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Swiss Ambassador Calls Iran "Pole of Stability"
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 29, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Swiss ambassador to Iran addressed 500 Swiss business people and called on them to run back to Teheran and invest.

Ambassador Guilio Haas said that Iran was "a pole of stability" in the Middle East and now that the sanctions are over it is a perfect and safe place to invest. Haas urged those listening to his message to take advantage of a lucrative market that has been closed for years.

Haas was not just referring to the oil markets. He was referring to the entire Iranian market. And he was urging the heads of business to invest in Iran.

"Iran seems still for a lot of people to be bearded, elderly gentlemen with turbans. You see them, but you see not a lot of them, especially when you're dealing with business," Haas said.

This is the new modus operandi across Europe. European investors are excited about the possibilities that will emerge out of Iran.

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Iran Invites Israeli Conductor
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is a society that loves culture, especially music.
So it was not a surprise for me to learn that Iran has been working out details so that the Berlin State Opera Orchestra can come to visit Teheran, Iran.

The Iranians love great music. And this is one of the greatest orchestras in the world. The only hitch is that the musical director/conductor is an Israeli named Daniel Barenbiom.

The word is that the orchestra will accompany Angela Merkel when she visits Teheran on an official visit -- the plans for that are also in the works.

The ministry of culture in Iran has confirmed that details are being worked out but would not comment on whether Barenboim will have a problem getting a visa. Barenboim has also conducted a Palestinian youth orchestra in Ramallah amidst protestors there. The original plan was to have a joint Israeli - Palestinian youth band but that failed.

Iran will probably make an exception for Barenboim.
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Saudi King To Visit DC
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 26, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It is not yet official, but it looks like King Salman, the new king of Saudi Arabia, will visit Washington DC on September 5th and 6th.

This will be his first trip to the United States as king. Salman ascended to the throne in January after the death of King Abdullah.

New heads of state usually rush to DC to meet the president of the United States. But Salman waited, he wanted to play it cool. He wanted to make his own evaluations of the players in Washington. And most importantly, he wanted everyone - especially the United States to know that he was not Abdullah, that he was his own man.

The word is also out that Salman will visit Egypt on his way back from the United States to Saudi Arabia. This, too, is important because the relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia has become strained of late, especially over the tension between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza. Saudi Arabia sides with the Muslim Brotherhood.

He is an interesting character this King Salman of Saudi Arabia. He bears watching.

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BDS -- A Chance to Beat Them
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 25, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The BDS (Boycott Divest & Sanction Israel) movement has taken off like wildfire in the United States and in Europe.

Lovers of Israel are stymied by the attraction and magnetism that the movement has generated. They are asking why is it that so many young people and critical thinkers are running to embrace a movement that condemns Israel and blames nearly all the problems of the world - certainly all the problems in the Middle East, on Israel's occupation of the Palestinians.

For the longest time I feared that the battle was lost. I feared that there was no possible chance of convincing BDS supporters that they were wrong. Pointing out that the facts did not support their movement was fruitless. Like Hamas and ISIS, BDS supporters held strong to their point of view and did not let facts get in the way of their beliefs. Quite simply, they hated Israel and that in their eyes the world would be vastly improved without Israel.

But recently, after the debacle in Spain during which world famous and obviously Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu refused to sign a declaration supporting a Palestinian state and was then removed not permitted to perform in a festival, I saw a glimmer of hope.

People, not lovers of Israel at all, just plain people and the publications that supported the BDS movement suddenly realized that the movement was not about mutually resolving an issue - but rather, it was about destroying Israel to make room for the Palestinians.

The government of Spain apologized for the embarrassing incident. They publicly and personally said that what happened was wrong and anti Semitic - and they re-invited Matisyahu to perform. National and local papers said more or less the same thing - that they support a Palestinians state but they do not support anti Semitism.

I am wary, yet hopeful that many followers of BDS fit into this category. I hope that they have seen the true hateful colors of the BDS movement. That BDS supporters now realize that rational people can disagree with Israel and support Palestinian statehood without advocating the destruction of Israel.

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Iran's New Missile
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 24, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has just unveiled their newest missile, it is called the Fateh 313.

I watched the videos of their celebration and the test launching complete with all the hype and all the propaganda one would expect at such an auspicious occasion.

The missile seems very effective. It has a range of 500 kilometers, which is 310 miles, and the claim is that it has pinpoint accuracy.

The celebration, the display, the announcement and all the accompanying bravado is essential to the Iranian strategy.

Despite the nuke deal, Iran is moving ahead on missile production. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that "We will buy, sell and develop any weapons we need and we will not ask for permission or abide by any resolution for that."

It might surprise you to know that weapons production is not in violation of The Deal signed between Iran and the P5 +1- - - but Iranian action and the building of these missiles is definitely in violation of countless other UN Security Council resolutions.

Another example of the game Iran is playing, and playing so very well.

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Britain Opens Embassy in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 23, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Things are looking good if you're an Iranian leader.

Change is happening vis a vis Iran and the rest of the world - especially the Western world.

Great Britain just reopened their embassy in Teheran, Iran. It was opened in a joyous, hopeful, optimistic, ceremony. The flag was raised by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. Hammond is the first British foreign secretary to visit Iran since 2003. The British embassy has been shuttered closed since protesters stormed it in 2011.

Hammond's presence at the opening is no small gesture. It symbolizes a drastic and major move to advance diplomatic re-positioning where Iran is becoming a player.

This is a theme I have continuously repeated. Iran is more interested in high level, world power, diplomatic stature than they are over any nuclear technology. They want it because it improves world influence and impact as well as economic strength and power.
Europe is mistakenly unfurling and raising the Union Jack without first seeing if Iran is really complying with the agreements they are so readily signing.

In an unrelated item, also effecting the British:
A new video of Jihadi John, ISIS' famous be-header was just posted to the internet. In it he says-- "I will go back to Britain... and will carry on cutting heads off".

Mohammed Emwazi, aka Jihad John, is 26 years old and he is one of the world's most wanted men. The United States has put out a $10 million reward for his capture.

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IDF Strikes Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 21, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

As I predicted last week, Israel's northern border with Syria has become very hot and rocket upon rocket has been launched into
Israel. In retaliation, Israel has launched air strikes into Syria.
Israel hit six target sites. Each site had multiple targets within it. Israel hit Hezbollah sites and al Nusra sites as well as Syrian military bases.

The objective of Israel's air attack was to issue a warning to all the forces in Syria - including Iran - to not deliberately launch rocket attacks against them. It was clear that the night before the Israeli retaliation, rockets direct from Syria were aimed at and shot into Israel.

An IDF senior officer was quoted saying: "We hold the Syrian state responsible." "We attacked with tanks, artillery, and one target from the air... We attacked several kilometers into Syria, five or six sites with multiple targets within each site. Our attacks are much more severe this time around, in order to send a message and underscore the severity of this incident."

I predict that Iran will test the waters yet again and that Hezbollah and Syrian forces will again launch their rockets into Israel and Israel will, again, strike back. Only next time Israel will strike back more fiercely, wiping out even more of the military infrastructure.

Iran is testing Israel. Iran wants to see what kind of defenses Israel has in the north. It wants to see those defenses in play.

If Israel plays it smart they will stick to conventional methods of retaliation and not show too much of their hand to the enemy. To do otherwise is to play right into the hands of Iran.

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New Tunnel Technology for IDF
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

We know Hamas is digging new tunnels.

We know how dangerous the tunnels were last year and know that tunnels were the chief reason for Israel's defensive operation into Gaza.

Over the past year Israel has developed a series of anti-tunnel technologies to combat the tunnels that Hamas is using as a weapon against Israel.

Israel is testing and re-testing the technology. They do not want to claim that the six or seven technologies they have are all effective for two reasons. One reason is that Israel may still need to fine tune the technology and the second reason is that Israel wants to keep Hamas guessing.

I have seen pictures of the Israeli anti-tunnel equipment partially buried along the Gaza fence.. The IDF is also using tunnels - they are building their tunnels as testing grounds for the technologies.
These tunnels are on IDF bases. They are in the sand and replicate the terrain of Gaza.

Israel has devoted enormous funds to develop technologies to help defend against tunnel warfare, but just like with every other technology, nothing is 100% effective.

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Abbas Heading to Iran
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 19, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iran and the Palestinian Authority are repairing their relationship.
This is not good news. It is bad for Israel and really bad for the United States.

An announcement informing the world that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will soon be making a visit to Teheran, Iran was carried all over the Palestinian press.

An official invitation letter was sent to Abbas by the Iranian government and an advance team of Palestinians has been formed and will set off to work out the agenda and the details of the visit.

Palestinian emissary Ahmad Majdalani, has already returned from Teheran. His comments are essential in understanding the new relationship forming between the two countries. He said that the Iranian Palestinian relationship was: "an inevitable step if we [the Palestinians] want to confront the Israeli occupation."

The Palestinians want Iranian money and support. But there is tension and the main source of tension has to do with Syria. Iran supports Assad and his regime. Abbas has come out against the Assad regime and in favor of the revolt. But of late, the PA has tried to stay above the fray and not get involved in the Syrian situation.

Iran cannot countenance the PA not toeing the line on Syria. In order for Iran to support the PA, the Palestinian Authority must conform to certain world policy standards that Iran will set down.

We will watch and we will see if the PA veers from their original course and takes a stand in support of Assad. When that happens, it will be a clear sign that Iran is supporting the Palestinian Authority.

A clear sign - not a good sign.

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Iran Leaders Counter Move
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 18, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The guiding principle propelling the desire of the White house to go forward with the Iran nuclear deal is the conviction that, with the deal, the United States can exert influence over Iran. The argument the White house is supporting is that any deal, even a bad deal, allows for dialogue between the United States and Iran.

Here lies the problem: Iran already countered this argument when they said that they reject any economic or political influence or interference from the United States - and their Islamic leaders are issuing warnings and taking steps to prevent such influence.

On Monday Iran's Supreme Leader the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted on his web site. The excerpt was taken from a conversation the Supreme Leader had with members of Iran's state radio and state television networks.

This is what he said:

"They thought this deal - and it is not clear if it will be passed in Iran or in America - will open up Iran to their influence."

"We blocked this path and will definitely block it in the future. We won't allow American political, economic or cultural influence in Iran."

Note that the Supreme Leader is not yet certain that the deal will or will not pass the debate in the Iranian parliament. But whether ir clears or not, he is, in no uncertain terms, countering the US move to exert influence over Iran.

Move. Counter move. Now it's up to the United States. How will the US counter now?

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IDF Poised to Attack Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 17, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The IDF is running exercises on the Golan Heights. They have amassed significant troops and weapons there.

Rumors are spreading that Israel is preparing to strike inside Syria. The scuttlebutt is that Iran has armed and prepared a large numbers of Syrian fighters and outfitted them with sophisticated weapons.

There is tension between Hezbollah fighters sponsored by Iran and al Nusra fighters sponsored by al Qaeda.

The conflict itself, coupled with the proximity of the military camps is worrisome. The camps are located very close to Israel's border. .

Under normal circumstances one would hope that Hezbollah and al Qaeda and ISIS would just destroy each other. But the conflict is spilling over to Israel and there are many among those groups who want to attack Israel.

Recently, four Druze terrorists were killed as they planted bombs along the border with Israel. Their objective was to kill as many Israeli soldiers as they could.

Israel needs to make certain that their border stays safe.

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Israeli-Arab Town Names Sq After Nasser
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 16, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Kfar Mond is an Arab village in the Galilee. It is in Israel. All of the residents of the village are Israeli citizens. They are not part of any revolt and they do not question their citizenship in Israel.

Last week the Town Council of Kfar Mond decided to name the newly built main square after Gamal Abdul Nasser the former dictator of Egypt. The proposal was put forth by the Hadash faction and the council approved. Hadash is one of the Arab-backed political parties in Israel.

There has been major blow back - but not it NY way one might expect.
Muslim parties in Kfar Mond are saying that Nasser arrested and murdered Islamic leaders. Nasser repressed religious political development, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, and they do not want to see his name glorified.

Hadash defended their proposal saying that Nasser was an Arab hero.
The entire idea is unusual, but such is democracy at work in Israel.

Nasser was an enemy of Israel, a man who never made peace with Israel. And yet, a town square in Israel is to be named after him.
And yet again, if the decision is made to change the decision, it will be based on the fact that Nasser persecuted the Muslim Brotherhood - not because of his animus towards Israel and Israelis.

Wow!


