant is predominant.

This study has not yet been peer reviewed. But, the essential lesson to be learned is: do not use the Pfizer vaccine in South Africa.

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PM of Norway Fined For COVID
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 9, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The police and the justice department in Norway fined their prime minister for violating COVID restrictions after Prime Minister Erna Solberg held a party to celebrate her 60th birthday. Thirteen members of her family were in attendance.
Solberg was fined 20,000 Norwegian Crowns which comes to about $2,500.

The prime minister had apologized - but Norwegian leadership and the justice department knew that her apology was not enough. They knew that the country cannot have a situation where the there are two sets of rules.

That’s why they chose to fine Prime Minister Solberg and to make her punishment public. So they needed to fine her and make it public. Gatherings are limited to 10 people and they would tolerate no exceptions.

The irony of this situation is that Prime Minister has been on the front line insisting that people act responsibly during COVID.

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Iran in Lock-down
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 8, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Iran announced a 10-day lockdown. The announcement was made after a fourth wave of COVID hit the country hard, very hard. This information was made public by state media.

Using state media in this way is not at all typical of Iranian leadership. Under normal circumstances, Iran would not want outsiders to know the extent of their damage and the enormity of the threat. But COVID is not normal and they needed to inform the public of the shutdown so they bit the bullet and used the media for all to see.

The decision was made to shutter 23 of Iran’s 31 provinces for 10 days. Shuttering means no schools, no theater, no sports and the closing of all public gatherings.

Ramadan begins in the midst of the closure. This year, that means that there will be no families gathering together to break their fasts as is the custom.

The psychological pain of this closure will surely have a harsh impact on the people of Iran.

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US Give $235 Mil to Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 7, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

In 2018 then-President Trump stopped all aid to the Palestininas.

Now things are about to change.

The Biden administration has announced that they have a plan to give $235 million to the Palestinians. This is the second time in one week that the Biden administration announced the granting of money to the Palestinians.

First, they promised $15 million. Their new plan calls for $150 million through the United Nations relief agency UNWRA, $75 million in U.S. economic support and $10 million in development funding. These figures came to light in a notice emailed by the administration to congressional offices.

The US State Department has said that the monies are legal and in line with US policy toward the Palestinians.

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Iran Meets w US about Nukes
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 6, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The P 5+1 met with Iran in Vienna. They met to take a look at the Nuke Deal.

The talks were successful and they decided to meet again in a few days. The P 5+1 are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

Iran and these major powers will continue to discuss ways to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Following the meeting, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi told Iran state television: "The talks in Vienna were constructive... our next meeting will be on Friday.”

He added that Tehran would not suspend its enrichment of uranium to 20% fissile purity in return for the release of $1 billion of its funds blocked in other countries because of U.S. sanctions reimposed on Iran since 2018.

Interesting. Iran is running this how and they are holding strong.

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Problems in Jordan
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 5, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Jordan’s crown prince, the King’s half-brother Hamsa bin Hussein, was put under house arrest. An investigation against him was opened.

The visit by the head of the army to the home of the crown prince was made public for the entire country to witness. Everyone needed to see that King Abdullah does not tolerate any challenge to his leadership.

The crime Crown Prince Hamsa bin Hussein committed was posting an on-line serious critique of Jordanian leadership claiming that it was corrupt.

The back story is that, not too long ago, Prince Hamsa was removed from the line of succession after attempting to position himself for the kingship and maybe even ousting his half-brother King Abdullah.

When King Abdullah discovered Hamsa’s newest challenge to his leadership, the King’s hand was forced and he had to act to make an example.

The story is still developing. There are rumors being spread that the situation between these brothers is on the mend. Hamsa publicly signed a letter pledging support to the King.

There is little tolerance in Jordan for those who challenge the king. House arrest is getting off easy.

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Putin Signs Law He Can Run Until 2036
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 4, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Vladimir Putin signed a law that now allows him to run for president for two more terms.

His current term ends in 2024, so the new law would keep him in power until 2036.

If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind about the “democratic” (and I put democratic in quotes for a reason) nature of Putin and the country he leads, this is another cogent and essential example of his style and objectives.

Of course, he still needs to run for reelection and to win … but why would Putin change the constitution if he was not assured of a successful re-election bid.

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Sudan Repeals Israel Boycott
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 3, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Sudan repealed a law prohibiting any interaction with Israel. The boycott law, which was originally enacted in 1985, had prevented any trade with companies or citizens of Israel.

On October 23, 2020 Sudan and Israel normalized relations.

It is still unclear, however, what that entails. Sudan’s local press quoted ranking leaders as saying that they will not recognize Israel and send an ambassador. But that was probably just bluster.

It clearly looks like normalization means trade. It also probably means tech and military advice. And it certainly means agricultural and medical technology assistance.

Baby steps are still steps. Slowly, slowly, one at a time.

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Investment in Israel is Way Up
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 2, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Here is some very good news about investments in Israel.

Israeli cyber companies broke an all-time record and concluded the first quarter of 2021 having raised $1.5 billion in 17 different transactions.

Israel is in second place worldwide in the volume of investments made in cyber companies in the distribution of investments. First place goes to the United States.

Israel’s performance is a continuation of a 2020 trend, when investments in Israeli companies reached $2.9 billion and accounted for 31% of all cyber investments in the world.

These investments could help Israel return to normal after the devastating damage of the COVID pandemic.

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US Human Rights Report & Israel, PA
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April1, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The United States issues a Human Rights Report every year. The report is an update on the ongoing status of human rights across the world. This document is essential in understanding the status of worldwide human rights – and human rights violations, and in pinpointing those areas that the United States deems to be in need of more work, more money and more influence in order to bring about improved human rights.

Israel and the Palestinians are always mentioned in the Human Rights Report.
Under the Trump administration the chapter title dealing with their area was changed from “Israel and the Occupied Territories” to “Israel the West Bank and Gaza”.

The big question this year was: Would the Biden administration revert back to the Obama language in the Israel and the Palestinians chapter, or were they continuing with the Trump perspective on those areas?

The State Department clarified the issue: in some places in the body of the report it refers to the areas as “occupied”.

Ned Price, the US State Department Spokesperson said that the report: “does use the term ‘occupation’ in the context of the current status of the West Bank.”

Lisa Peterson is the highest level State Department official currently in the human rights bureau, she is the deputy secretary. Peterson explained the new / old terminology saying that the report generally uses geographical names and that “Israel, West Bank and Gaza” was easier and clearer for readers.”

So indeed there is a small and important change happening. Progress is progress.

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Yugoslavia to recognize
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 31, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Yugoslav’s new foreign minister, Donika Gervalla, gave an interview that made headlines in Israel and around the world.

Gervalla had just finished a conversation with Turkish President Erdogan. Erdogan was pressuring the Balkan nation to reconsider their diplomatic opening of relations with Israel and the opening of their embassy in Jerusalem.

In her interview with the online news site Kallxo.com she said “I believe that the issue of our embassy in Israel is a done deal. Why is it a done deal? Because we cannot get involved in diplomatic adventures to reconsider an issue that already has ended”.

Gervalla said Kosovo wants to strengthen ties with Israel but also wants to have “a good friendship, good ties with Palestinian authorities.”

Kosovo established diplomatic ties with Israel on Feb.1st of this year and earlier this month became the first European country and the first Muslim-majority country to establish an embassy in the western part of Jerusalem.

The Turkish president is, once again, stirring the pot – but Yugoslavia is not interested.


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Corruption in France
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 30, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Lest you think that only Israel has corrupt officials.

Former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been convicted of corruption. He was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment - 2 of those years are suspended.
Sarkozy is the second former president in modern France to be convicted of corruption. The first is the late Jacques Chirac.

Sarkozy was convicted of offering a job in Monaco to Judge Gilbert Azibert in return for confidential information about an inquiry into allegations that he, Sarkozy, had accepted illegal payments from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.

The payments came to light while conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, were wiretapped after Sarkozy left office. Those wiretaps were in relation to another investigation into Sarkozy about alleged Libyan financing of the same 2007 presidential campaign.
Vive la France.

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Iron Dome 10 Yrs Old
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 28, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Ten years ago, the Iron Dome defense system shot down its first rocket targeting an Israeli city.

The Iron Dome intercepted the rocket, launched by Hamas terrorists, midair.
It was nothing short of a miraculous achievement that then proceeded to give new life to the south of Israel.

Skeptics refused to believe that this defense system would be successfully deployed. The US Defense Department rejected the idea and the math behind it. They thought it would be too expensive, that the costs would outweigh the benefits.

But it did work. And it has brought a measure of security to those living and working in the southern part of Israel.

While it is not fool proof, the Iron Dome is a vast improvement over whatever defense systems Israel had once used. The system is constantly recalibrated to handle the changing nature of the threats against Israel.

When a terrorist’s rocket is shot into Israel, the Iron Dome will activate only if that rocket is going to land in a populated area. If the terrorist’s rocket is going to fall in Gaza or in an open field, there is no reason to waste money on shooting that rocket down. Each Iron Dome missile costs $30,000 to $40,000. There are eight missiles in a battery – if they are all deployed it would cost over $300,000.

The Iron Dome is a wonderful addition to the Israeli defense system. It is hard to believe that it has been ten years.

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Israel Yearns to be Boring
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 27, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Eretz Nehederet is the most successful political satire show in Israel. The television show is a smash - hit enormously funny and enormously popular. The show pokes fun at Israel, at Israeli leaders and at life in Israel. Nothing is off limits.

Eretz Nehederet, like all sature, is social and political commentary.
The name, Eretz Nehederet, means a “Wonderful Country”.

The star of Eretz Nehederet is Eyal Kitsis. He is quoted as saying that he wishes there wee less fodder for his show to feed on. He yearns for a more boring and stable government. Of course, he acknowledges, that would hurt the show. But it would be good for the country. The situation, as it now exists, makes for very good satirical material.

Katsis said "I would like us to finally have a stable government and make a boring program.”

Most Israelis would agree. But after a few episodes, they would certainly find their favorite program boring.


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Biden Giving Aid to PA
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 26, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The Biden administration is restoring relations with the Palestinians. The first official move signaling this change in US policy came in the form of a speech by the US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

The ambassador spoke before the UN Security Council at their monthly meeting. She announced that the United States will be giving $15 million to the Palestinians for humanitarian assistance. Especially for food in “vulnerable communities”.

She also said that the Biden administration supports Israel and that Israel is often “unfairly singled out by one-sided resolutions and actions in international bodies.”
She said that too often, criticism of Israel “veers dangerously into antisemitism. Antisemitism, as with all forms of hate, works directly against the cause of peace.”

This entire turnaround is troubling. Despite the kind words and caring sentiment the UN ambassador expressed for Israel, the resuscitation of US / Palestinian relations will inevitably spin around and hurt Israel.

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Iran Hits Israel Ship
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 25, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Iran shot another missile at an Israeli tanker. It happened in the Arabian Sea. The tanker was hit and damaged.

The tanker is owned by an Israeli businessman and registered in the name of a Haifa company named XT Management. The ship was on its way to Tanzania from India. The attack took place between India and Oman.

A similar incident occurred to another tanker, called the Helios Ray, in the Gulf of Oman in February.

Israel is investigating and will determine two important things.

First, how to punish those responsible for theses attacks. Second. how to protect Israeli ships.

Punishing those responsible for these acts of terror might incentivize those making the decisions and calling the shots to stop these acts of terror and destruction against Israeli ships.

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Soccer A/S in Argentina
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 24, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

In Argentina fans shouted “Chaca is coming along the road, killing the Jews to make soap.”

This is a direct anti-Semitic slur directed against Jews.
Chaca is short for Team Chacarita.

The ream was was preparing for a game against their long-time rival, Atlanta.
Atlanta, like Chaca, comes from the Villa Crespo neighborhood in Buenos Aires.
Many Jews live in this neighborhood.

But Atlanta has a long history of positive and open relations with their Jewish fans, their administrators and even some players. Jewish fans have supported Atlanta for years - ever since its founding in 1904.

This is not the first time a reference to soap has been made. In 2000, Chaca fans threw soap and Nazi flags at Atlanta fans. Then they chanted “the Jews were made of soap”.

In 1988 Argentina passed laws forbidding this hate speech, making it illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Yet, in certain circles, it persists.

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Israel's Elections
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 23, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Today is election day in Israel. Four elections in two years.

It is expected that, this time around, there will be a very low voter turnout. As of noon, only 24% of voters had cast their ballots. It is hard to build voting enthusiasm when it looks like nothing more than a repeat performance for the fourth time in a row.

It appears that the results will be more of the same.

The final tally will not be in until Friday. Big winners, so far, are Netanyahu and Bennet and Religious Zionists. Big losers are Blue and White and Saar’s New Hope party.

The big question is: This time around, will Netanyahu have enough votes to forge a government of likeminded parties without compromising too much on his political platform.

FYI - anyone who was deluded or naïve enough to think that corruption charges would derail the sitting prime minister’s election, does not understand Israel. No one chose to vote against Netanyahu because of the charges against him.

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Israel Court - Teachers Must Vaccinate
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 21, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The Tel Aviv Regional Labour Court ruled that an assistant teacher in a special education program who refuses to vaccinate against COVID and refuses to get tested can be barred from entering the school.

The court ruled that while the personal rights of the assistant teacher are important, those rights cannot encroach on the safety and security of the students and their families.

This case will certainly soon appear Israel’s Supreme Court. Hopefully, by then, the Israeli Knesset will have passed laws dealing with this issue so that the High Court will have a basis upon which to rule.

As of now, in Israel, the rights of the individual do not outweigh the right of the many. Teachers have the right to say “no” to both the vaccine and to COVID testing. But they cannot work in schools or in hospitals.

This is also established law in the United States – and not just as it relates to COVID vaccines. It is about other critical vaccines, as well. A good example is the response to an outbreak of polio, which was thought to have been eradicated in the United States, in the New York City area several years ago.