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Israeli Tourism Bounced Back
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 14, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Last year at this time the FAA listed Israel as a dangerous location and United States carriers were not permitted to fly to Israel.

Israeli tourism took a huge hit.

July and August 2014 saw cancellation after cancellation.
Conferences, tourists, groups, individuals, one after the other they all cancelled out of fear. The conflict between Gaza and Israel was very costly. Part of the cost was the downturn in the tourism market and that decline impacted the greater Israeli economy.

It is now one year later and this August looks like it will break all tourism records as 2 million people enter Israel via Ben Gurion airport.

On Thursday August 13, 80,000 travelers arrived in Israel - a record for a single day. They traveled on 457 flights from all over the world. Of course some of those entering Ben Gurion were Israelis returning home from their time out of the country. Record breaking statistics aside - imagine the lines!

These are good markers for an exciting economy. Tourism and travel in general are important components of Israel's economy. And the summer months are one of the busiest times for travel.

The Israel travel industry has bounced back from the damage inflicted on it by Hamas last year.

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Why Israel Made it Public
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 13, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It is out of character for Israel to go public with news about the arrest and the interrogation of a Hamas leader as they did with Ibrahim Shear.

The details that were made public to the press, details that I wrote about yesterday, would normally be held as top secret intelligence to be used in helping save Israelis and defend Israel.

So why did the office of the prime minister go public with these details? That office determines the security needs of the nation on every level - so what was the point Israel and the prime minister were trying to make here?

Israel wants Hamas to know that they know what Hamas knows and Israel wants Hamas to know that their leader broke under the pressure of interrogation.

There are several reasons behind the decision by Israel to make this public.

#1 It tells Hamas that Israel knows a lot - and now Hamas has to ask what else Israel knows. That question can inhibit and prevent an attack.

# 2 The international community is now aware of what is happening in Gaza and that will give Israel diplomatic cover when they strike Gaza.

# 3 The knowledge that Iran is sponsoring the terror infrastructure of Hamas will help Netanyahu in his battle against Obama in Congress. The money that the United States has given to Iran will no doubt go to Hamas to attack Israel, and Congress and the White House need to know that.

# 4 Hamas is gaining friends and access to international bodies, they are wined and dined in capitals across the world. This will hopefully show some of those states what Hamas is doing now.

In the final analysis the Israeli prime minister's office believes that making this information available to the press and open to public discussion will make Israel safer.I think that he is correct.

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Hamas Leader Discloses Iran's Role & New Tunnels
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 12, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Israel arrested and interrogated a high level Hamas terror leader.
His name is Ibrahim Shaer. The information that he gave will save Israeli lives.

That information has now been cleared for release.
According to Ibrahim Shaer, Hamas has built and rebuilt, dug and re-dug, new and old tunnels.

Shaer gave the locations of the tunnels and directions to get inside. In addition he explained that the new road that Hamas built along the border was to be used as part of an attack that would include vehicles. He said that the tunnels were attack tunnels and smuggling tunnels.

Shaer also confirmed that Iran was sponsoring the building, sending new weapons and training Hamas fighters.
Contrary to what was assumed, Iran is still heavily sponsoring Hamas. Iran is sending weapons, money and electronics. The electronics are jamming devices.

And of course, these materials are being stored among the civilian population.

Again, this information will save lives.

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Iran & Russia
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 11, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif will travel to Moscow to meet Russian leaders next week sometime.

The visit was announced on Taas media which is an official media outlet of the Russians. Interestingly, the outlet quoted the Iranian embassy in Moscow as its source, saying that "the exact day will be announced in the coming days."

It was a news source exactly like this one that announced, this past Friday, that Iranian General Sulamani visited Russia - despite his UN travel ban.

Sulamani is head of the Iranian al Quds force and is responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans. He is banned from international travel.

These two examples of Iranian leaders going to Moscow illustrate an essential point. Iran and Russia are positioning themselves as players on the world stage. Sending Sulamani to Russia and having the Russians not only receive him but also publicly announce the visit is an intentional move by both Iran and Russia aimed at flaunting international law and UN decisions.

Remember - this was all done after the Iranian deal was announced.

And now, sending Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif to Moscow shows us again that Russia and Iran are plotting and planning to conduct serious negotiations. Ultimately, their mutual goal is to position themselves as world leaders who can propose solutions for the many problematic areas around the world.

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Brazil Will Not Put Israel on Passport
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 10, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It was the United States, Canada, France and now it is Brazil.
Brazil announced that they, too, will not add the word Israel on the passports of citizens born in Jerusalem.

This is the exact same issue that the US Supreme Court ruled on several months ago when it decided that it is the president who determines foreign policy. And so, for US citizens born in Jerusalem their passports do not say Israel.

Now Brazil has joined the ranks of the US, Canada and France. These are the countries that do not add Israel as the name of the country after Jerusalem, the name of the city on the passports of citizens born in the capital city of Israel.

The logic behind this should be clear. In the eyes of the leadership of these countries Jerusalem is in dispute. Not just part of Jerusalem, as in East Jerusalem or what some call Arab Jerusalem, but all of Jerusalem.

This is the same reason why countries do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and instead choose to locate their embassies in Tel Aviv.

This entire episode is indicative of the attitude of the world toward Israel - not just Israel after 1967, but Israel from its inception in 1948. Leaders and nations have always are still continue to question the very existence of the State of Israel.

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Iran Against "The Deal"
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 9, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

In Iran today there is substantial and significant opposition to "The Deal."

The opposition comes not simply from hardliners in the Iranian Parliament, it also comes from the elite Revolutionary Guard. The Guard controls much of the industry in Iran and owns an interest in almost every walk of the Iranian economy - from oil and gas to real estate.

The head of the Revolutionary Guard, General Mohammed Ali Jaffari, has publicly renounced the agreement. He says that the agreement will weaken Iran's military power and put them at a strategic disadvantage.

It should be noted that there are also Iranian leaders who have embraced the agreement.

Iran has decided to mirror the United States. The Iranian Parliament will engage in debate and then vote to either accept or reject the agreement.

In the end, the debate will take place but the Supreme Leader will ultimately be the decision maker.

As of this moment it is not clear that he will accept the agreement.
Why might the Supreme Leader decide against the agreement? There are many possible reasons that can be given, but the one true answer is that Iran wants even more from the agreement.

I would call that chutzpah!

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Hamas Shooting Rockets
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 8, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday three rockets were shot from Gaza toward Israel. The rockets landed not in Israel, but instead, two landed inside Gaza and one landed just inside the fence. On Friday there were more rockets.

On the rocket front this summer has been very quiet. There have only been a handful of Gaza rockets into Israel. That said Israel cannot accept Hamas shooting rockets toward Israel - even if they miss.

So on Friday the Israeli air force bombed the sources of the rockets. Hamas needs to know that they must keep things quiet. If it stays quiet in Israel, it will be quiet in Gaza.

Hamas claims that they are not the one launching the rockets.

But that does not matter, certainly not for Israel. The essential point is that if Hamas is in charge they must be responsible for keeping Gaza quiet.

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Hamas Plays PA in Soccer
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 7, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, for the first time in many moons, the Palestinians engaged in a display of unity. It cannot last long, but Hamas and the PA engaged in a sense of communal and national solidarity.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas played soccer. Yes, a soccer game. The PA team dressed in green, Hamas dressed in red. The match was played in Gaza in front of 7,000 people. The game ended in goalless 0-0.

A second match will be played in the West Bank. That match is called the Palestinian Cup and the winner of the match will play in the
Asian Cup representing the Palestinians. Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian soccer federation, named the match.

It might look like a simple game, but this sporting event, this decision to play a soccer match, is a huge move. As much as they can say that there is no politics in sports and that sports is above politics - Palestinian sports is very politically charged.

Even letting Hamas compete against the PA with the possibility of their winning and then representing the Palestinians - in anything, no less the Asia cup, is a gargantuan gesture of unity.

Even if Hamas does not win, all of Gaza will have seen that that the Palestinian Authority attempted to extend their hand.

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Iran Hosting Peace Summit
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 6, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is hosting Russia and Syria in a peace summit this week.

The results of the summit will be presented to the United Nations as a peace proposal for Syria.

Now, there is no doubt that Syria has suffered horrific carnage over the past 4 years. But how can any country, let alone Iran, hope to compose a deal with only one side in attendance - and no one has invited the anti-Assad rebels to participate.

Iran has supported Assad of Syria from the very outset of the conflict. So has Russia. So whatever the agreed upon proposal is, it will certainly be biased towards Assad.

Most interesting than the outcome of the peace summit, - is the host of the peace summit and the participants.

Iran has turned itself into the peacemaker. Russia is the international team leader. Where is the United States?

From the point of view of this summit, the United States is on the outs, not necessary, to be ignored.

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Iran Will Snap Back
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 5, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is planning to take great advantage of The Deal and the lifting of sanctions.

Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said in a state radio interview on Sunday that, "We are already doing marketing, and within a day after the lifting of sanctions we will raise (production) by 500,000 barrels per day".

He also added that within a few months the Iranians will increase their oil production by 1million barrels per day.

This is one of the most important announcements made thus far.

Iran is saying that they have a significant plan in place that will catapult them into one of the largest oil exporters in the world.
And straight from the mouth of the Iranian oil minister we are being told that, when it comes to oil, Iran plans to morph into a behemoth practically overnight.

That sure scares me, what about you?.


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Jordanian Planes ReRoute to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 4, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

On Sunday a massive sand storm carpeted Amman, Jordan. For hours no flights could take off or land.

Sand storms happen in the Middle East. In Arabic there are many names for the winds and the sands that blow. Arabic probably has as many words to describe the winds and the sands as the Eskimos have for snow and the various storms and precipitation they live with regularly.

Royal Jordanian air flights were rerouted and landed in Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. That was a wise and safe solution to a problem. With sand storms you cannot predict how long they will last so rerouting is a very good idea.

In this case two Jordanian flights landed in Israel.

But what about the rest of the air traffic, what about flights from other countries, countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel and would never land there?

Those flights rerouted to Aquba, the tiny Jordanian airport on the Red Sea. The runway was short and it was not ideal, but everyone made it safely.

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Stop Jewish Jihadis
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 3, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is whirling from the terrible violence Jews have been perpetrating in the name of religion.

The latest victim is16 year old Shira Banki, a high school student marching in the Gay Pride Parade that was held in Jerusalem. After having been savagely and brutally stabbed in public, in front of cameras and police, Shira succumbed to her wounds.

The murderer had been released from prison only the month before after serving 10 years of a 15 year sentence for attacking people at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem ten years ago.

This attack and many other attacks by Jews could - and should, have been prevented.

Israel needs to lower the evidence bar when it comes to cases of Jewish Jihad.

There must be administrative detention for Jews engaged in acts of terror or violence just as there is for Palestinians. This means that when there is not enough evidence to convict, police detain
suspects because of a greater risk.

Rabbis who incite and justify violence must be arrested, charged and tried for incitement. Curricula must be created to teach about differences and tolerance. And courts and leaders must give stringent penalties to Jewish Jihadis.

These are those who want to murder people because they are different and because they believe themselves to have the moral ground and to have Jewish arguments to prove their case.

There are not many Jewish Jihadis - perhaps several hundred,, but they must be publically condemned by both political and religious Jewish leadership in Israel and abroad.

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Russia Out-Smarts US
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 2, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Russians announced that on Sunday August 2nd and Monday August 3rd, their foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al- Jubeir.

They will meet in Qatar.

The Russian announcement said that the topics for discussion are: how to move toward peace in Syria, Yemen and Libya, how to move forward in the fight against ISIS and the best ways of maintaining stability in the Persian Gulf.

Russia is positioning itself as a power broker. They want to be seen as the most significant force capable of assuring conflict resolutions. Russia has outmaneuvered the United States in the region for the past two years - this announcement is one more example.

What we have here is Russian leadership - and US participation.

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Al Qaeda Captures CIA Trained Syrians
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Al Nusra Front, the al Qaeda group in Syria, announced that they have captured Syrian rebels that were trained by the CIA.

The message said that the group was captured after they crossed over the border.

As if it could not get worse or more pitiful or simply ludicrous - only 60 rebels have thus far been trained by the CIA since the program began a year ago. And now a significant number (any number is significant ! ) have been captured.

The captured rebels will be tortured and executed. Any important intel and information they might have to give over will be harvested by al Qaeda before they execute the CIA trained Syrians.

The US plan is not working very well, but this is how it goes: Train Syrians to fight Assad, Hezbollah, al Qaeda (al Nusra) and ISIS and then take over Syria.

The problem is that if the few who have been trained cannot even hole their own and defend themselves - how are they going to take over the country.

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Putin Assures Netanyahu -- Iran Deal is Good
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 31, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Kremlin released a statement about a conversation that took place between Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu. The purpose of the conversation was to assure Netanyahu that the Iranian deal will not lead to a nuclear Iran and that the deal will provide for a safer Middle East.

According to the statesmen Putin told Netanyahu that the agreement includes "solid guarantees that the Iranian nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful."

It continued to explain "that implementing it would positively impact the security and stability of the Middle East."

There can be no doubt that Netanyahu does not believe that Putin is correct. Israel is in the midst of mounting a serious battle to convince the few Democratic members of Congress to nix the Iranian deal and this conversation has not changed or swayed that campaign in
the least.

Netanyahu knows that Putin and Russia do what is best for Putin and Russia. And he realizes that Putin wants calm in the Middle East and does not want Iran to have nuclear weapons.

And yet, despite the assurances and the knowledge conveyed by Putin, Netanyahu is not convinced that Russia, the United States and the deal can keep Iran nuclear weapons free. Not collectively and certainly not individually.

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Jewish Athletes Compete in Berlin
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 30, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Jewish Olympics, the European Maccabi Games, are being played in Berlin. Hard to imagine - but true.

Not just are the games being played in Berlin, the games are being played in the same stadium that Adolf Hitler built for the 1936 Olympics. 2,100 proud and strong Jews playing Olympic games in Hitler's Germany.

This is a powerful image. Hitler used the stadium to propagandize his vision. It was there in that stadium that that Hitler created pageants and huge pyrotechnical performances all in order to glorify the racist message of the superiority of their Teutonic Aryan philosophy.

Today Europe is undergoing a resurgence of anti-Semitism. But because of these Jewish Olympic games, because of the Maccabi games, European leaders are coming out to join in a celebration of Jewish life and Jewish creativity.

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Pollard Release
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 29, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Jonathan Pollard's lawyers announced yesterday that the parole board decided to free Pollard on November 21 of this year, the 30th anniversary of his imprisonment.

The US Department of Justice has not challenged the decision - so without resistance Pollard may see his freedom in just a few short months.

Pollard told the parole board on July 7 that he had a job lined up and a place to live in New York City. The job and NYC seem to be terms of his parole. Israel and others are hoping that they can convince the board to permit him to leave the United States and go to Israel.

As of now that does not seem to be in the cards.

The announcement by lawyers representing Jonathan Pollard, closely followed by comments from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, are all signs that seem to imply that this is a done deal.

However, I must point out that there were times in the past when Pollard was nearly set free and then, at the last minute, the deal was cancelled.

I am hopeful that this time will be different, but I will be convinced only when I see Jonathan Pollard leave prison as a free man.

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Russia & Turkey Talk About the MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 28, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Kremlin held a press conference yesterday to summarize an important conversation that took place on Sunday between Putin of Russia and Erdogan of Turkey.

According to the statement released by the Kremlin, the two leaders had an important telephone conversation. The topics under discussion included the situation in the Middle East. They spoke about Iraq and Syria and most especially, they spoke ISIS.

They also discussed the spread of terror and the need to fight
terrorism.

The most important component of their discussion was Russia's interest in uniting the various countries in the region to confront ISIS and to fight extremism.

The Kremlin spokesman said that in the Sunday conversation the leaders "exchanged opinions on the situation in the Middle East, first of all in Syria and Iraq, in the framework of stepping up multilateral and bilateral coordination with the aim of increasing efficiency of countering threats from the Islamic State."

"It was stressed that consolidation of efforts of all interested countries is necessary on the basis of international law to successfully fight the spread of terrorism and extremism."

This is important stuff - especially coming, in unison, from Russia and Turkey.

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The Mullahs of Iran Are Against the Deal
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian religious leadership has a very interesting "take" on the nuclear agreement.

It seems that religious leadership in Iran believes that the agreement is a trap. They think it is a lure with promises of great economic rewards. And they think that what the United States, Israel and all the other nations who were forcing the agreement really want - is a change of leadership in Iran.

The religious leaders think that the entire purpose of the agreement is to entice Iran into understanding Western ways so that they will view the world outside of Iran as beneficial to the masses in Iran.

They fear that those Iranians who yearn for improved economic and cultural exchanges with the outside world will - because of the nuclear agreement, immediately see and understand the new status Iran has achieved.

Iranian religious leadership may not be so far off.
And Iranian religious leadership is petrified that their assessment will come true.

If their fears are realized, it means that they, the religious leadership of Iran, would be ousted and their values and their stranglehold on the youth, the culture and the economy of Iran would be vaporized.

So, why did Rouhani receive permission from the Supreme Leader of Iran to sign off on the deal, and why has the rest of Iranian religious leadership remained quiet until now? The answer is that the religious leaders in Iran understood how important it was to lift the sanctions and improve their economy. Now that it is a done deal, they will clamp down on the hopes and dreams of reformers and youth attempting to use this agreement as a springboard to freedom.

Iranian religious leadership is telling the United States -- "We see your games and understand you moves."

This is the only way we can interpret the numerous comment made by the Supreme Leader immediately before and since the announcement of the nuclear agreement.

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Israel Gives Jordan 16 Cobra Helicopters
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 26, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Israel gave Jordan 16 Cobra helicopters.

The helicopters are all originally US made and were part of a US arms deal. But these Cobras have since been retired. The United States needed to sign off on the transfer of these Cobras to Jordan.

The purpose of the gift from Israel to Jordan is to help Jordan patrol its borders with Syria and Iraq. For that purpose, these helicopters are perfectly adequate.

These borders are porous and ISIS and al Qaeda have used the holes to penetrate into Jordan. Without a doubt ISIS and Al Qaeda want to destabilize Jordan.

It is in the best interest of Israel to secure those borders and to make certain that Jordan remains stable.

With this arms deal everyone win. The United States is happy that there is real cooperation between Jordan and Israel on regional matters. Israel is happy because it adds to their credibility and stability. Jordan is happy because it is seriously protecting itself from ISIS and al Qaeda.

This is what you call a no brainer.


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Turkey & ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 25, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Syrian border with Turkey has become very hot lately. There have been serious skirmishes and exchanges of fire between ISIS on the Syrian side and Turkey firing back from their side.

A Turkish soldier was killed and another wounded in the exchange of fire.

Turkey also scrambled their air force and sent fighter jets to the area. The jets fired and struck ISIS targets.

Finally, there are unconfirmed reports that the Turks have given a green light to the United States, saying that they will host US fighter jets that will attack ISIS in Syria.

Until now the Turks have said that they will not host the US military and their fighter jets. But things have changed. Turkey is clearly an SIS target. ISIS wants to destabilize the entire region - and that includes Turkey.

The United States does not need to take off from Turkey. The mission was not hampered or limited in any way because of the reluctance of Turkey up until now. This is as much about diplomacy as it is about military maneuvering.

The area is very small. But this new ability to take off and land in Turkey will improve some angles and allow for better dexterity with the air strikes.

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Anti Semitism in Soccer
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 24, 2015

I've Been Thinking

The world of soccer is starting to take the scourge of anti- Semitism seriously.

The UEFA, which stands for the United European Football (Soccer) Association, has punished Croatia for anti-Semitic and racists acts.

A swastika was painted on the playing field of Croatia before a game against Italy.

The Football Association punished Croatia in several different ways:
# 1: Croatia was docked a point
# 2: the next two qualifying matches Croatia plays at home will be played without fans in an empty stadium
# 3: Croatia may not play in the city of Split
# 4: the Croatian team was fined 100,000 Euros ($110,000)

These penalties might seem small, but they actually touch the fans and the owners much more than the players. The players were not responsible for the swastika. The fans were responsible and the fans will not be able to watch their team play.

The penalties are a lesson for everyone. They were put in place to teach everyone that these kinds of expression cannot be tolerated in civilized society - and that includes football.

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Israel Mum On US Gifts After Iran Deal
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 23, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter departed Israel and traveled to Saudi Arabia.

We do not know what actually happened in Israel. People there have been uncharacteristically tight lipped about the meetings.

But we think that things went well.

What we do know is that Prime Minister Netanyahu told everyone not to talk about and not even entertain or discuss any list of potential gifts that the US might provide Israel in order to ease the pain of the Iranian deal.

The PM clearly feels that any discussion of US treats will hurt the Israeli argument in Congress. Netanyahu does not want Congressional leaders to think that Israel came to grips with the Iran deal so there is no problem if they support the deal.

In Saudi Arabia Carter is talking about Iranian aggression and the battle against ISIS. Also on the agenda is cyber terror.

Saudi Arabia and the US have many mutual interests. But do not for a minute think that Saudi Arabia trusts the United States.

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Hamas Shuts Its Electricity
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 22, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

In Gaza, yesterday, Hamas stopped producing electricity. This is the second time since March that Hamas stopped producing electricity.

Hamas blamed the stoppage on the PA. They said they stopped the electricity because of a fuel tax demanded of them by the Palestinian Authority.

The electrical plant in Gaza produces electricity from diesel. Most of the diesel comes from the PA. The PA has stopped providing the diesel because Hamas cannot pay for it. That fee, the cost of diesel, is what Hamas is calling the fuel tax.

In March when this happened Qatar coughed up $10 million. That money paid the back payment and covered the bill - until now. But now, in July, the Qatari money has dried up.

Even before this money crunch, electricity in Gaza was blacked out for 12 hours each day. Now there will probably be only 6 hours of electricity per day for Gazans.

Many people in Gaza use electric generators. They are the richest people in Gaza.

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Pollard May Be Part of the Iran Deal
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Rumors abound -- one of them is that part of the so-called "carrot" Israel will be given as a result of the Iran deal is the release of Jonathan Pollard!!!!

The United States Department of Justice is saying that they will not object to the release of Pollard in November of this year, when he reaches his 30th year in prison.

While the potential release of Pollard makes sense, it in no way makes the Iran deal any less risky. It does, however, make the bitter pill a little easier to swallow.

For years the idea of releasing Pollard from the US prison where he has been serving time after being convicted of spying against the United States has been dangled in front of Israel. Each time, it turned out to be nothing more than a diplomatically orchestrated gimmick.

The US Administration knows that, from the point of view of Israel, this deal with Iran needs to be sweetened. Israel will certainly present a huge shopping list to the United States. Most of the items on that list will be on the security side.

Pollard is an entirely different matter. His release might make Israelis more comfortable with the deal. But if it does not happen, their frustration will reach new heights.

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How the White House Thinks About Iran
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 17, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

For several days now I have been wracking my head trying to understand how the White House could be so convinced that the deal with Iran was a good deal.

Everywhere I looked I saw flaws and problems.

But I think that I have now figured out what the Administration sees. I still vehemently disagree - but I understand their thought process.

Here is the White House point of view. They want to stop the production of a nuclear weapon - not permanently, just for the next 15 years.

In order to prevent a bomb from being dropped over the next 15 years the president and his staff put two essential items in the agreement.

The agreement reduces the number of centrifuges in Iran from 20,000
to 50 or 60 and all of these will be the old IR-1 type centrifuges.

The agreement also demands that Iran reduce the amount of uranium from 10 tons of low enriched uranium 3.5% to 300 kilos. This will make it hard to create a bomb because an effective nuclear bomb needs 90%-95% enriched uranium. About one ton of uranium is what you need to make a single weapon.

Not as important to the White House but also stipulated in the agreement is that the arms embargo stay in place for another 15 years.

Now, if Israel was to initiate a military strike they would only delay the capability of Iran to develop their bomb by 7 or 8 years, at most 10 years. The White House thinks that what they have accomplished is a much better deal.

The White House is also wishfully hoping that, within the next 15 years, there will be a regime change in Iran. And therefore, they believe that their plan is the best plan to keep the region safe.

Again, I disagree.

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Deal From The Iranian POV
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 16, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Let me tell you what Iranian leaders are saying about this historic agreement. Let me take you behind the beyond the celebrations in the streets.

Iranian president Rouhani said the following in a press conference: "We didn't ask for charity. We asked for fair, just, and win-win negotiations." He also said that sanctions never worked on Iran.
Consider that his hah-hah moment.

Then Rouhani used the moment to make an important point about international diplomacy by attacking Israel. He said: "Today the people of Gaza, Lebanon, Qods (Jerusalem) and West Bank are also happy because the endeavors of the Zionist regime were defeated."