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Congress Invites Rivlin
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 20, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Both Houses of Congress have invited Israeli President Ruby Rivlin to address a joint session. The invitation is a farewell gesture to the Israeli president whose term of office ends on July 9th.

This is a wonderful swansong for Rivlin. It also – and perhaps more importantly, is an indication that there is still a strong bipartisan spirit of support for Israel in Congress.

COVID will be the determining factor in whether or not President Rivlin comes to Washington.

Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin has been a wonderful diplomat for Israel. He has fulfilled his role with grace and dignity. The role of an Israeli president is to generate non-partisan, worldwide support for Israel – and Rivlin has succeeded par excellence.

Most recently he travelled to Europe for talks with the heads of state from countries including France, Germany, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria and Portugal. He spoke to them about the plan of the ICC, the International Criminal Court, to prosecute Israel for war crimes.

Rivlin was very successful in swaying world opinion. Ruby Rivlin will be leaving large shoes for Israel’s next president to fill.

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Iran Threatens DC
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 19, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

According to an AP report, United States intelligence has discovered that Iran was planning a USS Cole-style attack on Fort McNair.

The intel, which comes from the NSA, the National Security Agency, also indicated that the US Army Vice Chief of Staff was a target.

Fort McNair is in Washington DC. Literally, it is in the nation’s capital. It is in closer proximity to the White house than the Pentagon or the CIA.

Fort McNair is also home to the National Defense University which includes the National War College. Included is the Capstone Program which brings 100 flag officers from 50 countries around the world to learn together.
As a target – it is prime. And that is why it was chosen by Iran.

The USS Cole was a US Navy destroyer situated in the Gulf of Aden in Yemen. In October of 2000 a small rubber boat filled with explosives pulled up alongside the destroyer and blew a huge hole in the ship. 17 sailors were killed.

A USS Cole-style attack is an attack against a significant US military target, This was a very serious threat.

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Contracting COVID Twice
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 18, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

On Wednesday, the highly respected medical journal Lancet published a very important peer reviewed article about re-infection from COVID.
The research was done in Denmark.

This research challenges the conventional wisdom that you cannot get COVID twice. The Denmark study puts numbers to the possibility of reinfection and to its risks.

The study divides people into two groups, those below 65 years of age and those older than 65.

If you are under 65, you have an 80% chance of recovery from a second COVID infection. If you are 65 or older, you only have a 47% chance of recovery if you contract COVID a second time.

The study explains that contracting COVID a second time is extremely uncommon.
They explain that new variants need to be studied. And they suggest that the new variants might be a reason for contracting COVD a second time.

Importantly, the study asserts that, should you contract COVID a second time, and if you are over 65 years old, it could very well be life threatening.

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Drone Deliveries in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 17, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel conducted a drone exercise on Wednesday. This was not a military program, instead, it was a test of commercial deliveries using small mini drones.

The test took place in the city of Hadera. It was computer controlled and managed from Haifa, which is 35 miles away.

The drones, released 20 at a time, delivered pizzas and other small items.

The skies of Israel are filled with other drones, with planes and with helicopters and even with paragliders. Because of all this air traffic, the rules of delivery drones state that they must fly under an altitude of 360 feet.

Israel’s delivery drones all have emergency parachutes in case of malfunctions.
Should there be a malfunction, the parachute will make certain the drone and the package and anyone or anything on the ground is not damaged.

The exercise was a success. It looks like drone deliveries are soon to become a reality for Israelis.

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Icholov Closes COVID Wards
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 16, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

On Monday March 15, 2021 Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv closed their last COVID ward.

The 18 remaining patients were transferred to other non-COVID care units.

This is enormously significant.

Ichilov is the largest medical center serving Tel Aviv. It is one of the largest medical campuses in Israel. Closing their COVID wards signals that Israel is in the final stretch of this pandemic.

Fewer and fewer people are dying of COVID in Israel. Fewer and fewer are becoming critically ill and requiring hospitalization. Vaccinations have topped 5 million will hit 7 million in the next few weeks.

The lock downs, the quarantines, the strict enforcement of rules and restrictions have paid off in lives saved and a pandemic that has been contained.

Good going Israel.

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Israel to the ICC
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 15, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

An Israeli group named Anshei Emet (the People of Truth) have taken the State of Israel to the Hague, also known as the ICC – the International Criminal Court.

This group alleges that Israel is forcing citizens to vaccinate and that forcing them to vaccinate is a form of abuse. They also assert that people have died from the vaccine. Their biggest argument is that the reaction to the shot is a form of abuse.

In reality, the numbers tell an opposite story.

Only 0.25% of those in Israel who received the Pfizer vaccine had any significant reaction. That number is practically 0.

The case is absurd. This group and their decision to bring the case to the Hague takes anti-vaxxers to a whole new – and dare I say ridiculous, level.

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Hackers Hack Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 14, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

A hacker group successfully attacked an Israeli finance company. Now they are demanding a ransom of 1.9 million shekel. That’s about $570,000.

The group is called The Black Shadow.

The company they attacked is called KLS, a finance company that handles car payments.

The Black Shadow has begun to release the company’s private information on the web. They also deleted a significant amount of data.

This is not the first time The Black Shadow has cyber attacked an Israeli company.
Last December they successfully attacked Israeli Insurance company Shirbit. Following that attack the hacker group demanded - and received 200 Bitcoins which equaled $3.8 million.

KLS has refused to pay. They told The Black Shadow that they will not pay.

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Archeology in The MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 13, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

A team of archeologists from Norway and France have discovered and unearthed a compound consisting of six churches and many isolation chambers. The remains are from the 5th century.

The finds are located in the Western desert. This dig further supports the idea that monastic life was commonplace in Christian religious life.

They found inscriptions. They found buildings that were cut into bedrock. They discovered that basalt stone as well as mud brick was used for building.

Archeological finds like this one are very helpful in our understanding of early Christian society.


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Sea of Galilee Nearly Full
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 12, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Just 18 months ago the water line in the Sea of Galilee was so dangerously low that it was below the bottom red line.

It was so low that pumping from Israel’s only freshwater lake was restricted to the bare minimum and nearly stopped. When the water level reaches the bottom red line, pumping must be restricted if not stopped.

Today, the Sea of Galilee is almost at full capacity. Israel is no longer in crisis for fresh water.

The Sea of Galilee was filled due to an unusual amount of rain and snow over the winter months.

If the water rises just a little more, the National Water Authority will open a dam and release water form the lake into the Jordan River. This is done in order to prevent flooding.

Imagine, six months ago water in Israel was at a dangerous low, today it is so high Israel can afford to siphon it off.

Israel needs water. For decades Israelis have been taught about the importance of water conservation. Water is so important for productive life and Israel has many plans to insure that the country continues to have fresh water.

Rain, of course, is not part of the plan but, thankfully, this year it arrived in the nick of time.


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Timeline for Iran Deal
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 11, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

I have written about the upcoming elections in Iran that will take place on June 18th.

Now we are hearing from “experts” explaining that, because of those elections, the window for the United States to come to an agreement with Iran before their election is about 10 weeks. That is all - just 10 weeks. After the election, they explain, the new president who will almost certainly +be even more conservative than Rouhani, the current president, will not welcome an agreement.

That entire analysis is wrong.

Who is to say that after an agreement is cobbled together and signed with the current government of Iran within the next 10 weeks, the incoming government will not rip it to shreds if for no other reason than to prove that they do not support relations with the United States and with the West.

This is Iran we are dealing with!

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Waters to Stevie Wonder - Boycott Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 10, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Stevie Wonder will be awarded the Wolf Prize from Israel. As always, the award was announced by the Israeli President, Ruby Rivlin.

The Wolf Prize is awarded to artists and scientists. It’s quite impressive.

Not surprisingly, Roger Waters – a blatant and outspoken hater of the Jewish State, is asking Stevie Wonder to reject the prize. Waters is a singer, songwriter, musician and composer. He is a also rabid supporter of BDS and he never misses an opportunity to attack Israel or to use his fame and music popularity to force others to boycott Israel.

Waters has reached out to just about every single performer scheduled to come to Israel. He publicly calls them out and uses Twitter to embarrass them.

Thus far, Waters’ campaign has had only very limited success.

And Stevie Wonder is still scheduled to accept the award.

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Iran Bombed Israeli Embassy in India
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 9, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

There was an explosion outside the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, India, this past January.

Until now it was thought that ISIS – which claimed responsibility in the aftermath of the explosion - had planned and executed the terror attack.

But India has now concluded that Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were behind the terror attack which was detonated by remote control.

A note, written in English was found nearby the site of the attack.

Turns out that the note was a deliberate attempt to mislead investigators.
According to the note, the attack was to avenge the deaths of several “martyrs”.
The martyrs listed on the note were Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s Islamic
Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander who was killed in a January 2020 United States drone strike; Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a top Iraqi militia commander who was killed along with Soleimani; and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s nuclear program, killed in a November 2020 attack that Tehran has blamed on Israel.

The note also said warned that the attackers are watching and can strike at any time.

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Elections in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 8, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

On June 18th, right around the corner, an election is scheduled in Iran. Candidates are starting to emerge.

One of the most likely candidates, and with an excellent chance of succeeding in this election, is named Saeed Mohammad. Mohammad is the director of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He also runs the largest commercial enterprise in Iran called the Khatam al Anbiya Construction.

Mohammad has no political experience. But that will not sideline him. He is very close with the Supreme Leader the Ayatollah Khamenei, the man who makes all decisions in Iran. In addition, his role in the IRGC gives him a great credential.
And he is also the employer of 10’s of thousands of people. Or he was – Mohammad just stepped down from that position in order to dedicate time to his run for the presidency.

Name recognition. A close connection to the Grand Ayatollah. An insider. Remember the name. Saeed Mohammad may very well become the next president of Iran.


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Israel Closes Kindergartens
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 7, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel’s ministry of education announced that over 500 kindergartens have been closed because of COVID. It is the largest number yet.

The kindergartens have been closed either because the children have been exposed to COVID or because their teachers have contracted COVID. In an effort to protect the teachers and the students and their families, the kindergartens had to be shuttered.

Anat Dadon, director of pre-school unions in Israel is quoted saying: "Parents are sending their children [to kindergarten] knowing they may be exposed to a carrier of the virus."

"We have not seen so many kindergartens forced to close and staff and children made to quarantine since the start of the pandemic."

The simple fact is that, in Israel, for the next few months, there will continue to be rolling closures of schools as students and teacher continue to test for COVID and some of them come back with positive test results.


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Dalia Lama Gets the Shot
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 6, 2021
I've Been Thinking:


Today the Dalai Lama got received his COVID 19 vaccine.

It was the first of the two vaccines he will get.

After receiving the shot, the 85 year old Tibetan spiritual leader spoke to the world.
He spoke to his ardent followers and to all who listen to him. He urged them all to be brave and to get the vaccine.

The Dalai Lama was the latest in a series of leaders - especially spiritual leaders, who are urging people to vaccinate. They are combatting a growing number of anti-vaxxers who have created conspiracy cults. Thee claim that COVID is a hoax.

They claim that the vaccine will cause damage to one’s health.

It is these conspiracy theories that are the real hoax. The Dalai Lama stood up and is helping to save the lives to his followers.


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Teaching Site Says Jews Killed Jesus
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 5, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

A mother complained that the homework assignment for her 7 year old son depicted the Jews as killing Jesus.

As a result, the site that the homework was on took down the 19 pages dealing with Jews as the killers of their god.

On the site, under the title The Trial, there was the following quote: “The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus to be guilty. They found it difficult to find anything that he had done wrong even though they paid people to lie about him. Eventually they asked him if he was the Son of God. Jesus replied I am. This was enough. They said this was an insult to God. Jesus was taken before Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor.”

And it goes on.

In the Christian Bible, on the several occasions where it is written that Jesus says that he is the son of God, it is only inferred. He never actually says those words.

There are people who are teaching children to hate Jews because they are the killers of their god. It is medieval. But it is happening today.


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Assad Has COVID
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 4, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

President Assad of Syria and his wife Asma tested positive for COVID. Both the president and his wife are 55 years old.

Asma had cancer nearly three years ago. She was treated and has fully recovered. The presidential office said that they have only mild symptoms, are in isolation in the palace and will return to work in a few weeks.

Several important points have emerged with that report.

Telling us that Assad and his wife have COIVD is unusual – it is not the modus operandi in Syria. Not telling us how serious the cases are is also very telling. The Syrian president’s office lies all the time. They are not lying about the COVID, but they are most certainly lying about the symptoms.

As an example of a lie - according to Syrian health officials only 16,000 people in Syria have contracted COVID. That cannot be the case.

In a dictatorship, information about the president or about national health are almost never made public and what is made public is almost never accurate.
It will be interesting to see if any further details – truth, half truths or lies – will be released.


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Hoaxes About COVID
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 3, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel is investing millions of shekels to combat fake news on the internet about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over the past few weeks, as Israel has hit major milestones in vaccine numbers and prepares to vaccinate the remained of their still unvaccinated population, an online movement has developed spreading hoaxes and lies about the vaccine.

Those behind these hoaxes couch their lies in pseudoscience and medicine.
Israelis who have not yet been vaccinated have done so out of choice. They need to be convinced. And because of these fake news sites, it is harder to sway them.

Experts say that these hoaxers are endangering individual lives as well as the greater health and well being of the population of the nation.

500,000 Israelis over the age of 50 still have not been vaccinated. They will get sick and some will die - simply because they were told lies about the vaccine.
Websites quoting real Israeli medical experts are now on counter websites. In simple terms, they explain the science behind the vaccines. They are debunking the myths. Hopefully, they will be saving lives.

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Agreement Btw US & Israel on Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 2, 2021
I've Been Thinking:


Most great agreements are hammered together behind closed doors.

Announcements of the final product are much more impressive when details of the day-to-day bickering inherent in forming an agreement are kept in the shadows.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced that the United States and Israel have come to an agreement about Iran.

Both countries agreed that there be no surprises. That means that Israel will not attack Iran without tell the United States in advance. And the United States will not open doors for Iran or enter negotiations or begin a new strategy without letting Israel know in advance.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said: "If anyone thought the Americans would run to make an agreement with Iran, up until now it did not happen, and I hope it does not happen in the future".


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Israel Launching Regional Security Pact
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 1, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel has launched an effort to create a regional defense pact.

The idea is to come to strategic agreements with numerous countries in the region, bonding together as a group, enabling group members to better protect themselves from aggressive outliers.

This defense pact will function similarly to NATO. If one country is attacked it is, by treaty, seen as an attack on all member nations.

The plan was reported by KAN, a Hebrew language radio network in Israel. It credited Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi with the idea for the plan and the follow through.

So far, the players joining Israel are UAE and Bahrain. I predict that both Egypt and Jordan will follow suit.

The outliers that will be isolated in this defense pact are Iran and Syria.

This could be a very useful – and intimidating, defense tool.

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Prof Fired for A/S Tweets
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 28, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to anti-Semitism.

A science professor at Ferris State University in Michigan named Thomas Brennan was fired because of his tweets. There is no hiding it – his tweets were outright anti-Semitic.

The Torch, which is the university student newspaper at Ferris State, printed a screenshot of one of his tweets. It read: “Covid19 is another jewish revolution.”

At the time, the university’s president, David Eisler, said the school was “shocked and outraged by these tweets.” He added that the tweets were “extremely offensive and run counter to the values of our University and our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

In November, Brennan was placed on administrative leave until an investigation was concluded.

As a defense, Brennan explained that he thought there were people invading his body and mind. He claims that he was not in control when he wrote those tweets.


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Iran Attacks Israeli Ship
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 27, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

This week an Israeli cargo ship, the Helios Ray, was hit by 2 missiles while above sea level in the open sea. The shop docked in Dubai in order to repair the holes.
The attack was almost certainly the work of Iran.

Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said: "This past weekend we received a reminder from one of the biggest threats in the region, who reminded us that Iran is not only a nuclear threat, but a spreader of terrorisms which carries out terrorist acts and actions against civilian targets."

Iran has identified a very weak link in Israeli security – Israeli shipping in the open seas. Cargo ships at sea are totally defenseless. Israeli ships flying the Israeli flag have only limited security.

This ship, the Helios Ray, was not flying an Israeli flag. It travelled under a Bahaman flag. But Iran knew its origin.

Israel must figure out how to defend ships on the high seas.

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Gantz Visits Jordan
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 26, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The head of Israel’s Blue White Party, Benny Gantz, met with King Abdullah of Jordan on Friday.

The purpose of the meeting was to point out to Israelis that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not welcome in Amman. Bibi has never successfully developed or expanded relations with Jordan.

Gantz is a serious underdog in the upcoming March 23rd elections.

This tete a tete in Jordan was an attempt by Gantz to illustrate how much more likeable to the Arab world he is than Bibi Netanyahu is.

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Israel Gives Vaccines to Syria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 25, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

There have been some very interesting developments on the COIVD vaccine front.

One of the most fascinating is mostly speculation - but it is still, very plausible.
Syria received the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. It was given to them by a “friendly nation.” That was how Syrian Health Minister Hassan Ghabash put it, as reported by the official Syrian media outlet SANA.

Now here is where it gets interesting and speculation begins: Russia was running interference and playing mediator between Israel and Syria to swap prisoners for an Israeli woman who accidently wandered into Syria.

To sweeten the pot, Israel bought the Russian vaccine and had the Russians deliver the vaccine to Syria. So who’s the “friendly nation”? That would be Russia.

The private equity company in Russia handling the sale and distribution of the Sputnik V vaccine would not comment.

We may never know the truth or learn more details. But quite possibly, Israel bought the vaccine from Russia and had it sent to Syria in exchange for the release of an Israeli woman.

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Vaccine Diplomacy
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 24, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

I call it Vaccine Diplomacy.

Israel is giving COVID vaccines to countries that have already moved, or promised to move, their embassies to Jerusalem.

Israel is giving vaccines to those countries that have opened their diplomatic doors to them.

The ability to vaccinate your citizens, when vaccines are expensive and difficult to come by, is of the great benefits of creating relations with Jewish State.

Honduras, Guatemala and the Czech Republic will all benefit from Israel’s Vaccine Diplomacy.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu explained that: “Our stock is above and beyond what Israelis need; we have more than enough to help out.”

More countries are in line to receive COVID vaccines from Israel – and more and more vaccines are arriving in Israel.

Pfizer was, for a long time, the only vaccine administered in Israel. That’s because Israel agreed to transmit to all the details of the public rollout to Pfizer, allowing the drug company to use Israel as their test country.

Now however the Moderna has arrived. And Israel has more than enough vaccine, allowing them to be generous to their “friends” in need.

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Elections in Iran June 18
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 23, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Most people have not marked the date on their calendars, but on June 18th there will be a presidential election in Iran.

The present government, which is run by “moderate” Rouhani will be replaced by – who knows. The field is full of conservatives. Included in the roster of contenders is Irani’s current Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif.

It is too soon to predict the outcome of the election for two simple reasons.
Reason number one is that the Supreme Leader has not yet made his opinion public. And as we all know, in the end it is The Grand Ayatollah who decides who wins an election.

Reason number two is that the only issue of significance in Iran right now is the nuclear question which is all about sanctions and the economy. Until the Biden administration puts their plan of action into play, neither the candidates nor current
Iranian leadership will be able to respond.
We must all be patient and wait.

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Monitor World Leaders
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 22, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

It is important to monitor the activities of leaders of allied countries, not just the actions of our enemies. Their travel and their health can be very telling.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is recovering from a successful surgical operation. The report was issued by the state news agency.

The Crown Prince underwent laparoscopic surgery for appendicitis in the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

This is very good news from all points of view.

Most important is that the Crown Prince was quickly diagnosed and that he was brought to a local hospital where a successful and quick surgery was performed.
This shows a change in Saudi policy. In the past, the Crown Prince would have been flown to another nation for his surgery.

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Israel's Cure for COVID
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 19, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Enlivex is an Israeli biotech company specializing in immunotherapy. The company is working on a cure for COVID. They just completed Phase II of trials and the results are very promising.

The drug Enlivex is testing and improving is called Allocetra.

In this second stage, sixteen patients who were all in severe or critical condition survived a 28 day experimental Phase II treatment. At the end of the trial, two of the sixteen patients were in still in critical condition and on ventilators. The other fourteen patients were fully recovered, healthy and released from the hospital.
The average duration of hospitalization after receiving Allocetra, for those who were discharged, was 5.3 days.

In the Phase I trial of the drug, five patients were all in severe condition when they started receiving Allocetra. Their average stay in the hospital was 10 days and they all recovered.

The most significant finding in this study is the improvement that was seen from the first to the second trial. Nearly a 50% improvement. And the time spent in the hospital once the drug was administered went from ten days to five.

There is hope.

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Arrest the Rioters
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 21, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The rioters who broke into the Capitol on January 6th are, slowly, slowly, all being arrested.

The rioter who sat in Mike Pence’s seat in the Senate and who shouted and posted horrific Jew hatred saying that the Jews control the government and Israel controls governments around the world has been arrested.

His name is Christian Secor. His internet name is “Groyper.” He follows and supports white supremacists. He has praise for shooters who spray their bullets across crowds and murder innocent people and for the neo-Nazi rally that was held in Charlottesville, VA in 2017. His web-posts are littered with racist Jew hatred and with conspiracy theories.

The Department of Justice has prioritized their agenda. Fighting extremism is high on their list.

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Israel's Nano Satellite
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 20, 2021
I've Been Thinking:


Tel Aviv University launched a nano satellite from Virginia. The satellite is, as the name implies, tiny. It is only 4 inches by 4 inches by 12 inches and weighs just over 5 lbs.

This nano satellite will orbit the earth at an altitude of 250 miles, racing at a speed of 5 miles per second which puts it at a speed of 17,150 mph (27,600 kph). An entire orbit of the earth will occur every 90 minutes.

Tel Aviv University’s nano satellite entered orbit on a NASA supply ship on its way to the international space station. It split off into orbit when it hit its proper altitude.

This is truly remarkable. The technology was created by a few engineers in a university lab - not by a multi-billion dollar company with hundreds of engineers and physicists.

We are witnessing the future of satellites and it is a great equalizer. It is called “New Space technology” as opposed to “Old Space Technology”.
And Israel is on the cutting edge of this technology.


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Chief Rabbi Fires Judge-Refuses to Vaccinate
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 18, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau suspended a rabbinic judge who serves on the conversion court.

As president of Supreme Rabbinical Courts, Rabbi Lau has the authority to suspend judges for behaviors deemed inappropriate. This judge refuses to take the COVID vaccine.

In a statement issued by Rabbi Lau, he wrote: “It is forbidden for a person to damage his own body and all the more so that of someone else”.

Lau said that the dangers of COVID-19 are a verifiable fact and that any dangers inherent in the vaccine are uncertain, and that it is, therefore, an obligation to get vaccinated.

He explained: “Someone who does not get vaccinated is not only likely to harm himself but is also likely to harm someone else.”

According to the Chief Rabbi, protecting one’s health allows people to “fulfil our obligations in a world of significance … Someone who does not fulfill this command rejects the good that God granted his world by giving us the possibility of getting out of the distress caused by the coronavirus.”

According to Jewish law, Rabbi Lau is correct. According to Israeli law, I’m not sure if suspending the rabbi for these reasons is legal.

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Israel Warns Hezbollah
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 17, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel has sent a very clear message to Hezbollah.

During a single, 24-hour period, Israel engaged in an exercise during which the Israeli air-force attacked 3,000 targets.

The targets were all essential infrastructure and military sites. They hit bridges, electric grids, airports, arms depots and underground command and control centers.

This is the first air-force drill of its kind. It was so big and so real.
Israel carried out this one-of-a-kind exercise in public. In an almost unprecedented move, the exercise was broadcast to the media.

Israel was transmitting a message to Hezbollah both through the air and through the air waves. The message was clear. Israel is prepared to respond to any attack or act of aggression from Lebanon.


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Rabbis From Arab Lands
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 16, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The rabbis of fourteen Arab countries have created an alliance.

Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yossef endorsed the new group which is named the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States. The chairman of the alliance is Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, the Chabad representative in Turkey.

Rabbi Chitrik explained the background behind this alliance and said: “The establishment of this alliance to unite all the Jewish communities in these places with the recognition of government officials in each state is very welcome and will assist in the provision of Jewish needs of the members of these different communities.”

The fourteen countries participating in this alliance are: Tunisia, Morocco, Uganda, Nigeria, Kosovo, Albania, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, North Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates. Additional members are the Russian Muslim-majority republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.

According to Rabbi Chitrik: “Our purpose is to advance Jewish life in these countries and focus on Jews who still work and live in the Muslim world … It is important for us to have our voice heard in countries where we live, so we work with government officials to maintain the Jewish past and sustain Jewish life in the present.”

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Iran Arrests Synagogue Thieves
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 15, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Iran arrested a gang of thieves as they were tunneling into an ancient synagogue in Urmia, a city in the north western region of the country.
Urmia is the 10th largest city in Iran.

The gang’s plan was to steal synagogue treasures and then to sell them.

In the past, it was Torah scrolls that were stolen from synagogues in Iran. In one case, a Torah was found and returned to its rightful synagogue – all by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

It was the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that discovered the tunnels and arrested the thieves.

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Israeli Borders & Drug
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 14, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel’s borders with her neighbors are, first and foremost, security risks.

They are also the point of entry for illegal drugs.

When an Israeli soldier was injured in shootout on the Egyptian border, the reason was clear. The Egyptian army and drug smugglers were shooting at each other when the Israelis arrive. The soldier was not hit by a bullet, but by shrapnel.

In the end, the drug smugglers were stopped.

Most drugs enter Israel through its borders, very often from the Egyptian border.
Bedouins excel at drug smuggling. For Bedouins, borders do not exist. Crossing borders and delivering product is not a violation of Bedouin tradition.

This tradition must be broken.


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Israel Gives Gas To Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 13, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel has signed on to an agreement to import natural gas to Gaza.

The agreement was signed between Israel, Qatar, the United Nations and the European Union. The deal was brokered by Qatar.

The agreement has two parts.

Part one involves Israel providing gas to the Palestinian Authority.

Part two includes the construction of a pipeline from Israel to the Gaza Strip. The European Union and Qatar will allocate money for the pipeline.

Israel has already signed contracts with Egypt and Jordan, so it makes sense that they should supply natural gas to Gaza.

It is hard to imagine, but Israel is now a major player in the supply of natural gas.


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Herzl 150 years
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 12, 2021
I’ve Been Thinking:

Friday February 12, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Theodor Herzl’s spectacular work. Der JudenStaat. was published in February of 1896.

In this pamphlet Herzl presented his plan for changing the Jewish people through the creation a state. Herzl argued that a state will transform the Jewish people.

The title Der Judenstaat is most often mistranslated. Whereas as “The Jewish State” is the translation we most often here, it is fundamentally a wrong translation of Herzl’s idea. The best translation of Der Judenstaat is the “State of Jews”.

Herzl wanted Jews to come together, he wanted to create a mini-Switzerland in the Middle East. Herzl did not want a state imbued with Judaism.

Herzl proposed that, rather than one language, all languages be spoken in the new state. That way, he felt, it would bring the culture of the world to the new state.
He warned that two languages should not be spoken.

Those languages were Hebrew and Yiddish.