He said: "Neighboring countries! Do not be deceived by the Zionist regime."

Iranian state news agencies reported that the deal would not touch any nuclear facilities and all of them are up and running - including research facilities. Additional reports said that R&D on centrifuge improvement would continue.

The reports said that all bans on dual purpose imports would be lifted. Machinery and technology that had industrial and nuclear purposes would now be permitted in. And sanctions would be lifted.

The reports also spoke of unfreezing Iranian funds. That is about $1.4 billion in found money for Iran.

All this will have a huge, positive, impact on Iran. This agreement catapults Iran into a leadership position in the region and in the world.

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Finally the Iran Deal
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 15, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The newly-signed nuclear agreement raises more questions than can possibly be answered. But we have got to start somewhere.

So, here is one of the biggest questions I have about the Iranian deal: Why are the Iranians dancing in the streets now that the agreement has been finalized?

The best reason I can give is that now that the stifling sanctions will be lifted, Iranians will have clear access to the West and billions of dollars of new income.

That is just one reason. The Iranians have many, many more reasons to feel elated. For example, by now we have all heard about the 24 day notice that Iran will get before inspections take place and we know that the Iranians have the option to reject the requests and instead have a hearing of the committee from the P5+1 and Iran.

But did you also know that:

Iran can have 300 kg of enriched uranium.

Iran need not shut down, seal or freeze any sites.

Iran can have 5400 centrifuges in Natanz and 1000 in Fordow.

Iran need not come clean about their past violations.

Iran does not need to stop its surface to air missile program.

Iran will continue its nuclear R&D.

Iran's heavy water plant in Arak will continue to operate.

In other words, not only did Iran get everything it wanted out of this agreement, but the West got almost nothing in the agreement.

And as for Israel, well, Israel needs to improve the relationship with Obama and his entire administration.

More crucial and to the point, Israel must improve their intel and their anti-missile program. Iran is sprinting towards outfitting themselves and their friends with nuclear potential. And we all know where they will aim during target practice.

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Assad and Hezbollah Take Momentum Away from ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 14, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The tide is once again shifting in Syria. The position of power is once again firmly in the hands of Assad and Hezbollah.

A few weeks ago we noted that ISIS had made serious advances in Syria, but in a pretty quick turnabout, Assad and Hezbollah successfully repelled ISIS and al Qaeda and they are now in control of nearly every large city and every major highway in the country.
It was reported today that two leaders of ISIS were killed by an air attack in Syria.

In addition, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah went on Youtube and shouted that ISIS has a choice - leave Syria or be killed in Syria.

Nasrallah and Hezbollah are taking advantage of the momentum.

There is no doubt that Hezbollah and Assad forces will search out and seek revenge on ISIS and al Qaeda fighters. No prisoners will be taken. Anyone found hiding or defeated in battle will be butchered and paraded as examples of what happens to those who dare to cross President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah cannot quite do it, but they will try to match the brutality of ISIS. They must publicly display acts of brutality in order to regain the sense of honor they lost over the past year as ISIS inspired fear crept into the hearts of many local Syrians.

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Iran Deal
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 13, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It seems as if some time today, Monday, there will be an announcement out of Vienna celebrating the signing of a deal with Iran.

On Sunday, a senior Iranian official told Reuters that --- "The deal is within reach today ... but some issues remain that need to be resolved by foreign ministers."

The Europeans are saying that a deal will certainly be announced on Monday, the Americans are a bit more cautious. The Americans say they are hopeful.

Whatever the deal actually is, whenever the announcement is made, we will have to look over the deal very carefully. What is written down is not always what was verbally stated.

The last agreement for the temporary agreement that was presented in March was so ambiguous it was impossible to understand. For the Iranians, that was the point.

After the deal gets signed we will look it over. Then comes the insight.

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Iran's Supreme Leader On the US
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 12, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iran's Supreme Leader was speaking to a student group yesterday. A student asked him what would happen to the battle against global arrogance if they sign an agreement with the United States.

The Grand Ayatollah Khamenei responded by explaining that the battle against global arrogance cannot be interrupted and it must continue.

Khamenei said "Fighting global arrogance is the core of our revolution and we cannot put it on hold. Get ready to continue your fight against the global arrogance."

Simply and clearly put the Iranian leader said:
"The US is the true embodiment of the global arrogance."

This is how Iranian leadership views the United States.

There is no other way to interpret the Iranian message.

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Pope Calls it a Genocide
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 11, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Pope Francis is in Boliva. In a speech he delivered while there the pope spoke about a genocide being perpetrated against Christians in the Middle East.

He has been silent on this matter until now.
The Pope said: "Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus."

"In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end."

There is no doubt that, throughout the Middle East, ISIS and al Qaeda as well as many other Islamic groups are targeting Christians and Christian sites.

There was a fear that speaking up would put people and property at risk. Actually, the Vatican had been trying to stem the tide of hatred by befriending non-friendly groups hoping that ultimately, everyone could live together in peace.

That plan has not been working out.

The new Vatican policy: Speak up, speak out and stop the genocide of Christians in the Middle East at the hands o Muslims.

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2 Israelis in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 10, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The gag order was lifted yesterday. Now we know that two Israelis are in Gaza. One, an Ethiopian, has been there since September, the other, a Bedouin, since April.

Hamas admits to having the Bedouin, but says it knows about - but does not have, the Ethiopian. This sounds like the truth. And that is not good news.

During the operation against Gaza last summer, one of the most important objectives from the Hamas point of view was to capture an Israeli soldier - alive. The Ethiopian could not be an Israeli soldier, he is a learning disabled adult and that becomes immediately recognizable to anyone who meets him.

His name is Avraham Mangisto and he was walking on the beach and crossed the border into Gaza. When soldiers saw him they shouted, to no avail to get his attention, a helicopter was even dispatched to find him. The soldiers saw him walk up to a group of Gaza fisherman and that was the last time he was seen by Israelis.

If Islamic Jihad or ISIS took him, then the situation is very grim. If any other Islamic group has him the scenario is even worse.

The reason the entire situation was not made public before this was to make certain that Hamas, or other terrorists, did not turn it into an international bargaining war. Hamas wants the release of prisoners in Israeli jails. Because Israel was not even acknowledging the situation, there was the opportunity to try to locate the captors through back channels.

Even members of the Israeli security cabinet were in the dark about the situation. They found out about it only from online coverage which was first released on YNET.

Now it seems that all informal avenues have been exhausted. Now Israel is ready to admit that the situation is grave, very grave.

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Hamas Has Rebuilt & ISIS in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 9, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It has been a year since last summer's conflict between Israel and Gaza.

According to sources in Israel's southern command, Israel "is in a race against Hamas {over} who will learn the lessons of Protective Edge faster."

That is scary. The source told YNET that Hamas has nearly re-attained the level and capacity they were at pre-Operation Preventive Edge. That means that within the year Hamas has restored and rebuilt their arms and rocket capability.

"Hamas is getting closer to finishing restoring its stock of mortar shells and short-range rockets ... They don't yet have the amount of medium and long-range rockets (that can reach Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and further north) it had. Hamas will not give up the ability to fire rockets deep into Israel in the next war, because to them, a routine of sirens and emergency situation in Tel Aviv is an achievement."

Now there is another factor operating in Gaza -- ISIS.

Every success ISIS has whether it be in the region, anywhere in the Middle East, or in Europe, it magnifies their cause and draws more recruits.

Sources estimate that there are 1,000 ISIS members. That is huge - especially because ISIS is about to make a play for more recruits and to oust Hamas from leadership in Gaza.

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US - Only 60 Syrians Trained So Far
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 8, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Remember the brilliant plan that the United States hatched to train Syrian fighters to battle ISIS and al Qaeda?

The original plan was to train 5,400 Syrian fighters every year.

These fighters were to be the future of Syria. First, they were going to defeat ISIS and al Qaeda and then they would take over Syria and oust Assad. That was the plan.

Well, so far, only 60 Syrians have been trained. That's right - 60. I did not forget to put the zeroes on.

We know this because it is the testimony that US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter gave before Congress yesterday. Carter says, and rightly so, that the difficulty is vetting the fighting to make certain that they are not the enemy. If they made a mistake in choosing fighters, the US would be training and arming people who, in the end, would be fighting for the other side.

The real problem is that most people fighting in Syria are the enemy.

Very few Syrians can pass the vetting process. Not because it is so rigorous --- but because most people were at one time or are currently affiliated either with ISIS, al Qaeda or Assad.

In his prepared remarks to Congress the secretary of defense explained that the United States is trying to streamline the program and to enable the vetting process to find and train more appropriate recruits.

Carter put it this way: "We are also refining our curriculum, expanding our outreach to the moderate opposition, and incorporating lessons learned from the first training class."

Suffice it to say the United States needs another program. This one is not going anywhere.

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ISIS Smuggling Members into Europe
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 7, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Europe may be slowly waking up.

The European Union prosecutor held a special press conference to inform journalists that ISIS is using ships not only to smuggle people but also to secretly smuggle ISIS members into Europe.

Journalists were also told that ISIS is earning money smuggling people.

ISIS is smuggling illegals across the Mediterranean into Europe.

Obviously, the ISIS members are entering Europe to organize, raise money and recruit. They are also there to motivate and plan attacks.

Eurojust is an EU agency that tries to coordinate with EU members on issues of terror, cyber crime and illegal immigration. According to the Associated Press, the director of Eurojust, Michele Coninsx, has information about ISIS and their smuggling operation. She did not want to reveal too much information, but made it perfectly clear that it is happening.

I found it interesting that, according to the coverage, EU leadership did not want to venture a hypothesis as to why ISIS was smuggling people into Europe.

The answer should be clear. ISIS wants to attack Europe!

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Jordan Finds Terror Cell
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 6, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Newspapers in Jordan today are reporting that a major terror attack was averted. The authorities arrested a man with Iraqi Norwegian citizenship who was in possession of 45 kg, equivalent to 100 pounds, of explosives.

The media says that this attack would have been the worst terror attack in a decade.

The first judicial hearing for the suspect will take place in Jordanian security court on Monday.

The terrorist is believed to belong to a group called Bayt ul Maqdis. This is a common name for many terror groups - but all of the groups with this name are not connected to each other.
Bayt al Maqdis is another Arabic name for Jerusalem.

The discovery of this group is very important - and not just because this discovery saved lives. Finding this man and his group will lead authorities on a path to discovery of other terror cells and of arms and of explosive suppliers.

This is a big step in the fight against ISSI and other groups taking hold in Jordan and in the region.

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ISIS Plots to Take Over Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS has announced that they are plotting to remove Hamas from power in Gaza.

ISIS posted a video on Youtube of a masked man addressing the "Tyrants of Hamas" i.e. Hamas, saying:

"We will uproot the state of the Jews (Israel) and you and Fatah, and all of the secularists are nothing and you will be over-run by our creeping multitudes."

He continued -- "The rule of sharia (Islamic law) will be implemented in Gaza, in spite of you. We swear that what is happening in the Levant today, and in particular the Yarmouk camp, will happen in Gaza,"

The speaker said that after all this time Hamas has not succeeded in applying any Islamic law in Gaza and now Hamas are clamping down on groups attacking Israel. In the eyes of ISIS, that is definitely not a good thing to be doing.

ISIS wants to topple Hamas because, in their eyes, Hamas is simply too liberal.

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ISIS 1 Year Later
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 30, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It has been exactly one year since ISIS proclaimed themselves a state.

The US Department of Defense announced that ISIS is a formidable force. They say that despite the fact that ISIS has lost 25% of the land that was under their control at the heyday of their rise to power.

Finally, the Department of Defense is realizing that ISIS is no longer a junior varsity player. Now the DOD must devise a serious strategy that will put more pressure on ISIS and, eventually, eradicate them entirely.
ISIS has a plan.

Now the United States needs a plan, too.

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Talks Have Been Extended!
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 29, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I told you so. And it is official.

The talks with Iran have been extended beyond the June 30 deadline. Of course they were.

Here is the official quote: "Since a lot of work remains to be done, delegations will stay in Vienna after 10 Tir (which is June 30) to continue negotiations to achieve a good overall agreement."

Do not hold your breath. The leader of the Iranian delegation is now back in Teheran getting guidance on how to move ahead. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who heads the delegation needs to get the parameters and the limits of what compromises Iran can make.

Rest assured - Iran will want much more than what the P5+1 is willing to give. That bone of contention will be understood in completely opposite ways by Iran on the one hand and Western negotiators on the other.

Stay tuned, there is definitely more to come.

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Deadline Just Hours Away
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 29, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The deadline is June 30th. However you count it, it is just a few hours away.

There have been reports of major movement - reports that the sides might be moving closer and closer to a deal.

But will there be a real deal with Iran? Can there ever be?

I doubt it.

Even if an agreement was signed it would not be a deal.

The real issue is how close everyone comes in their demands - and if that will constitute a deal, or, if there will be an deadline extension to the end of August.

My bet is that there will be an extension.

Even if there is an agreement just like there was in April it will require many more months of ironing out the details. That is not a real deal.

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Anotehr Flotilla Sailing to Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Another flotilla set sail for Gaza yesterday.

The flotilla is a symbolic gesture. There are 70 people, including crew, aboard the ship which launched from Crete en route to Gaza.
The reason given for sending out the ship is that it is carrying medical supplies for needy hospitals in Gaza.

Also on board is an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset. His name is Basel Ghattas and he is a representative of the Joint Arab List. The president of Tunisia was on board when it departed Crete. Sounds strange considering that an ISIS terror attack just took place in Tunisia. Terrorists struck a beach hotel at a tourist resort killing at least 38 people and wounding 26.

People affiliated with the flotilla said that the night before they set sail, someone tried to sabotage the ship - as has been done with other flotillas. Someone swam under the boat and tied up the propellers. The organizers detected the problem and freed the propellers.

In 2011 a very similar attack took place and the sabotage postponed the departure of the ship. As a result fewer ships joined the flotilla.

Today there is just one. This flotilla is begging for publicity.

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Gaza Sent A Drone to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 26, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday a drone took off from Gaza and flew into Israel.

The Israelis report that the drone was being watched every moment - even before it was launched. The Israeli Air Force was scrambling to destroy the drone if necessary.

The drone crossed into Israeli territory and then fell to the ground. The army picked up the drone and they are examining and studying it. Israel is asserting that at no time was the drone a threat.

There are two types of drones. One is for intelligence and spying and the other is for attack. They are both remote control operated and they both have cameras that send back important reconnaissance pictures to be studied.

There have been serious rumors that Hamas was given drones by Iran. And Hamas has repeatedly said that they do have drone technology and the ability to hit Israel with drones.

Israel is not yet releasing information on the nature or the make of the drones. But no one can deny that this incident was an important game changer. Drones give Hamas eyes in places they never could see before.

That is dangerous.

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US Will Not Prosecute Families Who Pay Ransom For Loved Ones
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 24, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Today the United States is publicly releasing a broad review of their policy on hostages.

The review was ordered by the president.

As a result of the review findings, a new policy regarding hostages will be put in place.

The request for review came about after the recent spate of kidnappings and beheadings of American citizens by ISIS.

Family members of the hostages were threatened by US officials. They were told that if the family paid ransoms, they would be prosecuted for helping and providing money to terrorists.

This was devastating to the families. And it became even more painful when it was clear that European hostages whose ransoms were paid to ISIS by their family and friends - were indeed released and went free.

The report does not change the law which stands as it always did. It does, however, say that the White House will make certain that the Department of Justice knows not to prosecute family members if the situation should once again become a reality.

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Egypt Digging a Moat Around Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 23, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

For Egypt, Hamas is a significant threat. Not surprisingly, the Egyptians are trying to block all smuggling tunnels into and out of Gaza.

Over the past year hundreds of Egyptian soldiers, police and civilians have been killed by terrorists who have received material aid from Gaza. Hundreds.

Egypt has shut the border between their country and Gaza. They also, recently, doubled the width of the buffer zone of that border extending it to 1 kilometer which is .62 miles. In doing so they uprooted trees and destroyed homes.

Anything that was within the swath of land that was destined to be the buffer zone was razed in order to create a safer and more defensible border.

Now the Egyptians are digging a security ditch 23 yards deep and 11 yards wide.

These efforts are designed to make it much more difficult to tunnel into Gaza. Tunnel builders must now dig deeper and dig longer. Now digging tunnels is more expensive, more dangerous, and much more time consuming.

Most important of all is that, now, it is much easier for Egypt to detect the digging.

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Uptick in Terror-- Here's Why
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 22, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

There has been an uptick in terror against Israelis. There have been stabbings and car attacks.

There are several important reasons for this surge in terror attacks.
The most significant reason is one of inspiration.

This is the month of Ramadan. It is a time for sermons and dynamic speeches in mosques and on TV and radio. During their sermons Imams call on Muslims to act.

The action that inspiration stimulates is terror.

The next most significant reason is the ISIS / al Qaeda influence.
Muslims are inspired to imitate the actions of extremist groups.
ISIS and al Qaeda movements operating all around the world, but especially from Syrian and Iraq, set the tone for would be followers and supporters.

Your average Muslim is not capable of perpetrating a massive terror attack, but is perfectly capable of carrying out a stabbing or initiating a car attack.

There is no easy way to counter these attacks or to stem the rise of violence and acts of terror.

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Rescue History from ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 21, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Great Britain has put together a group of rescues archeologists to go and save historical sites threatened by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Right now only England is funding the project, but they are convening a summit meeting in hopes of raising more monies to save these priceless and unique historical treasures.

ISIS does two things to the sites.

# 1: ISIS publicly destroys the sites. ISIS films and posts on line the actual destruction of the sites. In their minds, they are destroying paganism. They broadcast to all their followers how Islam has destroyed the pagan culture of Rome and Greece et al. ISIS says that the sites "promote idolatry."

# 2: ISIS raids the sites for artifacts that can be sold. The sales amount to tens of millions of dollars annually, all profit going into their coffers. For ISIS, the sale of historical artifacts is almost as lucrative an industry as the sale of oil.

This new group of rescue archeologists will hopefully secure the sites, reconstruct the destroyed elements and document the current state of affairs for posterity. It is a daunting but very worthwhile endeavor.

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Iran Defeats US in Volleyball
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The FIVB, which is the International Federation of Volley, is holding a competition in Tehran, Iran.

On Friday Iran defeated the United States in three sets. The scores were 25-19, 29-27 and 25-20.

The US and Iran are set to face off again on Sunday.

Participation in this competition demonstrates a significant change in US policy. It signals the thawing of relations and the end of sanctions. One of the most obvious and easy to comply with dimensions of sanctions is involvement - or absence thereof - in international sports.

In this case not only Is Iran involved, they are hosting and the US is participating in the volley championship in Teheran much as they would were it to be held almost everywhere else in the world.

I am not shocked by this - actually it was to be expected. The only unrealized issue is: what will this lead to.

The obvious answer is normalization of diplomatic relations- bringing Iran in out of the doghouse. This is one of the objectives of international sports. The idea is that conflicts are about politics and leaders while sports are about people.

Athletes are supposed to put politics aside and deal only with the sport and the competition. Sometimes that is harder to do than at other times. This is one of those other times.

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Palestinians May Rescind Israel Recognition
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 19, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat presented a 56 page report outlining what he considers essential steps to be taken regarding Palestinian relations with Israel.

The report is really the Palestinian response on the status of non-negotiations with Israel and their lack of progress in finalizing
the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Erekat, always a wily character and shrewd thinker, suggests that the Palestinian Authority rescind its recognition of Israel. Yasser Arafat recognized Israel in 1988. The rescinding, or taking back, of this recognition would be a tool to force Israel into concessions.
Erekat also suggests bringing Gazan Islamic groups, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad and others, into the PLO executive committee.

These moves are more than symbolic. Erekat hopes that they will unify Palestinian leadership. If enacted, the Erekat plan will give Palestinians leverage over Israelis in the international arena and in bi-lateral, face-to-face and tri-lateral talks.

But it will fail.
Palestinian unity is a myth.

Even if the Palestinians withdrew their recognition of Israel it would mean nothing. It would appear to be a blank gesture of weakness - and that is exactly the opposite of the position Palestinians want to convey.

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Ramadan Starts Today
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 18, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

For most of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, today begins the month long fast of Ramadan. From dusk to dawn Muslims cannot eat or drink. It is a period introspection.

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Within Islamic tradition this is the month during which the original revelation of Mohamed took place. It is a month where Muslims try to do the right thing - especially in interpersonal interactions and speech.

According to some media reports crime rates drop significantly in Muslim countries during Ramadan as people attempt to mend their ways. Other media outlets report the opposite - a serious increase in crime. Criminals know that families are out celebrating and homes are empty.

A lot of interesting things happen during the month of Ramadan. Who knows what will happen this year.

For some, Ramadan is a call to peace. For others, Ramadan is a call to arms.

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Syrians Are Running For Refuge in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 17, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has declared the entire region of the Golan Height where it abuts Syria a closed military zone.

There are two reasons for the closure.

# 1: In the aftermath of the increased number of massacres of Druze in Syria, their family and outside sympathizers have organized protests on the Israeli side of the border in the hope of influencing Israel to intervene stop the massacres in Syria.
The closure will keep people safely away from a hot border. The protesters are targets for al Qaeda, al Nusra and ISIS rebels.

# 2: Israel is expecting a massive exodus of Druze and other Syrians as the massacres continue. When that happens the area must be free of civilians in order to properly facilitate the escape of these Syrians seeking refuge and safety in Israel.

I know - it sounds preposterous. But yes, thousands of Syrians have already sought safety in Israel. More are on the way.

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Saudi - Iran Confict at the OIC
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 16, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Today, Saudi Arabia is hosting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). And there are going to be fireworks.

The OIC is the umbrella group of 57 Islamic states that was founded in 1969. It was created in the aftermath of the Six Day War when it became obvious that the Islamic world was leaderless and directionless.

Iran is attending the meeting and the Iranians want to discuss Yemen. Saudi Arabia is hosting and they want to discuss Yemen. Iran is on the opposite side of Saudi Arabia when it comes to Yemen.

For the past three months Yemen has been in the thralls of a civil war and Iran has been supporting the Houthi tribe. The Houthi are Shiites and they are trying to take over Yemen. Saudi Arabia is supporting the regime which is Sunni.

Bringing in the 55 others countries will not resolve this issue.

Iran is making a tactical mistake. Saudi Arabia has more clout in the OIC than they do. Most countries will not get involved in this local issue except to say resolve it on your own and do it ASAP.

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Amazon Was Selling ISIS Magazine
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 15, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Amazon had a very embarrassing moment last week. They were selling ISIS's propaganda magazine for $12 a pop.

How would they know. The magazine is a glossy production called Dabiq and this was its 9the issue. It is produced in 5 different languages: English, German French, Spanish and Arabic.

As soon as Amazon found out, they pulled the product.

Dabiq is a town in Syria. It is the equivalent to the city of Megido. It is where the cataclysm will take place.

But, and this is the most interesting part, ISIS did not need Amazon in order to reach thousands and thousands of magazine buyers. Dabiq is an online publication. Amazon just made it easier. ISIS is selling the magazine throughout the web.

This latest issue of Dabiq is dedicated to explaining why and how young women become sex slaves. There are also two very long articles explaining ISIS. The point is that these women would not be sex slaves if only they converted and accepted the ISIS point of view and stance on Islam.

The articles are written by women. That is part of the ISIS propaganda machine. ISIS is justifying the denigration of women and hoping to recruit women, all at the same time.


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Russia Says - Iran Talks Are Dead
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 13, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

TASS, the Russia news agency, was the first to report that the current talks with Iran taking place in Vienna are at a standstill. TASS was quoting a Russian diplomatic source inside he negotiations.

It should not surprise any of us. Iran really does not want this kind of an agreement. They want an agreement on their terms only.

The deadline will most certainly be extended. I have been predicting that ever since the April 2 framework agreement was signed.

Just because some nations think there there is a framework agreement does not mean Iran thinks that there is a framework agreement.

The sides are at odds.

Now - an agreement might still emerge. But if an agreement is signed it most certainly will be one which favors Iran and its nuclear program.

Why? Because Iran knows that the United States really wants an agreement. And Iran knows that they have the leverage in these negotiations.

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Iran Says NO!
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 12, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It is now mid-June and only a few days remain before the deadline of the nuclear deal with Iran.

The negotiations are beginning.

Paragraph 3:1of the temporary agreement speaks about Iran scaling down their nuclear operations and granting unfettered access to nuclear facilities. It also speaks about giving early notification about new nuclear sites.

Here is the Iranian response to Paragraph 3:1:

Chief Iranian Negotiator Reza Najafi told reporters in a press conference that -- "These are the issues still under discussion and I believe we should wait to see the final text... and before that, we cannot prejudge anything."

In other words: NO!