About Hebrew he said: who among us knows enough Hebrew to order a train ticket. And About Yiddish he said: Yiddish is the language of the ghetto, the new state is a rejection of the ghetto.

Herzl actually went to the Sultan of Turkey and offered to balance his books in exchange for giving Jews land in Palestine. Obviously, the deal never went through.

Theodor Herzl is the father of modern Zionism. This year commemorates the 125th anniversary of one small publication that changed the world. Not just the Jewish world, the entire world.

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Gaza Has Re-Armed
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 11, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza have completely rebuilt their military apparatus in the years since their last major conflict with Israel in 2014.

According to Israeli estimates Hamas now has:
7000 rockets, 300 anti-tank missiles, 100 anti-aircraft missiles, 30,000 soldiers and 400 naval commandos.

Islamic Jihad has:
6,000 rockets, dozens of drones, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and 400 naval commandos.

This is not good news.

The border between Israel and Gaza is 30 miles long and very problematic. In 2014 alone, Israel discovered and destroyed 20 terrorist tunnels going from Gaza into Israel.

With each passing year, the threats increase.


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Crazy Ideas About COVID
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 10, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

I’ve Been Thinking:
Israel has been a beacon to the world on how to best deliver the COVID vaccine to millions of people.

And yet, there are still those who DO NOT want to receive the shots.
Vaccine evaders tout pseudo-science and pseudo experts and parrot claims about the dangers of taking the vaccine.

There are rabbis and community leaders and people with influence who advise that the vaccine leads to death and that COVID is, really, not so bad.

Rumors are spreading that the vaccine is actually a tool of the government used to track every citizen and therefore, DO NOT vaccinate.

It’s ludicrous. But there are believers.

Israel is spending millions of dollars to educate anti-vaxxers. Proponents of this idea are very slick, they couch their message in great presentations. But performances aside, their premise is incorrect.

The numbers are unclear. No one knows exactly how many people are refusing COVID vaccines, but every one of them can and will endanger countless other people.

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TEVA to Help Produce Vaccine
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 9, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Kare Schultz, the CEO of Teva Pharmaceuticals, announced that the company has been approached by, and they have approached the manufacturers of, COVID vaccines to help produce more product.

Demand for the COVID shot is tremendous. And that demand is only increasing.
Every country in the world needs to have their residents inoculated and creators of the vaccines need more and more vaccine. They cannot keep up with the need and so they are looking for help.

Teva is an international company. It was created in Israel, it manufactures in Israel and Israel is one of its major centers, especially in R&D.

This is a good idea. The shortage of vaccines is due to inability to produce enough vaccine fast enough.

A contract between Teva, the largest producer of generic drugs in the world, with whichever company needs the help, will be a win-win for each and every one of us.


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Iran's New Boats
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 8, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Iranian media has reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has 340 new, small, attack boats.

Some of the boats are from England and they are called Bladerunner.

Some are from China and are called “China Cat”.

Some are from North Korea and are called Taedong -B. These are attack boats with the capability of going under water.

Some of the boats were filmed and photographed. Some had drones attached to them. Others had rocket launchers attached.

Part of the strength of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard comes from their fleet of small boats that travel under the radar. An additional 340 attack boats would be a massive upgrade to their fleet.

But - many analysists are doubting the veracity of the claim as reported by Iranian media. Some doubt that all of the 340 attack boats are new. Others doubt that there are even 340 of them at all.

It might all be a big fake. Iran enjoys the game of intimidation.

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Biden Says No About Lifting Iran Sanctions
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 7, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

All it took was a single word – and that word was NO.

President Biden said NO, the United States will not lift sanctions against Iran until after Iran stops enriching uranium in violation of the 2015 Nuclear Deal.

Before the US president made his intentions clear, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the Supreme Leader Khamenei both said that they will not stop enriching unless the United States lifts the sanctions. They both asserted that there should be no preconditions.

The Supreme Leader said: "This is the definitive and irreversible policy of the Islamic Republic, and all of the country's officials are unanimous on this, and no one will deviate from it."

It looks like we have an “Iranian standoff.”

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David Schoen Kiddush HaShem
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 6, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The lead defense lawyer for former President Donald Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial is David Schoen.

Schoen is an orthodox Jew and he requested that the proceedings halt from Friday evening through Saturday evening, during the Sabbath.

The request, which was granted by Senator Chuck Schumer, also Jewish but not as observant a Jew as Schoen, raises several questions. One of those questions is about how long will the trial actually take? Will it take over 4 days – an interesting question given that the Senate is not scheduled to meet during the week known as President’s Week?

From the Jewish perspective, the appointment of Schoen to lead attorney is a tremendous “Kiddush Hashem”, an act which elevates and highlights the beauty of Judaism and God.

It is a clear demonstration that accommodations can and should be made for Sabbath observers and that Sabbath observers can and should request the accommodations. It is a clear demonstration that being a Sabbath observer should not be thought of as a professional hindrance.

Schoen did not make his request of the Senate at the last minute, he let them know upfront. Respect is a two-way street.


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ICC Sides w the Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 5 , 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians have always felt secure about imploring the international community to plead their case and to defend them.

Their use of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague is a perfect example. The International community - and especially the ICC, is a reflection of the thinking and the tone of power as it is set on the international scene.

For 4 years under the Trump presidency, the Palestinians and their cause were sidelined. And for the past year even their fellow Arabs relegated Palestinian issues to the margins.

Things changed once Joe Biden took office. And now the Palestinians are making certain not to miss this opportunity. Not waiting for the result of Israeli elections scheduled for March 23rd, the Palestinians have mounted a diplomatic full court press in Europe.

They are also pursuing Israel by way of the ICC. And the ICC has ruled that they now have jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories.

Israel needs to clearly show where they stand - especially on the issue of Palestinian statehood.

For years Israel embraced ambiguity. It was safe. But because of the changes in the White House, real decisions are going to be forced upon the region. In order to properly respond, Israel must know its options and plan adequately and appropriately.

This is not just important, it is crucially important.

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Royal Cloth Found in Desert
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 3, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

A fragment of royal purple cloth, dating to 1000 years BC, was recently discovered in the Israeli desert, near the Dead Sea, in a place called Slaves Hill.

The dig in which the cloth fragment was unearthed has been dated to the reign of King David.

The royal purple color of the cloth is officially known as argaman. Cloth of that color, which came from a murex sea snail, was more valuable than gold. The color does not change over time. It does not fade. 3000 years later the purple is the same purple.

The textiles made their way from the Mediterranean coast where the snails were caught to Jerusalem where the clothing was worn.

This small fragment is proof that there was much more interaction between geographic areas and socio-economic groups than historians and archaeologists had thought. It is now clear that people of the rural desert and royalty must have interacted.

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PA Plants Trees for Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 2, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian Authority has begun planting trees to memorialize terrorists.

The PA decided to plant trees so that they can “sanctify” terrorists and make certain that they “eternally remain in our hearts”.

According to an advisor to Abbas: “[t]he initiative… honors the Martyrs, who are the most ‎precious thing we have in our history”‎

The father of a terrorists expressed his pleasure at this initiative and said:“Every day we will grow a tree, every day we will grow a Martyr”.

The list of people the PA has chosen to honor with trees is astonishing – and abhorrent. They include:

“Self-sacrificing fighter Martyr Dalal Mughrabi” - who led the mass-murder of 37 Israeli ‎civilians, including 12 children.

“Martyr commander Fathi Shaqaqi” - founder of the terror organization Islamic ‎Jihad. ‎“Martyr commander Salah Khalaf” – who planned the massacre of 11 Israeli ‎athletes during the Olympic games.

Thank you to PMW, Palestinian Media Watch, for their descriptions of these Palestinian terrorists and for bringing this initiative to our attention and to the attention of the world.

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France Suspends Hosts Who Interviewed Is Amb
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 1, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel’s ambassador to France, Daniel Saada, was interviewed on BEUR FM radio.

BEUR FM is a French national station that caters to the North African community throughout France. They broadcast in French, in Arabic and in other Berber languages.

Saada was interviewed by two hosts on a show that discussed the Abraham Accords and especially, the new relationship between Israel and Morocco.
The two hosts were suspended and sanctioned for hosting the interview with the Israeli ambassador. The hosts were stunned.

Legal proceedings have now commenced against the station for illegally suspending and sanctioning the hosts. This is most certainly a form of discrimination.

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Iran is Playing Games to Win
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 31, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The “Iran and the Nuclear Deal” game is on.

President Trump withdrew from the Nuke Deal in 2018. Three years later the new US administration, under President Biden, is excited about getting back to the negotiation table.

Don’t expect this to be easy, as much as Iran wants it and as much as Biden wants to make it happen.

Iran’s foreign ministry has flat out rejected changing participation in the negotiations. This was in response to France’s President Emmanuel Macron suggestion to bring Saudi Arabia along to the table.

Iran responded saying: "The nuclear accord is a multilateral international agreement ratified by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which is non-negotiable and parties to it are clear and unchangeable.”

Iran knows that France and the rest of the Western world want to stack the deck against them. The Saudis would join with Western nations and become a force against Iran.

Iran was correct to reject Saudi participation in the talks. I don’t often say that Iran is correct.


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World Watches Israel
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 30, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The world is learning about COVID and the COVID vaccine from Israel. People world over are watching what happens in the Jewish state.

It is hard to imagine, but in Israel right now, 40% of all new COVID infections are found in school aged youth. Another 40% of new infections are found in the Hareidi population - which composes only 11% of the population.

The need for ventilators has increased six-fold for people between 40 and 60 years of age. 17 patients under 40 years old are now on ventilators. Another 25 people under 40 are on ECMO which is a heart / lung machine. It is the last hope these people have for recovery.

Israel is making all their numbers public to help the world understand how to confront this killer virus.

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Jordan King Demands Israel Vaccinate
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 29, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Jordan’s King Abdullah used his time in Davos, attending the World Economic Summit, attacking Israel for not vaccinating the Palestinians.

The King’s attack was not that Israel was not vaccinating Israeli Arabs, but rather, that Israel was they not vaccinating the 2.8 million Palestinians living under
Palestinian control in the West Bank and the 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza.

Here is the problem. Palestinian leadership has not asked Israel for vaccines. And actually, according to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians are responsible for their own healthcare.

And there is an even bigger issue here. For weeks, Palestinian leadership has been working to get the vaccine from Russia through the Sputnik V vaccine program. PA leadership has also been insisting that they are going through the UN to get their vaccines. And they have repeatedly said that their program will begin in February.

So why was the King of Jordan attacking Israel in January?

The simple answer is that attacking Israel is an easy way to deflect personal responsibility. Attacking Israel unifies all those who hate Israel.


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Gantz Speaks to Austin
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 28, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, and his US colleague Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, had a phone conversation on Thursday.

Obviously, Gantz congratulated Austin on assuming his new position as US Secretary of Defense. Gantz emphasized how he was looking forward to continuing the spectacular relationship that has been in place for decades between the countries.

They also spoke about Iran – an area of potential tension.

Gantz clearly stated that Iran is a serious threat to the region and especially to Israel. He emphasized the importance of working together on issues concerning Iran and the importance of coordinating information and sharing strategy.

There was no comment from the United States.

Interestingly, as of this writing, Biden and Netanyahu have yet to speak.

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Holocaust Survivors Die of COVID
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 26, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

In Israel, 900 Holocaust survivors have died of COVID. 5,300 Holocaust survivors contracted the deadly virus. Those are powerful numbers.

As of now there are only 179,600 Holocaust survivors living in Israel. 850 survivors have lived to the age of 100. 66% of Israel’s Holocaust survivors are women.

Imagine the indignity of surviving the horrors of Nazism and Hitler’s murder machine only to succumb to COVID.

Everyone who gets COVID got it from someone who was not careful.

Think about that!


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Dubai is COVID Infected
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 25, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, was thought of as an escape from COVID.

People from all over the world went to Dubai for vacation. In Dubai there was no COVID – or, at least, people acted as if there was no COVID. There was dancing and partying and shopping.

In Dubai, you had fun. And then you went back home.

But in Dubai, all was not as it seemed, not as people wanted it to be.

240,000 ex-patriots from the United Kingdom live in Dubai. And among their friends who came to visit and party, there were COVID carriers. And they brought the new COVID variant with them.

Most countries banned flights to and from the United Kingdom. But Emirates Air flew five flights daily from Heathrow, London to Dubai.

Israel, too, was flying back and forth from Dubai. Some of those flights were even offset by government business assistance programs.

The irony! In the midst of COVID lockdowns, when only Israelis could enter or leave their country, Israel was sponsoring flights to a hotbed of COVID.

Several experts watching events unfold dubbed the Israeli / Dubai connection a ticking timebomb. They are so right.

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Modern Sandy Koufax
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 24, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Elie Kligman is a highly desired baseball recruit from Arizona.

A high-school senior, Kligman is regarded as one of the best baseball players in Arizona. There is serious interest from Division I universities and he is, of course, looking towards the majors.

Kligman is Jewish. Kilgman does not play on Shabbat. Friday night and Saturday games are not even an option.

In a story that ran on Chabad.com, Kligman is quoted as saying: "I have the mindset of, ‘This is what I am doing for Judaism, and this is what I am doing for baseball.’ Once the sun goes down on Friday night, it’s not a debate for me, [celebrating Shabbat] is just what I am doing … When you are a proud Jew, people respect when I tell them I’m not going to play on Friday night and Saturday.”

Kligman is still a teenager. He is also a Jewish hero. Not yet as popular or famous as Sandy Koufax who refused to play in the World Series on Yom Kippur, Elie Kligman won’t play on any Shabbat of Yom Tov.

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Hezbollah Drones
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 23, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

On a recent Friday morning, Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon launched a drone into Israel.

Israel monitored the entire launch.

The drone passed into Israeli territory in the Western Galilee near Kibbutz Hanita, which is located 150 yards (450 ft) into Israel and it was there that the drone was shot down.