In the world of Iranian diplomacy and negotiations, in the world that only they inhabit, the interim temporary agreement is not applicable. It was merely a suggestion and it is a suggestion whose principles they do not agree with and did not agree to.

The deal is no deal and never was a deal.

For the United States unfettered access to Iranian nuclear activities and the scaling down of those activities were to be essential component of any agreement.

But now, who knows? The United States is so worried about placating Iran we have no idea what they will agree to or sign on for.


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Spyware Uncovered At the Nuke Summit
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 11, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Wall Street Journal ran a piece yesterday that has set off a maelstrom.

The paper reports that a computer virus infected five hotels in Lausanne, Switzerland. Lausanne is where the nuclear talks with Iran have been taking place and where they will continue to take place.
The WSJ's source is Kaspersky, one of the world's biggest antivirus companies. Kaspersky found out about the virus because they themselves were infected.

This virus, called Duqu 2.0, does no damage. It is an advanced version of the Duqu virus of 2011which attacked Iran and it is very similar to the Stuxent virus of 2009-2010. The original Stuxnet successfully destroyed thousands of Iranian nuclear centrifuges.

The virus uses the computer as a relay. It can watch and hear everything going on in the room and everything that is on the computer can be seen and sent to its own home base. The computer's activation light for the microphone and for the camera are disabled by Duqu. The virus takes over the entire computer. There are only a few companies and governments that have the tools to even detect this virus.

If the code is written well, no one can ever even know that the spyware is there.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Kaspersky imply that Israel is behind the spying.

In their report, Kaspersky referred to Duqu 2.0 as Duqu Bet. Bet is the second letter of the Hebrew language with the numerical value of 2. They are clearly hinting that Israel is behind the hack. But there is no tangible evidence.

One thing is for certain, this is not the work of a lone hacker or talented high school kid. This attack bears all the markings of a highly complex worm that cannot be found. This kind of computer spyware is created by countries - they are called APTs or Advanced Persistent Threats. They are the most sophisticated and complicated and stealth of all the computer threats out there.

When they are discovered, APTs have already done their harm. And most of the time, most of them go undetected. They do their job and then they go dormant. Kaput. All done. Good bye. Until next time.

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Cairo Summons US Ambassador
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 10, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The tables have been turned.

Egyptian officials summoned US Ambassador Steven Beecroft to Cairo yesterday. Egypt summoned the US ambassador to discuss their displeasure over the fact that a delegation from the Muslim
Brotherhood is in Washington, DC on a mission to determine if they will set down roots in the US capital.

Egypt is not merely displeased. Egypt is livid.

According to the Reuters report the Muslim Brotherhood delegation is not meeting with US officials. The Egyptians, however, take exception to the very presence of the Brotherhood in the US capital.

According to the Egyptians, the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist group and is dedicated to the destruction of Egyptian society. The Brotherhood wants to establish a caliphate, a Muslim state, in Egypt.

Over the past year the Muslim Brotherhood has been responsible for hundreds of terror attacks in Egypt - including attacks against military bases, soldiers, civilians and even natural gas lines.

The United States defended the Muslim Brotherhood when their representative, Morsi, was elected president and then again when he was ousted from office last year. The US slowly came around to recognizing the current leadership and to the realization that the Muslim Brotherhood was threatening the entire region.

Or so we thought. This latest move tells us that the United States may not have actually internalized the message.

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Supreme Court Says Jerusalem is Disputed
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 9, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The US Supreme Court 6-3 ruling striking down Congresses' law about
Jerusalem is a damning decision.

Here's why:

The Supreme Court is now saying that the President is THE lone voice in determining US foreign policy. This is not just about filling in a small box titled Place of Birth on the US passport. The ramifications are tremendous.

This decision by the Supreme Court effectively diplomatically minimizes Israel around the world. The decision, in effect, tells Israel that they cannot select their own capital. They are not the masters of their own capital - the president of the United Sates is.

This ruling by the US Supreme Court leaves the question of the status of Jerusalem up for negotiation. The greater problem is that in some circle the very existence of Israel - not just of Israel's capital city - is being disputed. This decision gives credence to that POV.

The Supreme Court should never have ruled on this issue.


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Next Week Iran to Ship Oil to Russia
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 8, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

This week Iran will start exporting 500,000 barrels of oil per day to Russia.

The delivery is part of the "oil for goods deal" that Iran and Russia have been speaking about since April. For a long time, it was just talk. Now it is becoming a reality.

Iran will provide the oil and, in turn, Russia will give Iran food and cash. With the cash, Iran is supposed to buy iron and other essential goods.

The Iranian oil minister, Bijan Zanganeh, was quoted in FARS, one of the official news outlets of the Islamic Republic, talking about the deal. The official announcement was made in Teheran as the minister returned from the latest OPEC meeting in Vienna. He made it clear when he said "Russia will begin oil imports from Iran this week."

"We agreed with (Russian Energy Minister) Alexander Novak in Vienna that Russia will buy less than 500,000 bpd from Iran in exchange for cash, and Iran will use this cash to buy Russian goods such as steel, wheat and oil products from Russia."

This effectively ends the sanctions against Iran. Russia is only the first among nations to begin trading with Iran again. The list will not be a short one.

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Cyprus Arrests 2 Hezbollah Bombers
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 7, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Since ancient times Cyprus has been used as a conduit, a place to group and re-group. So, too, today - and not always for the most up and up and peace loving groups.

Over the past week Cyrus has arrested 2 people on charges of having the chemical materials used to make explosives.

Last week a 26 year old Canadian / Lebanese man was arrested.
Yesterday a 62 year old Cypriot from Nicosia was arrested. The men were in possession of 5 tons of chemicals and fertilizers. The most dangerous chemical they had was ammonium nitrate which is extremely
volatile and explosive.

Cyprus authorities were tipped off by Israeli intelligence which was tailing and monitoring these two people as well as several others. After the chemicals were located, local authorities arrested the terrorists.

These men are part of a Hezbollah web. I am confident that the other members of their team will also be found out and arrested. They were procuring, securing and transferring supplies to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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French City Names Street After Arafat
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 6, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It was bound to happen in France. It was only a matter of time.

The southern coastal city of La Seyne-sur-Mer is naming a street after Yasser Arafat, the notorious founder of the PLO, the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Arafat, a 1994 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize along with Israeli Prime Minister Ytizhak Rabin, died in France in 2004.

La Seyne-sur-Mer is a small city of about 57,000 people. It is famous for being home to one of the finest ship building yards in the world and certainly in Europe.

The mayor, Marc Vuillemot, said that he does not understand the problem. He explains that Yitzhak Rabin has a street named after him in the very same quarter. In his own words: "My understanding is that the two men received the Nobel Peace Prize together! I am not going to be the decider of who was the greater person."

The logic is wrong. Even if, in the end, the Nobel committee saw Arafat as worthy of the prize, he was still a mass murderer of Jews and Israelis.

In a strange twist of history... maybe even an ironic twist ... the Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osarik that took place June 7, 1984 was an attack on a reactor that was manufactured and assembled by in La Seyne-sur- Mer.

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Hamas Does Not Take Responsibility for the Rockets
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 5, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past few days Gaza terrorists have been lofting rockets into Israel.

It does not make a difference which specific group is actually responsible for the rockets - Hamas is in charge of Gaza, they are the address. Whatever comes out of Gaza, whoever sends it out of Gaza, the ruling force is still responsible. And that force is Hamas.

After the rockets were launched, Israel responded by conducting air strikes against the launch pads.

And then Hamas said that the Israeli response to the rockets was a violation of the ceasefire agreement.

Hamas official Ismail Radwan said on Thursday that the Israeli aerial strikes against Gaza in response to rocket fire was "a violation of the ceasefire terms, and the occupation bears responsibility for it."

Well, maybe. But if the Israeli response was a violation of the ceasefire, what would you call the original rockets that were fired into Israel.

Would you call those a gesture of peace?

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ISIS - Al Qaeda Fighitng in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 4, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Al Jazeera in Arabic ran a very unusual interview with Abu Mohammed al Golani, the head of al Nusra, the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

In the interview al Golani made it crystal clear that ISIS and al Qaeda are fighting each other and he sees no chance of rapprochement in the near future.

"There is no solution between us and them in the meantime, or in the foreseeable future. We hope they repent to God and return to their senses ... if not then there is nothing but fighting between us."

Imagine that. Al Qaeda is saying to ISIS that they must return to their senses and repent. Even al Qaeda thinks that ISIS has gone too far.

In the course of the interview al Golani also divulged that 30% of al Nusra fighters are foreigners and that some even come from the United States of America.

Al Qaeda / Al Nusra is seen as the more moderate arm of Islamic extremism. Many, many, people are joining ISIS specifically because they are so ruthless --- even more ruthless than al Qaeda.

What a world!

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ISIS Hamas Conflict in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 3, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Tensions between Hamas and ISIS in Gaza continue to heat up For a year Hamas has maintained that there is no ISIS presence in Gaza and then, yesterday, Hamas killed the 27 year old leader of ISIS in Gaza. His name is Younis al Honnor.

Al Honnor was buried in black shrouds emblazoned with ISIS slogans. Banners adorned the street proclaiming his martyrdom and allegiance to ISIS.


According to the Hamas Ministry of the Interior, Hamas forces came to his house and a firefight broke out. The forces came because Honnor was stockpiling illegal weapons.
Honnor was killed in the firefight. He had booby-trapped the house. According to Hamas reports "explosive belts, explosive devices and rifle-propelled grenades were found inside."

The PA in Ramallah said that Hamas was wrong to have murdered Honnor. They said Hamas should have arrested him and tried him. In a statement published by WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, the Palestinian cabinet said: "Hamas must respect the law and civil rights."

The statement continued: "It must not mess with the souls of people. It must cease abolishing security and order and stop trespassing on the authorities of the government and the judiciary."

Terrible tensions are emerging in Gaza. Hamas, ISIS and several other smaller radical Islamic groups are gunning for each other. In Gaza, that means literally as well as figuratively.

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ISIS Delivers Ultimatum to Hamas
By Micah Halpern

June 2, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Supporters of ISIS in Gaza have sent a message to Hamas leaders and to ISIS followers. The message is: Stop the crackdown in the next 48 hours - or else.

Hamas has been cracking down on all groups that have been firing or are planning on firing, rockets into Israel.

All Islamic radical groups in Gaza have been told not to agitate. And Hamas has gone so far as to arrest gangs who have violated the cease fire with Israel.

Just to rub Hamas' nose in it, ISIS also claimed responsibility for the rockets that struck Israel last week.

Who knows what will happen, but one thing is for certain - ISIS is active in Gaza and they are itching to get into more and more conflict with Hamas.

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Egypt Fighting Radical Islam
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

A gas pipeline transporting natural was blown up in the Northern Sinai area of al Arish.

The blowing up pipelines has been a regular tool of the trade for terrorists over the past year. One specific Islamic terror group called Ansar Beit al Maqdis has become very effective at blowing up these pipelines.

Ansar Beit al Maqdis recently pledged their allegiance to ISIS. They regularly attack Egyptian forces and strike at pipelines delivering natural gas throughout the Sinai and at pipelines transferring natural gas to Jordan.

According to reports coming out of Egypt this latest pipeline to be blown up supplied gas that powered the electrical power station in al Arish and distributed energy to the homes and businesses there.

Egypt knows that the biggest threat the country currently confronts is the threat from radical Islam. The Egyptians are now involved in a full force attempt to crack down and put radical Islam back into the bottle.

I do not know if they will succeed. If they do, others should learn from their example so that they, too, can learn how to contain and control radical Islam.

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Russians Pulling Out of Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 31, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The popular Arabic paper published in London, Asharq al Aswat, is reporting that Russia is pulling its support from President Assad of Syria.

The paper sites a series of sources saying that 66 Russian have been flown out of Latakiah airport, bound for Moscow. They are reporting that the Russian Embassy now has far fewer staff and that Russian experts are no longer in the Syrian war room.

This move comes just as the US and Russia are more involved in talks about the future of Syria. The pull out by Russia means that the Syrian regime will have to work much harder to stay in place.

When you combine the gains made by ISIS and the rebels, you see that they are now in control of more than half of the provinces in Syria.
Assad only controls 8% of the oil resources in Syria. ISIS controls 80% and the rebels control 12%. That leaves Assad very short on cash - the Russian were helping the president support the battle.

With the handful of losses the Assad regime has suffered over the past week, the Russians pulling support may make it impossible for him to recover and swing the pendulum back in his direction.

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FIFA - Israel & The Palestinians
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 30, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday FIFA voted to continue its leadership under Stepp Blatter.

FIFA officials have much on their minds these days. In addition to all the headline grabbing news, the Palestinians had a proposal on the table to expel Israel from FIFA. At the last minute the proposal was withdrawn.

The real story behind the withdrawal is that no country has been expelled from FIFA since the 1970's when South Africa was removed. They have since rejoined.

Of all the mass murders in the world perpetrated by countries -- Israel is the only country that was to be called out on the table by FIFA.

The head of the Palestinian Football Association, former PA strong arm security director Jabril Rajoub, pulled the proposal because numerous African countries told him they do not want to set the precedent of disciplining a nation.

Rajoub and the Palestinians use sports as a political weapon.
Palestinian Media Watch has produced a report documenting how the Palestinians glorify terror in sport by naming tournaments and camps and stadiums after terrorists.

There is, for example, a table tennis tournament named after Dalal Mughrabi who murdered 38 Israelis, including 13 children, and wounded 71 in 1978 on Israel's coastal road.

A chess championship is named after Marwan Zalum responsible for the murder of a 10 month old Israeli infant girl named Shalhevet Paz.
The child was in her stroller when the terrorist shot her in the head. AP reported the tragic terror attack as "Jewish Toddler Dies in West Bank." The Voice of Palestine reported that the sniper and shooting was a lie and that the girl was murdered by her mother.

Soccer stadium and rallies are named after Abu Jihad, a terrorist responsible for over 120 murders.

When the Peres Center for Peace organized a soccer game between Israeli and Palestinians children, Rajoub called it a crime against humanity. And any Palestinian who attempts to play for an Israeli soccer team is threatened by the PA and removed from the national Palestinian team.

This behavior by Palestinians is an affront to the spirit and nature of sports. Shame on them. Dropping the case against Israel is not enough - the world should call the Palestinians to task.

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Conflict btw ISIS and Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 29, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Last week the Iraqi city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, fell to ISIS. So did the rest of the Anbar province. This week Iraq announced that they are fighting to retake the province, which is home to 2 million people and the capital, home to 500,000 Iraqis.

Shiite militias have been brought in to fight ISIS - and the Iranians have a stake in this operation.

Now ISIS is responding.

ISIS sent the Blind Sheik to Ramadi. His real name is Ali Atiya al Joubari aka Abu Asim, but he is most well known as the Blind Sheik of ISIS. He is their # 2 leader on all religious issues and he is # 5 in the overall ISIS pecking order.

The Blind Sheik arrived in Anbar Province with his security entourage so, naturally, people paid attention. One arm, his head and his face were totally covered. The Sheik spoke after evening prayers.

The reason for this visit was to inspire locals in Ramadi to accept ISIS. The locals now side with the Iraqi forces. The Blind Sheik was supposed to convince them to acquiesce and submit to ISIS authority.

Anbar is the largest province in Iraq, it is equal in size to all the other provinces combined. Ramadi is a mere 80 miles from Baghdad.

Both ISIS and the Iraqis know how crucially important this battle for Ramadi and Anbar is.

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Al Qaeda Says They are Defeating Assad
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 28, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Abu Muhammed al Golani, leader of the al Qaeda group in Syria called al Nusra, gave an interview to Al Jazeera.

He said "We will continue our focus on Damascus and on toppling this regime."

Then al Golani emphasized -- "I assure you, Assad's fall won't take a long time."

Al Golani also called on the Alawites of Syria to put down their weapons and convert to Sunni Islam in order to save their lives. The Alawites are a breakaway from Shiite Islam and a minority in Syria.
But Assad, the Syrian president, is an Alawite.

Al Golani also had a few choice words for Hezbollah which is fighting for Assad and keeping him in power.

The point of the interview was to say that the tide of the war has shifted in favor of al Qaeda and the end is near. The end, for al Nusra, means the fall of Damascus and the ousting of Assad.

Despite the predictions of al Golani, at this point it is not clear if the momentum of the civil war in Syria really has shifted. Al Qaeda has had some important victories of late but that has hardly altered the stalemate that has been in place in Syria for three long years.

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Israel Accepts Iran Deal - Makes List Of Prizes for the US
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has come to accept the inevitable - a nuclear deal between Iran and the West.

Israel is resigned to the realization that the deal will be signed and sealed within the next 8 weeks. After that, the sanctions will be lifted and Iran will again be a world power. Maybe even - a nuclear world power.

So the Israelis have begun to develop a wish list. It is a list of things they want from America. The IDF Planning division has been tasked with the responsibility of drawing up a list.

The first thing they will wish for will be an increase in the annual aid they receive, raising it from $3.1 billion to $4 billion. They will also want to extend the 10 year military aid deal which is set to expire in 2017. Israel will want to extend the deal now --- not to wait for a debate over the issue from the person elected president in 2016.

By congressional law Israel must have a qualitative edge over her neighbors. If other countries in the region are getting something, Israel needs to get the same thing - but they need more of it and they need it to be of a better quality.

Israel needs to be realistic. And the US needs to help Israel protect herself. As bad as this deal is for Israel there is at least some solace. The silver lining will be that, in the end, Israel will be better armed and better protected than they were before the deal was signed.

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Austrian Convict 14 Yr Old For Terror
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 26, 2015

Micah Halpern


An Austrian court sentenced a 14 year old to a suspended sentence of16 months in prison for joining a terror group and researching how to build a bomb. The teenager pleaded guilty to the charges.

The 14 year old is a citizen of Turkey. He used his Play Station game internet hook up to research the bomb making.

He has been in pre trial hold for the past seven months - ever since his arrest in October.

This case illustrates both how young kids are drawn in by the lure of ISIS and how they can keep it from their parents by using electronic games which parents wrongly assume are safe of the dangers of the internet.

Governments and prosecutors needs to look carefully at the recruitment of young people living in their countries. These young adults have been preyed upon by ISIS recruiters. Officials need to try to stop the flow and recruitment of ISIS supporters if they want to keep their countries safe.

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Obama Gives The Atlantic an Interview -- Why?
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 23, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

President Obama spoke at Adas Israel in Washington yesterday. His topic was the condemnation of anti-Semitism. The president also spoke about his love for Israel and for Jews.

The day before his synagogue appearance, the Atlantic published an interview with the president -- an interview conducted by Jeffery Goldberg.

The essence of the interview in the Atlantic is that Barack Obama is aware of the gravity and the danger of the Iranian threat. The president realizes should Iran get a nuclear weapon - it will be his fault.

This is extremely powerful. Presidential ownership and responsibility has not been the norm. But as powerful as it is, it is not very comforting. So he owns the mistake - but in the end that does not make either Israel or the region any safer.

What struck me about the interview was not the insight Goldberg gave us into the Obama Iranian genuflection.

I was struck that Barack Obama sat down with Jeffrey Goldberg for the interview.

It was Jeffrey Goldberg, in the Atlantic, who gave the White House that huge black eye in October of last year on the subject of tensions between Washington and Jerusalem. It was Goldberg who quoted a senior White House official saying "The thing about Bibi is, he's a chickensh*t."

We were told that this was a huge embarrassment for the White House.
Told that heads would roll because of the statement. How could a senior person in the White House use that kind of terminology and refer to America's stalwart friend so smugly. Some guessed that the entire episode was a plant. The White House wanted to send a clear message to Netanyahu and this is how they chose to get that message across.

Months later, it seems clear those who always believed that the statement was intentionally made and printed were right on the money. Otherwise, why grant Goldberg, or for that matter anyone who writes for the Atlantic, a face to face just a few short months after that terrible faux pas.

Unless of course it was not a misspeak - but a deliberate message.

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Australia to Take citizneship from Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 22, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Australia is planning on taking more serious steps in their fight against Islamic terror and Islamic homegrown terror.

From now on in Australia, if you join ISIS and travel to fight for them, or if you join them in Australia and you are an immigrant or the child of an immigrant, they will strip your citizenship.

Peter Dutton, the Australian Minister of Immigration, announced the plans earlier this week.

This is a significant step - especially for Australia, which has a reputation for openness and claims to be the most diverse country in the word.

Homegrown Islamic terror and Australians running to join ISIS has become a threat to the homeland and needs to be addressed.

This new law may or may not dissuade young people from joining ISIS - but it will give Australia more power and more teeth to punish and prosecute Islamic terrorists. The threat of deportation might not seem daunting, but word will soon get around.

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Battle in the Golan
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 21, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The heat during the day in the Golan Heights is brutal. Maybe that explains why summer is a time for fighting in the Golan. Whatever the reason, it has become the tradition. And this summer is no exception.

In two important battles over the past two weeks, Syrian rebels have extracted ISIS fighters from important positions very close to the Israeli border.

In both locations ISIS was attempting to expand their control - in the end, they lost and were badly defeated.

The first battle was waged just south of Qunetra, right on the Israeli border. That is where Jayash al Nusra, an ISIS affiliate, was defeated by rebels. During the second battle the Free Syrian Army, together with the Islamic group Jabhat al-Nusra, (which is affiliated with al Qaeda) overpowered ISIS fighters from the Shuhada al Yarmouk Brigades.

It is crucially important to understand that local issues trump ideology.

Groups cooperate with each other in order to make certain that the border with Israel remains quiet. That is why the Jabhat al-Nusra fought together with The Syrian Free Army.

ISIS was a threat to the stability and quiet of that border - and that was simply not acceptable.

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ISIS Rings in PA
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

120 silver rings that had ISIS slogans on them arrived at Ben Gurion airport. They were imported from Turkey and they were to be sold to Palestinians.

En route to Ramallah, in the Palestinian Authority, the rings were confiscated. And will be destroyed.

The essential point is not that the rings were discovered. The significance is that they were to be sold. The significance is that there is a market for semi precious jewelry that proclaims support for ISIS.

120 people would wear those rings with the same pride we feel wearing our lodge rings or college rings.

Palestinian leadership has been shouting for months that there is no ISIS presence in the PA ... none. And yet ...

Given this discovery that claim is very hard to believe.


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EU Wants To Lead Israel-PA Peace Talks
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 19, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

There is one thing almost everyone can agree on: The United States is losing influence in the Middle East.

As a result, other forces are lining up to try to exert leadership and influence in the vacuum that now exists.

The European Union is one of those forces. The leader of the 28 nation bloc EU is Federica Mogherini. She is 41 years old and the former foreign minister of Italy. Mogherini will be meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Wednesday where she will be propose that the EU step in and provide the much needed role of negotiations facilitator.

While it is true that the US role has diminished in the region, it is also true that the EU simply has neither the gravitas nor the ummpf necessary for that vital role. Besides, the Europe Union has a long history of siding against Israel.

Unless Mogherini can convince Israel otherwise, this proposal will simply die in the water. And someone else will try their hand at filling the role of negotiator.

Next ...

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Russia & China Navies Drill in the Med Sea
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 17, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Russia and China are embarking on naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea.

The exercise will include 9 large ships and numerous smaller support vessels.

The headquarters for the maneuvers will be the Russian missile cruiser the Moskva which is attached to the Black Sea Fleet and is normally docked in Crimea.

The deputy commander of the Russian navy, Vice Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov, is running the exercise from the Russian side. According to him "Sea Cooperation 2015 drills ... were not aimed against a third country."

Of course --- this is pure 100% rhetoric.

These drills are aimed at the United States and her allies as well as at the entire Middle East. Russia and China are saying loudly and clearly that they are now, individually and collectively, significant players in the region.

From here on, Russia and China will influence and effect change on everyone and everything in the region.


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Abbas' Pre -Conditions
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 16, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech commemorating the
Palestinian nakba, it is called Nakba Day.

Nakba means catastrophe. Nakba Day falls out on May 15th every year.

May 15, 1948 is the day on the Gregorian calendar that the State of Israel was declared. Palestinian Catastrophe Day is Israel Independence Day. It does not have to be seen that way-- but it is.

Make special note that the Palestinians chose to celebrate this day according to the Gregorian calendar, not according to their Muslim calendar.

In his speech Abbas clearly repeated his conditions for returning to negotiations with Israel. His three pre-conditions are.

#1: Total stopping of settlement
#2: Release of prisoners
#3: Negotiations for just one year.

This set of pre-conditions set by the Palestinian leader is pie in the sky. That is why the starting point of negotiations for Israel is NO pre-conditions.

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Iran Caught Important Nuke Materials
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 15, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Do we really think that Iran can be trusted to live up to their end of the nuclear bargain?