Israel collected all the parts and bits and pieces of the drone for analysis. There were no weapons but, of course, there were cameras.

Hezbollah is attempting to test Israel and Israel’s defense capabilities. Hezbollah also want to show Israel that they, too, have drones.

Iran has been extremely creative in their drone activities and Iran is helping Hezbollah advance their drone operations.

Watch and wait. Hezbollah will be using more and more drones as the days go by.

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Iran Likes Biden
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 21, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Iran is happy that Joe Biden is the new president of the United States. No surprise there.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is so pleased with the potential he sees in the new administration that he took the liberty of offering the new US president some advice.

Rouhani urged US President Biden to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Rouhani delivered his message in a televised cabinet meeting. He said: "The ball is in the U.S. court now. If Washington returns to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the pact … U.S. President Donald Trump's political career is over today and his 'maximum pressure' policy on Iran has completely failed.”

Iran wants to get back to the good old days before Trump.
It’s too early to tell what direction the Biden administration will take.

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Blinken Has History
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 20, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

During his Senate nomination hearing Tony Blinken, the Biden nominee for Secretary of State, revealed some very significant foreign policy ideas on the part of new administration.

Blinken wants to push for the Two-State Solution between Israel and the Palestinians and he wants to restart relations with Iran Russia and China.

This is what he said to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "When we're not engaged, when we don't lead, then one of two things happen: either some other country tries to take our place, but probably not in a way that advances our interests or values. Or no one does, and then you get chaos … Either way, that does not serve the American people."

There is no doubt that if Blinken passes committee’s scrutiny he will be the one directing the Biden administration’s foreign policy.

Tony Blinken has extensive foreign policy experience. Part of that experience includes making nice with Iran - it is a part of his philosophy.

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Charedi Leader Finally Shouts
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 19, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Finally, someone with real bona fides and credentials in the Chareidi (ultra orthodox) community is calling out Chareidi leaders, calling them irresponsible and guilty of aiding in the deaths of their followers. He accused them of denying COVID and not taking the deadly pandemic seriously.

Yehudah Meshi Zahav is the founder of ZAKA, a volunteer emergency medical
organization that unhesitatingly rushes in after accidents and terrorist attacks. ZAKA members are true heroes.

After losing both his mother and brother to COVID, Meshi Zahav gave an interview to YNET. He said: "This is our leaders' fault. I say this with heavy heart, I think they're worse than Holocaust deniers. After all, Holocaust deniers deny history, and here, they're denying the present.”

"What's wrong with those leaders? How can they say, 'our hands did not spill that blood?' There are people around here who are suspected of spilling blood, even if people call them 'rabbis'. There isn't a single neighborhood, building, or home without at least one victim.

"Forty-four people have died in the last 24 hours, 44 families whose entire worlds fell apart, 44 families for whom nothing will ever be the same again - and we played it down. Can’t they see? Each one of us is literally a ticking time bomb.”

And finally, he said: "Their obituaries shouldn't say, 'rest in peace,' but 'may the Lord avenge their blood' instead. Hearing [coronavirus patients'] cries in coronavirus wards, it's heart-wrenching. There is no one there to hear them, and I am sitting there, watching ambulance after ambulance taking out the dead."

Yehudah Meshi Zahav is to be applauded.

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Israel Demands Turkey Shut Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 18, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel is showing strength and character.

Jerusalem issued a statement to Turkey about normalizing relations.
Israel made it clear that there can be no normalizing of relations between the countries until and unless Turkey shuts down their support and sponsorship of Hamas.

Turkey enables Hamas to organize their activities.

Turkey permits Hamas the ability to coordinate their terrorist operations out of Istanbul.

From Turkey Hamas recruits and finances much of their operation in Gaza. They transfer funds from Istanbul to Gaza and their money is protected in Turkey.

Israel has always had a weak spot for countries wanting to normalize relations with them. Israel would typically look the other way or even totally capitulate in order to accommodate the other country and get them to “like” the Jewish State.

Standing strong and making demands on Turkey is a major step for Israel.
Israel is showing maturity and wisdom.

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Saudis Welcome Qatar back
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 17, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

I’ve Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia has announced that they are opening an embassy in Qatar.

The announcement was thrown out as a nonchalant comment about the opening of new Saudi embassies by Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan.

The Saudi foreign minister was speaking to journalists in Riyadh when he was asked about embassy re-openings.

This revelation signals that relations between Qatar and the other Sunni countries are on the mend. That’s big news because Qatar was isolated from the other Sunni countries after they sided with Iran against the other Sunni nations.

Now it looks like that the divide is narrowing and that Qatar is coming back into the community of Sunni Gulf nations.

It is clear that the Trump initiative in the Middle East was successful. Iran was sidelined and now Qatar wants to come back to the security of the Sunni fold, but many in the Sunni world are still skeptical of their real intentions.

Qatar’s move to side with Iran caused serious pain to the Sunni community. But if Saudi Arabia is willing to trust them other nations will probably follow along.

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Israel's Transition to Biden
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 16, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Now that Donald J. Trump will no longer president of the United States, Israel needs to recalibrate.

Israel spent the last four years riding the wave of pro-Israel US policy. And it was quite a wave.

The United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The United States recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

Now Israel must figure out how to navigate their relations with the United States under Joe Biden’s administration.

Israel - not just Netanyahu but almost every leader in Israel, felt comfortable in the relationship between the Jewish State and Trump.

That is gone.

Biden is no stranger to Israel. But it will not be the same.

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Hopkins' A/S
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 13, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

It is stunning to realize how many examples there are of anti-Semitism on campus.

In a tweet, a teaching assistant at Johns Hopkins polled her followers and asked if, when grading, she should take points away from pro-Israel students.
She then described how repulsed she was by the pro-Israel sentiment of her students and how she found white men reprehensible.

The teaching assistant insisted that, up until now, she has always been fair – but her tweets speak for themselves.

The university issued a statement:
"We are aware of an incident of alleged anti-Semitism and potential abuse of authority in the discharge of academic responsibilities on our campus, and while we are constrained in what we can share with you and others about matters such as these, we wish to assure you that we take seriously any and all allegations of discrimination, harassment, or other misconduct – including anti-Semitism."

The pressure Jews feel on campus is growing and growing.

This is just one of many examples.

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Pelosi Quotes Israeli Poet
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 12, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

I admit we live in crazy times. And then it just gets crazier.

While speaking in Congress, in an appeal to her Republican colleagues, Nancy Pelosi quoted from the great Hebrew poet Ehud Manor’s spectacular poem “Ein Li Eretz Aheret” which, in English, translates to mean “I have No Other Country”.

Pelosi did not just mention the title of the poem and its essential theme, she said: "Mr. Speaker … I recall the words of the great Israeli poet, Ehud Manor.”

And then continued: "I can't keep silent in light of how my country has changed her face, won’t quit trying to remind her. In her ears, I'll sing my cries until she opens her eyes. I can't keep silent of how my country has changed her face.”

The poem was turned into a song that was made famous by Gali Atari. It is a heart wrenching and deeply moving poem and when put to music it deeply touches the souls of people who care about their country.

For Ehud Manor, that country was Israel. For Nancy Pelosi, it is the United States.

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Pelosi Quotes Israeli Poet
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 12, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

I admit we live in crazy times. And then it just gets crazier.

While speaking in Congress, in an appeal to her Republican colleagues, Nancy Pelosi quoted from the great Hebrew poet Ehud Manor’s spectacular poem “Ein Li Eretz Aheret” which, in English, translates to mean “I have No Other Country”.

Pelosi did not just mention the title of the poem and its essential theme, she said: "Mr. Speaker … I recall the words of the great Israeli poet, Ehud Manor.”

And then continued: "I can't keep silent in light of how my country has changed her face, won’t quit trying to remind her. In her ears, I'll sing my cries until she opens her eyes. I can't keep silent of how my country has changed her face.”

The poem was turned into a song that was made famous by Gali Atari. It is a heart wrenching and deeply moving poem and when put to music it deeply touches the souls of people who care about their country.

For Ehud Manor, that country was Israel. For Nancy Pelosi, it is the United States.

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Iran & Their Drones
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 11, 2021
I've Been Thinking:


Iran recently conducted a drone exercise. Several hundred drones participated in the exercise.

The drones were used in many roles - air to air, air to surface and surface to surface. Some of the drones also were fitted with missiles and smart bombs.

A major part of the exercise involved hundreds of drones in kamikaze strikes in which the drones were used as missiles. This kamikaze drone weapon is new and it is very effective. Like suicide bombers, the drone can be sent by its operator directly to its target.

The videos I watched were like Top Gun with drones. But this is neither fantasy nor entertainment. The new use of these weapons by Iran is extremely dangerous.

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Yemeni Houthis Threaten Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 10, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Yemen is threatening Israel.

They are threatening Israel in response to an interview on Kan Media in Israel during which an Israeli military source said that Israel is preparing strikes against Iranian backed Iraqi militias, as well as Iranian backed Houthis in Yemen.

Fadl Abu Talib, a member of the Houthi Political Bureau, told the Yemini media outlet Rai Al Youm that they will strike “very sensitive” sites in Israel if Israel attacks them.

He said: "If the Israeli enemy was involved in any action against our people, our people will not hesitate to declare jihad against this enemy. We will not hesitate to launch the strongest possible attacks towards very sensitive sites for the Israeli enemy."

Abu Talib then added: "The remarks of the Zionist war criminals, which stated that Yemen is a threat to the Zionist entity, have been repeated; therefore, we are recalling … that our hostility to Israel as a rapist entity and hostile to our ummah is a human and moral principle, as well as a religious obligation."

The Houthis are blustering and over-reaching. There is no way that they can actually present a realistic military threat against Israel.

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Israel Delivers Iron Dome to US
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 7, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Israel delivered its 2nd Iron Dome Anti-Missile defense system to the United States on Thursday. This is significant. The US commissioned Israel and purchased this advanced anti-missile system in 2019.

The Iron Dome works on a unique system. It triangulates and then once the missile target is determined, uses an extremely fast rocket to intercept the missile.

The Iron Dome is so good, it is even able to protect against low tech rockets shot into Israel from Gaza.

Ironically, when Israel first suggested the Iron Dome to the US, their Department of Defense engineers said the technology was impossible. They said there was no way to do what Israeli engineers say they can do.

The Iron Dome has successfully downed cruise missiles. It is the first time technology able to defend against the cruise missile.

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World Watches the US
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 6, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

I’ve been watching how Israel is watching the United States in the weeks since the November 2020 presidential election.

I’ve seen how deeply concerned Israel is about the way in which the United States has been handling the election results.

Israel can be considered a microcosm of the rest of the world – they are watching and worrying just like the rest of the world, even enemies of the US, are watching and worrying.

The violence that took place in Washington, DC when the US Capitol was overrun by rioters, not only shocked the world, it shook the world.

The world, and Israel in particular, look towards the United States for direction.
The United States sets the example, other countries learn from the example of the United States.

The world is confused by the images they are seeing. They do not understand what they are seeing, cannot believe what they are seeing.
Neither can Americans.

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Cammack To DC w Israeli Flag
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 5, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Kat Cammack was just elected to represent Florida’s 3rd District. She will be a welcome voice in DC. Cammack loves Israel.

Cammack has announced that she will post an Israeli flag outside her Congressional office on Capitol Hill. Cammack’s office will be situated right next to the Democratic Representative from Michigan’s office. She will be right next to Rashida Tlaib, so that flag will have special significance.

Tlaib is of Palestinian decent. She also supports BDS

Cammack said ““She (Tlaib) has some very strong opinions about Israel, and I have some very strong opinions about Israel, so I have made a pledge that I’m going to be planting the flag of Israel outside my door right next to the American flag.”

“I think it’ll be very helpful as she walks past it every day.”
Cammack is going to push back against “the Squad” and against their stance on Israel. Her strength and clarity is welcomed.
Kudos to Congresswoman-elect Kat Cammack.

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Iran Seizes S Korean Tanker
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 4, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Iran seized a South Korean tanker in the Straits of Hormuz. Iran claimed that the South Korean vessel was polluting. Iran acknowledged the seizure.

What was not acknowledged was that only hours earlier it was announced that a South Korean diplomat was arriving in Iran to discuss billions of dollars of Iranian assets frozen in South Korea.

South Korea freezes Iran’s assets and then Iran seizes a South Korean tanker.
There’s more.

While this is happening, Iran has begun to enrich uranium to 20%. Enriching uranium to 20% is 4 times higher than the famous Iranian agreement permits.
Iran is playing the world like a fine fiddle.

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Nimitz Back to Gulf
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 3, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

The US Defense Department announced that the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier group was exiting the region of the Middle East.

Over the past weeks Iranian leadership and the US president have been exchanging jabs. The intention of the United States in relocating the Nimitz was to de-escalate tensions between the countries,

So the Nimitz and its entire strike force group was relocated to the Persian Gulf area. And then, they were recalled. And now the Nimitz group has been returned to its original location.

During the course of a week the Nimitz was first recalled and then resent to the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced, late on Sunday, that: "Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment."

Iran is back to its old tricks. Iran, once again, is playing games with the United States.

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Iran & Trump
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 1, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Iran is obsessing over US President Donald Trump. Their thinking is that Trump will attack Iran in his final days in office.

Look at this tweet from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Zarif warns the United States not to attack Iran, he warns that Iran will defend itself so -- beware.
Zarif wrote: "Instead of fighting Covid in US, @realDonaldTrump & cohorts waste billions to fly B52s & send armadas to OUR region. Intelligence from Iraq indicate plot to FABRICATE pretext for war."

Zarif is claiming that President Trump is manufacturing a pretense so that the US can attack Iran.

A military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader warned the US president "not to turn the New Year into mourning for Americans".

This is just one of many episodes, one of many examples.

The essential lesson to learn from Iran’s behavior is that they are wary of Donald
Trump and believe him to be very unpredictable. Iranian leadership does not know what he will do and what he can do - even to the point of an attack on Iran in the last hours of his presidency.

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Naysayers About Normalization
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 31, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Morocco is the fourth Arab nation to announce normalization with Israel.
Over the past three decades Israel and Morocco have had secret relations - especially in the areas of security, terror and even foreign relations.

Despite all that, there has been serious blow back against the move to normalization. In Morocco and throughout the Arab world there is talk that normalization is an abandonment of the Palestinians and that following Donald Trump’s lead is a real mistake.

There is no way of knowing what the numbers are, of how many Moroccans support or reject normalization in Morocco. Morocco is not a democracy.

However, it is clear that the move will help concretize and increase relations with Israel and that those interactions that have been in place for decades.

Naysayers are exaggerating the damage that will be done and underestimating the benefits to Morocco.

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China Wants in w W Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 30, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

The landscape is changing in the Middle East.

More and more countries are warming up to Israel.
And China is playing a more significant role in the Middle East.

That’s not all good news. Israel must tread very carefully.

China is determined to develop deeper relationships and become more involved with various Mid East countries. And Israel is on that list.

As the Trump era wanes and the Biden administrations emerges, China is going to want to play a more and more active role.

China cannot replace the United States – that is abundantly clear. But Israel will want to gain some of the advantages China has to offer. Those include investors, tourists, hi-tech production and most importantly, low-priced imports.

Trump did not look kindly at Chinese advances toward investments in Israel. We do not know how Biden will view the move.

It is imperative for Israel to understand that, while China may become a business partner, China will never be a friend.

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A/S Still Around
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 29, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Anti-Semitism still exists. That should not come as a surprise.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in LA published a top ten list of anti- Semitic outbreaks for 2020.

Number one: Jews created COVID. Again, not a surprise.

The report clearly explains that “[f]rom the earliest stages of the pandemic in February 2020, far-right extremists across social media platforms blamed Jews and Asian Americans for the virus.”

One example of that hatred is demonstrated through “an image titled ‘Holocough’ [that] urged, ‘If you have the bug, give a hug. Spread the flu to every Jew.’”

Another example is demonstrated throuf\gh a Trojan Horse with a Jew and a globe inside. The head of the horse is COVID-19 and people at the gate of the city invite the horse in.

The idea that the Jews created and spread COVID is obviously a canard. The most unfortunate part is that there are still many people living among us who believe the ugliest of stories about Jews.

And that, I am afraid, will not change and not go away in 2021.

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COVID in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 28, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Israel announced that they should have the COVID-19 pandemic under control by late February to mid-March.

They have already vaccinated nearly 300,000 people. 100,000 were vaccinated on Sunday alone.

There have been some hiccups. People complained that when they called on December 24th for appointments to vaccinate their elderly parents, they received an appointment for March. That is three months later.

When they complain, they are asked to call back because “more vaccination sites are opening all the time”.

Chief Sefardic Rabbi Yitzchak Yossef dedicated time to discuss the COVID vaccine on his Saturday night Torah lesson which is broadcast around the world on radio and internet TV.

Rabbi Yossef said that it was a Jewish legal obligation to GET the vaccine.

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Iran Threatens Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 27, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Iran threatened Israel by saying that they will attack any Israeli submarine found in the Persian Gulf. This threat came in response to statements by Israel and the United States that they are dispatching subs to the area.

Abu al Fadi Amoui, a spokesperson for the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian Parliament, said this in an interview on Al Jazeera in Arabic:

“Israel must know that our response to aggression against our national security will be strong and massive … Israel is looking for excuses to drag the region into a tension that creates chaos in the last days of the Trump presidency.”

Iran has been referencing Trump’s last days a lot. They have repeatedly said that Israel is trying to draw Iran into a conflict in the final weeks of the Trump presidency.

Iran likes to play mind games with the West.

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Morocco & Palestine
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 25, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, sent an official letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In the letter the king wrote that Morocco stands behind the Palestinians and firmly supports a 2-state solution with Israel.
This is critical.

Morocco has begun to normalize relations with Israel, they have even instituted direct flights between the countries.

The purpose of the king’s letter to the Palestinians was to make it clear to Abbas and to all Palestinians and to the world that normalizing with Israel does not mean the end of support for the Palestinians.

The King of Morocco was explaining that they did not switch teams and can no longer be involved with the other side. The opposite. King Mohammed is saying that supporting both the 2-state solution and normalization with Israel is good for everyone.

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Israel's 3rd Lockdown
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 24, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Israel will enter another 2-week total lockdown on Sunday.

The cabinet met Wednesday night and agreed that all schools will close with the exception of 1-4 grades, 11th & 12th grades and special education. School will be limited to 5 hours of class.

No one will be able to wander more than 100 meters, which is 110 yards, from their homes.

All businesses, except food services, must close. Food services may deliver. No dining in doors or outdoors.

Only essential workers may move about.

Gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors.

Israel’s Corona Czar. Professor Ash, has said that 2 weeks will not be enough.
Corona virus numbers in Israel have been climbing and climbing. Over the last week they have doubled to 4,000 cases per day.

Shutting down has worked for Israel in the past -- this is their third shutdown since March.

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UN Condemns Israel 17 Times
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 23, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

As 2020 comes to an end, it behooves us to look at some numbers.
In 2020, the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Israel 17 times.

The entire rest of the world combined was condemned (only!) 6 times.

One of the condemnations against Israel was for a 2006 oil spill off the coast of Lebanon -during a war with Hezbollah.

The only relief in this preposterous state of affairs is that resolutions in the UN General Assembly have no authority - they are totally without practical power.

They do, however, give a clear indication of the way Israel is viewed by the rest of the world.

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Israeli Elections in March
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 22, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Israel’s Knesset, their parliament, did not pass their budget. And that means that Israelis are heading to their fourth set of national elections in two years.

Elections are scheduled for March 23rd. The date falls almost on the eve of Passover.

It is too early to predict what will happen in 3 months - BUT - there are certain absolutes.

The Blue and White Party has imploded. The party, which had emerged as a mosaic trying to bring together the center left, splintered after the last election.
There is no way they will get together again.

Gideon Saar broke, once a prominent member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, broke away from Likud and is forming a new, right-wing party. He wants to bring party members and voters with him which will, inevitably, draw traditional voters away from Netanyahu and the Likud.

Naftali Bennett, head of the Yamina Party, which means “the right” has staked out a position further to the right of Netanyahu and will draw many voters from
Netanyahu’s traditional base. Bennett began his campaign several months ago.
Voters who are frustrated by Netanyahu feel comfortable with Bennett. Voters who naturally lean right feel comfortable with Bennett. He is squeaky clean and that is a very attractive attribute in this era of political corruption.

A lot will happen in the coming months.

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Huge Iran Hack on Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 21, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Pay2Key is an Iranian hacker or hacking group - it is unclear. Individual or a group, they are highly skilled.

Pay2Key recently claimed that they hacked into Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). They claim to have accessed one of the most secure facilities in the world.

Pay2Key published proof of their hack on their Darkwebsite, even including the name of the head of the IAI cyber division. Copies of secured documents were posted on their site.

How much damage was inflicted is unclear. The IAI says that no hack was detected.

If the hackers gained access only to files, they still have eyes on some of most sensitive material about Israel’s missiles and satellites, Israel’s present and future plans and importantly, Israel’s defense systems and intel.

If true, this was a huge hack.

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Iran Now Likes Bolton
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 20, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Iran’s FARS media has run a large story singing the praises of John Bolton.

I, too, was stunned as I read the piece. John Bolton is a hawk on all issues - especially on the Iranian issue.

As President Trump’s National Security Advisor, Bolton was the most vociferous of all hawks, constantly suggesting strikes and aggressive responses to Iranian hostility. None of this was new behavior or thinking. Bolton has been consistent throughout his career.

And then he and President Trump had a parting of the ways. And John Bolton wrote a tell-all book. And now Iran is praising him.

The reason is clear. In praising John Bolton, Iran is criticizing Donald Trump.

There are rumors that President Trump wants to impose martial law. Bolton does not think that to be a good idea and made his comments public. Trump retorted, in a tweet, that Bolton is “one of the dumbest people in Washington.”

Iran has been running with the martial law story.

It proves Machiavelli’s axiom. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Trump is Iran’s enemy + Trump and Bolton are enemies = Iran + Bolton = Friends.
Simple math.

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US Not Sharing Intel w Qatar
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 18, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Ever since Qatar sided with Iran, they have been on the outs in the Sunni Middle East.

And Qatar is also paying the price with Western democracies.
A report by the British Cornerstone Institute reports that the United States no longer shares intel with Qatar for fear that it will be shared with Iran. And neither do Great Britain or France.

What make this change in policy even more interesting is that Qatar still hosts US and British forces.

The Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar is the largest single military installation in the entire Middle East. One of the reasons it is so large is that the base hosts both US Airforce units and British Royal Air force units, and also serves as the very important Headquarters of US Central Command.

More evidence that Qatar has been distanced from the West is that they ran to Turkey and Iran to try to scuttle the deals other countries were making with Israel. Qatar, Turkey and Iran are consolidating their relationship in the hope that they can become a strong front against the deals with Israel, all of which were sponsored by the United States.

It is assumed that Qatar has told the United States that they may not attack Iran from their territory. If that is true, it clearly shows where Qatar stands on the world stage.

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Russia Has a Plan
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 17, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Last week Russia’s ambassador to Israel said that Israel was the most destabilizing force in the region. He said that Israel was even more destabilizing that Iran.

This week Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called US policy in the Middle East “unconstructive.” He was responding to a comment made by Mike Pompeo that Russia’s Mid East policies are “destabilizing”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had declared that: "Russia continues to threaten Mediterranean stability using a variety of techniques to spread disinformation, undermine national sovereignty, and sow chaos, conflict and division within countries throughout the region."

Lavrov response was: "The US practically bans all the countries in the region from cooperating with Russia, whether in the military or technical fields, as well as on any other issue."

Lavrov’s example was accurate. The US has imposed sanctions on the Turkish defense industry because Turkey imported Russian S-400 missile defense systems, which is incompatible with NATO systems and could compromise the Western world. Turkey has denied the claims, saying that it has no plans to integrate the Russian system into NATO.

Turkey’s comments are irrelevant. Their promise not to integrate or share NATO military information with Russia is empty and hard to believe.

But what is most distressing is this war of words between the United States and Russia.

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Sudan & Israel - True Relationship
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 16, 2020
I've Been Thinking:


A series of questions is emerging about the normalization deals between Israel and some Arab countries.

Like Sudan. Sudan has a nasty history of perpetrating terror and supporting terror.
They have a terrible human rights record. They have made some of the most extreme of anti-Israel statements.

Sudan has almost nothing to offer Israel. With that knowledge it was not surprising to hear Sudan’s foreign minister, Omar Qamar al-Din, being interviewed on Al-Hadath TV and saying that Sudan "agreed to avoid a state of war with the Hebrew state but we will not reach any other state."

As if that wasn’t enough, he went on to say that "there is no diplomatic representation, no Chamber of Commerce and no cooperation between Israeli and Sudanese universities or companies. There are military factors that work together as far as we know. I have no further information on this matter. Everything that concerns the promotion of relations with Israel in the future depends on there being an agreement or agreements, and any such agreement will be presented to the legislative council that will be formed soon."

Normalization is just normalization, normalization is not peace.

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Iran's New Nuke Plan
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 15, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Iran has just announced that they are planning to build two brand new nuclear facilities.

This announcement appears to be revenge for the assassination of the father of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

These new sites will be up and running within five months. It could change the entire nuclear game.

The first site is a laboratory that will deal with uranium in metal form. It is a mechanism essential in the making of nuclear weapons. The lab will have a heavy water reactor that can accumulate plutonium in its spent fuel.

Richard Johnson, the Senior Director for Fuel Cycle and Verification at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit organization, expressed his concern over Iran’s plans when he said: “If either was to proceed, that would stand out as a major proliferation concern.”

This is serious issue for the world. Iran has said that they will shut the new facilities down only if the United States re-enters the famous JCPOA, aka, the Nuke Deal.

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Iran's Oil Plan
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 14, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Iran is planning to up their oil pumping production next year. As of the beginning of the Iranian year, which means March, Iranian leadership plans to increase production to 4.5 million barrels/day.

This will happen in two stages.

Stage One takes place right now and extends through the Biden inauguration.
First, Iran will increase their oil production to 2.6 million barrels per/day. In Stage Two they will double that to 4.5 million.

Impressive as those numbers sound, the real increase will be in increasing their oil input from their current production numbers to reach 2.6 million. According to Bloomberg News, Iran is now only producing 133,000 barrels/day.

This plan was presented, by Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, to the Iranian parliament on Saturday.

Oil is the most significant component of Iran’s economy. They need to pump their oil and to sell their oil. These past few years the Iranian economy has been crippled. It looks like it is on the mend.

As their economy improves, so will Iran’s threat and so will their nuclear program.

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Benefits of Normalization
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 12, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

I get the question all the time: What does Israel gain from normalization deals with Arab nations? What benefits do the Arab and Muslim countries realize from these deals?

The obvious answer is peace. But while that is a significant reason, it is not really relevant right now. There was little chance of war because none of the countries that have now normalized with Israel, share borders with Israel. And there is only a slight chance that, because of the normalizations, either the international community or the United Nations will change their tone when it comes to Israel.

And so, the main reason, the most significant reason, these countries want to normalize with Israel is to use this new status as a military check against Iran.

Another reason, important but of slightly less importance, is that with normalization comes access to Israeli technology. All forms of Israeli technology – and that includes bio tech, medical tech, agricultural tech. It also includes solar energy technology and advancements and natural gas exports.

These countries want to ride the wave of Israeli security and hi-tech military advances.

Morocco, for example, now imports 90% of their energy. Israel can help them with solar energy and natural gas. And even before the normalization of ties announcement went public, Morocco had secretly purchased $48 million worth of drones from Israel.

The benefits for Israel, too, are numerous. Doors, formerly sealed shut and markets, once unavailable, are opening wide for Israel. Millions of investment dollars are pouring into Israeli tech.

Next in line look to be Oman and Indonesia.

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Hamas Hacking Arabs
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 11, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

The cyber branch of Hamas has been hacking Arabic-speaking targets in the Palestinian Authority, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey.

Hackers sent emails to Arabic readers with links to interesting stories about Arab countries normalizing relations with Israel. Imbedded in the links were viruses that enabled the hackers to access their targets computers, especially their history.

The question is: Why would Hamas want to monitor what Arabic readers were reading.

The answer is that Hamas wants to know what the Arab masses and what Arab world leadership is reading and what they are thinking regarding Israel.
In other words, they are worried that now that the many in the Arab world are warming up to Israel, they might be turning an even colder shoulder toward Hamas.


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Norway Defunds Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 10, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Norway’s Storting, the Norwegian Parliament, voted to slash aid to the Palestinians.
They cut $3.4 million in aid to the Palestinians.

Norway’s Progress Party lobbied and convinced the parliament that for years the Palestinians have been saying that they will change, or have already changed, their textbooks. And yet, in schools and in their textbooks, Palestinians glorify terror and terrorists and preach wiping Israel off the map and pushing the Jewish State into the sea.

"Norwegian taxpayers will not pay the monthly salary to terrorists,"
Norwegian lawmaker Himanshu Gulati, the deputy chair of Friends of Israel in the Storting, posted a statement on the FrP website. He wrote: “Norwegian taxpayers will not pay the monthly salary to terrorists … "When Norway provides aid to Palestine, the money goes into the same economy that is also used to pay prisoners 'salaries’ ".

If the PA continues to pay salaries to the families of Palestinian prisoners arrested, convicted and serving time in Israeli prisons, Gulati called for Norway to further cut their aid to the Palestinian Authority.

This is critical.

For decades Norway has been known as a friend of the Palestinians, often attacking Israel as unfair and as an aggressor. They attacked Israel because they believe that Israel is stronger than the PA and that Israel has the power to help the Palestinians.

But Norway will not tolerate anti-Semitism. Norway cannot be part of or sponsor anything that promotes anti-Semitism.

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Russia: Israel More Destabilizing than Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 9, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

The Jerusalem Post ran a shocking interview with Russian Ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov.

Viktorov said that Israel was the most de-stabilizing factor in the Middle East … not Iran.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry called him in and dressed him down.

The Russian Ambassador to Israel called Israel an aggressor. He questioned Israel’s bombing of Iranian arm shipments to Hezbollah, even if the tunnels Israel discovered on the border were dug by Hezbollah.

There is no doubt that Moscow knew of and even prompted Viktorov’s comments. They also knew that he would be called in by the Foreign Ministry of Israel.

For Moscow, it was worth it all.

Moscow is realigning itself in the Middle East. It is shifting its own position in order to make Iran and Syrian and Turkey more comfortable.

Russia is responding to US involvement in the normalization of ties between Israel and several Arab nations.

Russia is siding with those who reject this US/Israel move.

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Iran Sending More Oil to Venezuela
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 8, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Venezuela is suffering from a crippling shortage of oil. Considering that Venezuela is a member of OPEC and was once one of the world’s largest producers and supplier of oil and that Citco was once Chavez’ oil company – this is not a predicament anyone would have expected for Venezuela.

There are many reasons explaining why Venezuela is now in such dire straits. Most important is that the United States has made it clear that the Venezuelans have not been playing nicely when it comes to Foreign affairs. Nicolas Maduro has been a flamboyant and aggressive anti-US propagandist.

Venezuela needs help – and Iran is coming to their rescue. Iran, as we all know, is also in the diplomatic doghouse with the United States.

Iran has already sent oil tankers to Venezuela, I’ve written about that several times.

Now, they have launched a flotilla of 10 tankers headed to Venezuela to help further relieve the oil crisis.

Venezuela’s crisis will be eased, but the Iranian inspired crises in the Western world will be heightened.

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Abu Dhabi To Open Office in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 7, 2020
I've Been Thinking:


In September Abu Dhabi announced that they will open an investment office in Israel.

Today State-run Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) Director General, Tariq bin Hendi told a UAE-Israel conference in Dubai: "It's very exciting for us because we will have that office open in the next few weeks."
They will be opening their office in just a few days.

The excitement is palpable. Abu Dhabi has already made inquiries into investments and they have already setup meetings and lined up several projects in Israel. Israeli investment groups are working hand in hand with Abu Dhabi. These groups identify possible projects and propose them to investors.

We are talking about an injection of hundreds of millions of dollars if not billions of dollars of investments into Israel technology. Israeli tech and Abu Dhabi investment is a tremendous power.

These investments can potentially change the world. It is a marriage made in heaven.

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Saudi Prince Attacks Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 6, 2020
I've Been Thinking:

Recently Bahrain hosted The Bahrain Security Summit. Present was Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi as well as many of the most important players in the Middle East.

Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, who was the head of Saudi intelligence for more than two decades was there and he spoke. Al Faisal also served for decades as Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and Great Britain. Currently the prince is officially retired but his words carry tremendous weight in Saudi Arabia and he has the ear of the king.

Al Faisal launched a scathing attack on Israel and normalization. He said that there will be no normalization deals needed to help the Palestinians obtain their own independent state.

He described Israel as a "Western colonizing" power. He said Israel has "incarcerated (Palestinians) in concentration camps under the flimsiest of security accusations— young and old, women and men, who are rotting there without recourse to justice. They are demolishing homes as they wish and they assassinate whomever they want."

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Poor PA Investment
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

$1.732 billion is a large sum of money. That sum is the difference between private Palestinian investments flowing out of Palestinian Authority areas and external investments flowing into PA areas.

In other words, people with money living in the Palestinian Authority are investing their money outside the Palestinian Authority. And of all those people who say that they care about the Palestinians are investing very little in the Palestinians. They are not putting their money where their mouths are.

These figures come from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Ghassan Halum, a Palestinian investor explained: “When people go abroad and invest, they usually intend to earn some capital and then return home, but they get used to a certain system and laws, in addition to facilities and privileges. When they return home, the corruption and complications needed to get things done shock them.”

This is not good news. It means that the Palestinian economy is losing billions of dollars annually.

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Secret Mtgs Btw Israel & Turkey
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Al Monitor, an Arab news outlet headquartered in London, reported that Turkey and Israel are secretly meeting in the hope of re-establishing diplomatic relations and returning their ambassadors. The ambassadors were recalled in 2018, after the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem.

There is, of course, another motivation.

Under President Donald J. Trump, the United States was not interested in Turkey’s human rights violations and the problems that they were causing - which included teaming up with Russia and Iran in support of Syria.

Turkey has been a public attack dog against Israel.

But now Turkey expects that the Biden administration will not be as sympathetic to them and will not turn a blind eye to these issues.

Turkey believes that, if they warm up to Israel, they will curry favor with the new US administration and with the Biden inner circle.

Al Monitor reported that three meeting took place between Israel and Turkey. In at least one of those meeting, the heads of Turkish and Israeli intelligence were present.

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Another Election in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 30, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

It looks like elections are on the horizon in Israel. Again.

Both Benny Gantz, the head of the Blue & White party, and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Likud, made announcements about elections on the same day. And their announcements were made only 15 minutes apart from each other.

Gantz wants elections. Bibi is saying hold on. They each have a personal agenda.
Elections are personal.

In the end, in the event of another election in Israel, both Gantz and Netanyahu will be big losers.

Gantz will never be able to bring together the broad base group that challenged Bibi in earlier elections. And Bibi is feeling a real threat from his right flank.
Gantz and Bibi aside, if there is a 4th election in Israel, the biggest losers will be the citizens of Israel.

Never a dull moment in Israel.

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UAE Blackballs 11 Muslim Countries
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 29, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel and the UAE are in high gear. Multiple airlines are flying back and forth.
ELAL has 16 flights from Israel to Dubai per week. And that’s just one of the airlines now connecting these two, now friendly, countries.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have signed a visa-free program. There is no visa necessary for citizens of either country to fly to the other country.

But while Israelis can now travel to the UAE easily and visa-free, the visas of eleven Muslim countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Tunisia, have been yanked. They have been cancelled, rescinded.

This black-list is official policy. Why does this policy exist? The answer is, actually, pretty easy to understand.

Most of those eleven countries are havens for terror. Terror groups gather there and organize there.

The UAE is concerned that Israelis would be perfect targets for terror. So, the UAE has literally blocked all entry from countries that might plan, sponsor and perpetrate attacks against their Israeli guests.

If terror came to the UAE it would ruin not just their new relationship with Israel, it would destroy tourism, trade and business between the UAE and any other Western group planning on expanding their dealings in the UAE.

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Iranian Nuke Head Assassinated
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 27, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the father of the Iran’s nuclear weapons program, was assassinated on Friday, November 27, 2020.

His name and picture were part of the nuclear archive that Israel smuggled out of Iran and which Bibi Netanyahu presented to the world. Israel place a photo of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on a large screen and Netanyahu told everyone to remember that name.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated while riding in a car. Witnesses describe an explosion and then some shots. Photos show gunshots through the front windshield on the driver’s side. There was significant blood on the street. First reports were that he was taken to the hospital and died there. More likely, he was pronounced dead there.

The policy of most highly trained assassination teams is to “confirm the kill”. That means that after the strike, if there is time and access, they will quickly approach the body and shoot the target in the head.

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Qatar Stops Bahraini Ships
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 26, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Midday on Wednesday two Bahraini ships were returning home from a nearby war exercise in the Arabian Sea. As they passed through Qatari waters, the two Bahraini ships were stopped by three Qatari naval vessels who claimed that they were protecting their border and territorial waters.

In the end, the Bahrainis and their ships were let go and continued the rest of their short trip home.

Bahrain is ledging a complaint with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Both Bahrain and Qatar are members of the GCC which has an agreement that permits the vessels of member nations to safely traverse each other’s territorial waters.

In 2017 Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt all severed ties with Qatar. Why? Because Qatar had aligned with Iran.

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Israelis Go to Ethiopia to Fight Locust
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 25, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has invited an Israeli team of locust experts to visit his country in order to help combat their worst locust plague in 75 years.

The team of four Israelis are on the ground in Ethiopia. They are using drones and spraying at night in order to stop the plague.

Dr Yoav Motro, a member of the team said: “It’s the worst it has been in 75 years. And a tropical cyclone that hit the eastern part of the region in the past few days will only make things more complex. One has to note these regions do not deal with locusts on a regular basis — which hampers their readiness and their resilience to it.”

The locust descend and literally destroy everything that grows. An entire year’s crop is lost - devoured. This is not just an issue of an industry being hurt or a crop being destroyed, it is about major food shortage.

Swarms of locust are destroying food in a region where food is desperately needed.

The Israeli team has studied locust and they have experience fighting them. If they were called in early enough, they will be successful in their mission. The locust need to be destroyed before they move on to their next location and destroy that area, too.

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Bibi Meets Saudi Crown Prince
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 24, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

With lightening-speed the media covered yesterday’s story of a secret meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news. And then The New York Times followed up and reported that the Saudis denied the meeting.

Then the Israeli press confirmed that the meeting did happen and the Saudis finally offered confirmation.

Yes, Israel’s prime minster and the head of Israel’s Mossad flew to Riyad, Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi leadership.

So, who leaked the meeting to the press?

In Israel, many people are pointing their fingers at the Office of the Prime Minister.

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18 April 2021 04:10 PM in Thoughts   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (7)



Iran's New Naval Ship
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 23, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has unveiled a brand-new naval ship that is 170 yards long. The ship is a “naval city capable of carrying ocean missions.” It can carry aircraft and drones and missiles.

Iranian State television reported that a "heavy, multi-purpose, and long-range warship capable of carrying all types of aircrafts, drones, missiles and radar systems" had been added to the Revolutionary Guards fleet. The Shahid Rudaki warship is a “mobile naval city capable of carrying ocean missions," state TV added.

The Revolutionary Guards navy commander, Ali Reza Tangsiri, told state TV that the warship would provide security for "maritime transportation lines, oil tankers, commercial and fishing fleets on the high seas."

The name given to this ship, the Shahid Rudaki, is profound. A shahid is a person who dies for a cause, a shahid is a martyr. Rudaki was the founder of modern Persian poetry and literature. He died in 941.

This Iranian naval vessel is the size of an aircraft carrier. Its purpose is to check the US aircraft carrier fleet stationed in the Persian Gulf.

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18 April 2021 04:10 PM in Thoughts   ·  Comments (0)   ·  TrackBack (5)



Bibi Tells Biden About Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 22, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Prime Minster Netanyahu spoke at the memorial for David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.

He used the opportunity to explain and plead his case before US president-elect Joe Biden.

Netanyahu said “Do not return to the previous [Iran] nuclear deal. We must keep to an uncompromising policy to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.”

Israel’s view of Iran’s nuclear program is no secret. And way before Trump assumed the US presidency, Israel was pushing the United States to step up pressure on Iran and to stop their nuclear program.

In fact, in great part, the tension between Obama and Netanyahu was on this very issue. During Obama’s tenure in office, Bibi Netanyahu took his argument directly to the US Congress and to the American people. He convinced them that the Iranian deal was dangerous.

David Ben Gurion would have approved of Netanyahu’s action then, just as he would have approved of what he did today. “Speaking truth to power!”

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Iran Planted
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 20, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel dismantled three IEDs, Improvised Explosive Devices, on the Israeli side of “No Man’s Land on the border with Syria.
In other words, it was on the Israeli side of the border.

It should be absolutely clear that the purpose of the bombs was to kill as many Israeli soldiers as possible. They were certainly placed there by locals who know the area. Locals who were taught, advised and coached by Iranian elite forces.

Israel has announced that they have evidence that the Iranian Al Quds Force was responsible for the bombs. Actually, the IDF was even more specific.

The IDF said that unit 840 of the Al Quds Force was the group that made the bombs and helped the locals plant them along the border.

This is very important information.

Iranians positioned that close to Israel’s border is very dangerous.

Iranian involvement in local Syrian activity so close to Israel is causing Israel to consider new options to better protect their border.

Thankfully, for so many reasons, these IEDs were discovered and thankfully, safely dismantled.

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Iran & A New Arms Race
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 18, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Now that the administration in the United States is changing, Iran is now laying out options for arms acquisitions.

In Iran’s eyes, the arms embargo is over.

Three countries are anxiously waiting to provide arms to Iran.
First is Russia, second is China and the third is Iran. Yes, Iran.

Iran is an arms manufacturer and with the opening of the embargo they will be able to build and even export weapons.

Because of Russia and China’s interests in supplying Iran with weapons, there is little doubt that an arms race will break out in the Middle East. Iran is going to expand vis a vis all forms of weapons – tanks, planes, boats, helicopters. That means that their Sunni competitors will also want to expand to keep their quantitative and qualitative edge.

While arms will be supplied to Iran by Russia and Iran, arms to the Sunni countries will be supplied by the US and other Western nations.

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PA to Resume Talks w Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 17, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

On Tuesday November 17, the Palestinian Authority announced that they will resume interaction with Israel.

The announcement came after PA leadership received assurances from the Biden Administration that things will be different under the Biden Administration from what they were under the Trump Administration.

A Palestinian Authority official is quoted in the Jerusalem Post saying: “We have received many positive messages from the Biden team in the past few days ... We are looking forward to opening a new page with the Biden administration after the damage caused by the Trump administration.”

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, had an official response to that statement:

“Israel has previously stated that the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreements continue to form the applicable legal framework governing the conduct of the parties. On financial and other matters.

“Therefore, in accordance with these agreements Israel continues to collect taxes for the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, it was the Palestinian Authority which decided not to receive those collected funds from Israel.”

Time will tell.

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Iran Should Not Assume Biden Will Roll Over
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 15, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is waiting and watching, very curious to see what will happen in the Biden administration.

Iranian leadership is hoping for a total change of direction - back to the Iranian deal and diplomatic paths that will reopen the embargo on Iranian business. Their ideal scenario would be to lift sanctions on Iranian oil and to permit COVID medications to enter the country.

At this stage, I think Iran is too hopeful.

They should continue to wait and test the waters and then they should wait a little longer because things may not go their direction.

The US is well aware that Iran have been cheating, ending around the system.
And the US knows, too, that the Saudis and other Gulf states are wary of and advances toward Iran.

Many things have changed in the four years since Obama left office. The Trump Administration successfully highlighted the problems with the Iranian deal. The imperfections need to be resolved. And Biden’s advisers are well aware of this as well.

Iran is hurting economically and COVID-wise, that should be clear. They need the assistance of the United States. And that is an important tool that can and should be used as leverage to get more from Iran than what was in the original Accords.

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WHO Condemns Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 13, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

The World Health Organization (WHO), a sub-unit of the United Nations, spent their most recent meeting condemning Israel for health abuses against Palestinians and the Druze of the Golan Heights.

One would think they would address the crisis of COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Instead they attacked Israel for mistreating Palestinians by restricting treatment and access to treatment.

Representative after representative, speaker after speaker, stood and condemned Israel - repeating the exact same words. It was a four hour session that resulted in a resolution condemning Israel.

The vote was 78 in favor, 14 opposed with 32 abstentions and 56 countries absent.
Countries that voted against Israel, that condemned Israel, know better. France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Japan, India, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Monaco, shame on you.

The entire notion is a total lie, a total fabrication. Israel has tried to help keep COVID contagion down in the Palestinian Authority. This sounds strange, but the best way to do that was by keeping many people from travelling. It helped.

Palestinians with COVID are in Israeli hospitals. It is the PA that shuns and even prevents their residents from going to Israeli hospitals. But a procedure is in place through which Palestinians enter Israeli hospitals.

Druze of the Golan are Israeli citizens. They are entitled to – and receive the same care every other citizen receives.

These are most of the countries that voted against the resolution: the United States, Britain, Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Slovenia, Cameroon, Swaziland and Micronesia.

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Saudi King Speaks Against Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 12, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz seldom speaks publicly these days. The running of the kingdom is firmly in the hands of Crown Prince Salman.

On Thursday, the king addressed the Shura Council. This is the first time he has spoken since addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September. Both presentations were given with a safe video uplink.

The Shura Council is a consulting body that advises all branches of government in Saudi Arabia.

In this presentation the king addressed the issue of Iran. The Saudi leader views Iran as the threat. It was also his topic when speaking before the GA. He said that everyone needed to stand up to Iran.

"The kingdom stresses the dangers of Iran's regional project, its interference in other countries, its fostering of terrorism, its fanning the flames of sectarianism ... in its efforts to possess weapons of mass destruction.”

Expect that this issue will drive a wedge between the new US administration and the Sunni Gulf states. The promised policy of the incoming Biden Administration is to reach out to Iran. This is the opposite of the Saudi and Israeli objective which is to isolate Iran.

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Saeb Erekat Buried in Jericho
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 11, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Saeb Erekat was buried in Jericho. I know the cemetery, it is a fitting resting place for this illustrious Palestinian, lined with desert date palms - an oasis.

Erekat was one of the most recognized figures in the Palestinian media world. He was 65 years old when he succumbed to COVID. His burial coincided with the 16th anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death. Also fitting.

Erekat was Arafat’s most trusted English spokesman and chief negotiator. More than simply an insider, 16 years ago he was thought to be a potential successor to Arafat. But the position went to Mahmud Abbas and once again he was in the successor position, to one day take over the Palestinian reins, this time from Abbas.

I had many interactions with Erekat, mostly on air, at times in person. Erekat was a propagandist for Arafat and the PA, a propogandist par excellence.
Unfortunately, that led to some ridiculous comments, speculation and accusations.
Some were honest most were forced. He fought to justify the Palestinian cause - including terror attacks against Jews.

Erekat understood the media. He understood the role of the media and its importance, even if it meant engaging in total falsehoods, as long as the Palestinian story would be told. He knew that when you fall off the “front page” you become irrelevant.

And that is the misfortunate of the end of his life. These past few years the Palestinian issue has become less central. The once great legacy of Saeb Erekat was lost. His death is not headline news.

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Iran is Emboldened
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 9, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is now flexing its muscles.

Iranian leadership knows that US President Elect Biden wants to return to making deals with Iran.

Should that happen, it would mean a significant weakening for the Sunni Gulf States. That’s because Donald Trump will no longer be there to protect them from Iran or to lend assistance, which was the plan.

So, Iran is now telling the Gulf States that now they are vulnerable and advising them that the best plan for them is to unite and join with Iran.

Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister tweeted: A sincere message to our neighbors: Trump's gone in 70 days But we'll remain here forever Betting on outsiders to provide security is never a good gamble We extend our hand to our neighbors for dialog to resolve differences

He wrote his tweet in English and Arabic. The tweet was announced on websites and broadcast on all their media outlets. It was like a Mafia family offering peace. Or else.

Iran has become emboldened by the Biden victory. It’s a new diplomatic chess game. Now we wait and watch to see what counter moves are in the works.

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Biden Mid East Policy
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 8, 2020

I've Been Thinking:


What will Joe Biden’s Middle East policy look like? – that is the question I am being asked non-stop.

There are certain givens. And there are many question marks.

The most obvious given is that Biden will, as he has said over and over again, return to the JCPOA, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or in lay terms, the “Iran Deal.”

It was no secret that the Saudis favored Trump over Biden. The Iran Deal was a
direct threat to Sunni hegemony. Expect tensions on that front.

Expect Biden’s administration to reopen the Palestinian Embassy in Washington, DC.

Expect them to restart aid to the Palestinian Authority - Kamala Harris has already made that promise.

Expect them to reach out and bring the PA back to the table based on the two-state solution.

Do not expect the US Embassy in Jerusalem to return to its former home in Tel Aviv. However, there will almost certainly be discussion about the United States withdrawing recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Israel is in for a series of roller coaster rides.

Biden has a long and very positive history with Israel. There were several low points during the eight years of the Obama presidency, but in general (“B’Gadol” as Israelis like to say), Joe Biden is a friend of Israel.

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Lessons From Israel -Tight elections
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 6, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel learned some important lessons from tight elections. The United States can learn from Israel’s experience.

Over the 15-month period between December 2018 and March 2020, Israel held three very close elections.

The most important lessons learned from these close elections are: First, be patient and second, do not pay attention to either sides claim of victory.

Next, there are always mistakes and problems in counting. These blunders are usually few and the exception. But when they become systemic, that’s when it is important to watch. Pay attention only when the mistakes sway the election.

In the end, true numbers will emerge and the legitimate winner will be officially declared. Do not rush the announcement.

Respect the process. For the sake of democracy, it is worth the wait.

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Not in US Interest to Push Saudis
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 5, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

I’ve mentioned this before – Saudi Arabia is not going to be the next country in the Middle East to normalize relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia is in line but certainly not at the front of the line.

There are many reasons. One reason is that the United States has been pressuring the Saudi Kingdom to normalize their power in the region.

Saudi power is based on their wealth and on the way they spread influence. They are contributors and sponsors. Even more significant is that they are the guardians of the Islamic holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

The Saudis have sway.

As open to the West as they appear to be, there is a significant group of leaders in Saudi Arabia – especially religious leadership, that is extremely conservative. They would have great difficulty with normalization with the Jewish State, especially public celebrations of the normalization with Israel.

The Saudi Kingdom functions by maintaining balance between Wahabi religious leadership and the royal family.

The Wahabis are a fiercely, fervently, religious subgroup of Sunni Islam. It is they who are responsible for religious life and education in Saudi Arabia. Normalization would wreck that balance.

We are not even going to discuss the Saudi human rights record and their attitude towards women.

While on the surface it would appear that Saudi Arabia is the prefect partner for normalization. That is simply incorrect at this stage. It is not in their interest or the interest of the US to push it.

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They Target & Murder Jews
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 4, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror attack in Vienna, in the Jewish area, near the synagogue. 4 people were murdered, 14 were wounded and 7 of those wounded remain in serious and life-threatening conditions.

One of the terrorists, wearing a fake suicide vest, was killed on the spot.

With this attack ISIS struck at two of their highest value targets. Western Europe and Jews.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that there are people - individuals and groups - who target Jews in order to murder them. These are not accidental attacks. These are not spontaneous strikes. They are planned, murderous operations to kill as many Jews and Europeans as possible.

What is so eerie is that this particular terror attack was perpetrated in November of 2020. Kristallnacht took place in November, 1938. Vienna is the city in which Hitler matured and galvanized his ideology of hatred and murder.

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Bio-Convergence From Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 3, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is investing $100 million in “Bio-Convergence”.

That’s a big investment. And I bet that most people have no idea what it is.
Bio-Convergence is the overlap of biology, physics, computer science, mathematics, engineering, materials science and nanotechnology.

BC is a new form of Bio Tech. It is the marriage of all forms of science, engineering and math with medicine.

It uses all that knowledge and all those creative energies to find solutions to difficult issues that until now were not even close to being solved.

Utilizing collective wisdom from multiple disciplines is “Bio-Convergence”. It is the wave of the future for inventions and it is the future for investments.

Israel is on the cutting edge of this new phenomenon. And Israel is on both sides, on both teams - the development side and the investment side.

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Russia Escorting Iranian Oil Tanker
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 2, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

Samah is a 900 ft long Iranian oil tanker. The tanker entered the Mediterranean Sea by crossing through the Suez Canal. It was heavy, laden with oil coming from Iran.

After passing through the Suez Canal and starting to make its way into the Mediterranean Sea, the Samah turned off its transponder. For all intents and purposes, the location of the tanker became a mystery.

Satellite photos, however, show that the Samah was met and then escorted by two Russian navy ships. One of the ships was a destroyer. The ships made their way to Syria. Iran has a history of delivering oil to Syria – despite the international embargo on Syria and on Iranian oil exports.

In this case, Russia is not turning a blind eye. The Russians are aiding Iran’s delivery of badly needed fuel to Syria.

Russia has an entire naval base as well as two full air-force bases in Tatus, Syria.

They also have a squadron of submarines there.

Russia is putting the world on alert, announcing that they will protect Iranian oil tankers. Protect them from whom? From countries thinking of enforcing the embargo.

This is a move of intimidation.

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Saudi Media Change of Tone
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 1, 2020

I've Been Thinking:

In countries like Saudi Arabia official media offers a clue to understanding how the leadership us thinking and the direction in which the kingdom is moving.

Recently, official Saudi media has changed its tone about Israel and the normalization agreements.

Here is a quote from Saudi official Faisal Abbas that ran in the largest Saudi English language paper. Scolding Palestinian leadership he asks: “When will they learn that every time they turn away from the negotiating table, the pie only gets smaller?”

Faisal continues saying that the fault was “not all on one side” and that Israel also makes it difficult to reach a deal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That was one example of a changing Saudi attitude, here’s another.

For Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, the Saudi Arab News Twitter site changed its logo to “Shannah Tovah”.

And another: official State media ran a three day special, an hour each day, interviewing Prince Bandar in which he criticized Palestinians and all those who have been critical of the Kingdom’s advances with Israel and other Gulf State’s normalization agreements.

All this would have been unheard of just months ago.

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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 quote