This infraction was just made public: A UN report prepared by a committee that oversees nuclear sanctions against Iran showed proof that the Czech Republic recently stopped nuclear materials from being shipped to Iran.

The Czechs discovered that the paperwork on a set of highly sophisticated compressors was forged and false and reported their discovery to the UN panel.

That committee that monitors compliance with the UN sanctions regime determined that there had been a "false end user" on the paperwork.
That means the paperwork fraudulently stated where the compressors were headed.

"The procurer and transport company involved in the deal had provided false documentation in order to hide the origins, movement and destination of the consignment with the intention of bypassing export controls and sanctions."

These particular compressors made by Howden are used to enrich uranium to 90% plus - especially the essential fissile isotope unranium-235.

All this is happening while the P5 + 1 continue to push for a deal with Iran and while the US is trying to influence local leadership to trust the deal.

If you still think Iran can be trusted, think again.

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US Kills ISIS #2
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Iraqi defense ministry announced on its website that the number two leader of ISIS, the man who was successor to Baghdadi, was killed yesterday in an allied coalition air strike on a mosque in Northern Iraq.

Abu Ala al- Afri was reported killed.
"Based on accurate intelligence, an air strike by the coalition forces targeted the second in command of IS, Abu Alaa al-Afari,
(sic)" the ministry said in a statement on its website.

If this is true --- it is a huge victory for the West and for moderates in the region.

ISIS leader Baghdadi was reported to be badly wounded and suffering from a spinal injury. He was thought to be wounded in a coalition attack at the end of March. Al-Afri assumed the mantel of ISIS leadership the first week of April.

If, in the course six weeks, the West successfully hit both ISIS number #1 leader and ISIS replacement leader #1, it will hamstring the organization and their ability to govern and make decisions.

If true, this is a huge setback for ISIS. For everyone else, it is very good news.

But the question lingers: What does Iraq gain by releasing this information?

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Shiite Sunni Conflict
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 13, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday 19 Shiite pilgrims were killed and another 50 wounded in terror attacks in Baghdad, Iraq.

The pilgrims had gathered together in commemoration of the death of their Shiite leader from the 8th century, Imam Moussa al- Kazim.

Much of the tension and the fighting in the region traces back to the Sunni / Shiite conflict.

ISIS is Sunni.

Hezbollah is Shiite.

Iran is Shiite

Assad of Syria is from a break off of Shia.

Saudi Arabia is Sunni.

The Houthi in Yemen are Shiite.

Iraq is a split of Shiite and Sunni.

This Shiite Sunni divide can be seen throughout the entire Middle East. Without a doubt it is the most powerful cause for war and conflict between Arabs.

As we have seen over and over again, a Muslim Sunni can and will kill a Muslim Shiite with impunity. And vice versa.

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Arabs Stone Firefighters in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 12, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Firefighters are like doctors - they save lives, even the lives of bad guys.

Now picture this: Firefighters were called in to squelch a fire in Arab East Jerusalem in the neighborhood of A-Tur. The fire was spreading and homes and people were in danger.

And as the fire trucks were lining up and as the firefighters were attempting to put out the fires, they were stoned by the Arab residents.

Despite the barrage, the firefighters got the fire under control and prevented it from spreading further ... then they retreated. At that point the firefighters were in more danger from the pelting than they were from the flames.

Crazy? You bet! How can anyone make sense of what happened? Who behaves like that?

Why the residents of A-Tur did not run and say thank you to the firefighters is impossible to figure. They should have thrown candy - not rocks. Why throw rocks at people trying to save you and your community?

In the end the fire fighters succeeded in saving the entire block and all the people. The firefighters fought back the fire while under rock fire.

I am waiting to see if any Palestinian leaders condemn, comment on or chastise the rock throwers.

So far - silence.

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Arab Tribes Unite Against ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 11, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Sinai Tribal Federation had their first meeting yesterday. The Federation is a newly formed group of tribes in the Sinai desert in Egypt banding together to fight ISIS.

Members of the Federation are feeling threatened and abused by ISIS. The Egyptian army is trying their best to protect them, but the tribes think they need to step it up. They issued a statement saying that they are discussing ways to confront ISIS and other extremists who want to topple Egypt.

This is a major move on the part of tribal leaders. This does not happen often. On their own, Arabs are standing up and defending themselves against aggressive extremists.

This is unique. This is good.


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2 Important Items
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 10, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

There are 2 interesting items that just happened that I want people to know about:

1- ISIS staged a prison break in Iraq freeing 50 of their fighters and killing 15 guards.
This seems bold - and that is exactly typical of the ISIS style of doing things.

ISIS does what it wants, when it can. The only time ISIS does not act is when it is clear that they will not succeed.

2- The Saudis and the Houthi have agreed to a 5 day truce.
But the Iranian press is reporting that a monster cargo ship with thousands of tons of aid is now on its way to Hodeida the Yemeni port controlled by the Houthi. If you and I know about the shipment so do the Saudis. And they will prevent the cargo from arriving.

There may be medical aid and humanitarian assistance on the ship. But the Saudis would be skeptical even of that. The Saudi would need to make certain that weapons are not being smuggled in to help the Houthis. That is a risk that the Saudis will not take.

So short an of inspection -- Saudi Arabia will not permit the vessel to dock in Yemen.

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Fighting Btw Al Qaeda, ISIS & Hezbollah
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 9, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Fighting has picked up between Hezbollah and ISIS and al Nusrah. I expect that the fighting will continue throughout the summer.

Battles are taking place north of Damascus in a mountain area called Qalamoun. It is actually a mountain range. The Qalamoun Mountain Range.

The area borders Lebanon and Syria. The Lebanese border sticks out into Syria like a finger.

Media has reported that Hezbollah lost 40 fighters in these battles.
Hezbollah does not usually respond to these reports - instead, they report their own story on their own TV and radio stations as well as on the websites. They set the record according to their own point of view.

Hezbollah says that they lost 4 fighters and that their families have been informed.

This region is significant. Whoever controls the little finger controls the mountain passes which descend straight down to the Mediterranean Sea.

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Bibi's New Government
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 8, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The joke goes ---

Q - "What is worse that losing an Israeli election?"

A - "Winning the election!"

There is little doubt that when Netanyahu and his party won the March 17 election they were elated. But in Israel today, the political reality is that building a government means sharing power - and that most definitely dilutes the victory. Netanyahu's party is not happy with the results of their victory.

Many prime positions have been divided up and will be shared with coalition partners. There is no way of making that sound good. The secret to a long lasting coalition government of 61 members is that the partners, all the partners, need to be happy.

At any moment any coalition member can become disenchanted and bolt - bringing down the government. The only hope is that party discipline, commitment to issues and the fear of a new election in which you might garner fewer seats than you won in this election, will tether the parties and their representatives to the Netanyahu - led coalition government.

It can work. The fear of losing power is tangible. The question is whether that fear trumps ideology.

Time will tell. For now, there is a government.

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Saudi Plane Lands In Israel For Service
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 7, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

This is certainly a sign that the times, they are a changing.

An Air Saudi Airbus A300 landed in Tel Aviv for routine maintenance. The job is being done by Bedek, a company contracted by Israel Aircraft Industries to service airplanes.

The plane is owned by a European company and leased to the Saudis.
It is part of the fleet of the commercial carrier Saudi Air - the
official national airline of Saudi Arabia and fully owned by the Saudi government.

This does not mean that full diplomatic relations between Saudi
Arabia have begun - although there are back channels that are often used for communication. But, in an earlier era, if a Saudi or other friendly Arab representative or product were to arrive in Israel it would be handled discretely and certainly, the name and any other identifying marks would have been covered over. Not so this time.
In the end, this could prove very embarrassing for Saudi Arabia. Some things are better not seen.

Below is a link of the Saudi Air plane at Ben Gurion airport, located just outside of Tel Aviv. That is where Bedek services its planes.

http://twitter.com/AmichaiStein1/status/595914479239462913/photo/1


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Momentum in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 6, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

He is "The Tiger." He is, in Arabic, al Namr, That is what they call him. His real name is Colonel Suhail al Hassan. He is the "go to" man in Syria for President Bashar Assad.

The man is a living legend for the Syrian supporters of Assad. He is a terror, a living nightmare, for those fighting against the regime.
He is sent into every place where Assad needs to win and once there, al Hassan defeats his enemy. He is brutal. He is thorough. He is driven. Most of all - he is successful.

This week a video was leaked of al Hassan pleading on the phone. He is in Aleppo where the battle being waged is fierce. He is asking for ammunition for his highly trained and highly motivated troops.
They are well paid and well respected. His immediate force is composed of about 1,000 elite fighters.

On this call, his tone indicates weakness. His tone sounds desperate. It is not the sound of "The Tiger."

If Aleppo should fall into the hands of the al Nusra and ISIS it will be a major setback to Assad. Momentum will swing to ISIS and Al Nusra. It will give them the courage and incentive to advance in the Syrian Golan and in Damascus. A military win in Aleppo will give ISIS and al Nusra the psychological boost they have been desperately waiting for.

We must watch and see what happens next. If "The Tiger" gets enough ammunition and gets it fast enough to repel ISIS and Al Nusra then the position of Assad will remain strong and unchanged. If he fails, Syria becomes a changed country.

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Islam Hates Any Image of Mohammed
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 5, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

What do you call a terror attack when it takes place in suburban Dallas? Well, you certainly do not call it a terror attack.
Gunmen perpetrated an attack against a conference on freedom of speech that sponsored a competition for cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed. And that attack has yet to be labeled a terror attack.

We can assume that the terrorists were upset by the depictions and by the competition. We assume that they were offended by the subject of the competition and decided to defend the honor of the Prophet. And they chose, as did the terrorists in Paris who attacked Charlie Hebdo, to use guns as their defense tool.

What so irks Muslims about the portrayal of their Prophet in art?
One might think that it is disrespect - and that indeed might be the basis of the anger played out in Dallas. But that is not the reason for the Islamic prohibition against depictions of Mohammed the Prophet. In fact, during the Middle Ages, Muslim art was replete with images of Mohammed. In most of those depictions, however, the faces were blurred.

The reason for the prohibition is a direct reaction against paganism. In that way it is not dissimilar to the Biblical commandment against graven images.

A bit of background: Islam emerged out of a pagan society and believers feared that any depiction of the Prophet would be worshiped. Islam rejects that outright. In Islam, Mohammed was both a man and a prophet and he cannot be worshiped.

Out of fear that followers would create icons and images and figures and then worship them --- Islam forbade the creation of an image or the portrayal of Mohammed.

Today it is an entirely different story. Portrayals and cartoons and caricatures are not icons and could never be seen as anything other than a lampooning of their subject matter.

At issue is freedom of speech versus respect for Islamic sensibilities. Given the choice there is no doubt that, in the West, freedom of speech trumps the sensibilities of any religion, not only Islam, and trumps, as well, almost every other value out there.

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Secret Weapon Attacks ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 4, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS is being struck by leishmaniasis.

Leishmaniasis is not a new military missile. It is not a secret weapon used by the US coalition. But leishmaniasis may turn out be a more effective weapon against ISIS than any smart bomb.

Leishmaniasis is a flesh eating skin disease caused by parasites and spread by the bite of sand flies. It is easily treatable with the proper care - a plan ISIS has not yet put into operation. Poor hygiene, poor nutrition and contaminated water all cause the spread of the parasite.

If not treated, flesh is literally eaten away and the patient, the host providing food for the parasite, dies.

So far about 100,000 people have contracted leishmaniasis in the area of Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria.

No one knows how many of the 100,000 sufferers are ISIS fighters and supporters but one must assume that if it is that prevalent ISIS members have been struck by the disease.

Before ISIS took over the area the parasite was being treated by Doctors Without Borders and they were getting the disease under control. Once ISIS came along these doctors fled the area taking their medicine with them and the parasite that reemerged is even more aggressive than the original disease spreader.

The pictures are pretty gruesome.

Some might say that this is a curse, "a pox on ISIS." Others might simply say --- "it could not have happened to a nicer group of people."

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New Leader of ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 3, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It looks like ISIS has a new leader. According to a piece in the British Guardian - containing information that is still unconfirmed, the founder and leader of ISIS was victim of a US drone strike that rendered him incapable of leading.

The Guardian quotes Iraqi intel sources saying that Baghdadi suffered a spinal injury. They say he is in Mosul and accompanied by two doctors at all times.

The new leader is Abed a Rachman Mustapha. He goes by the name Abu Ala al Afri. It is common practice in Arab culture to confer a new name after your first born son. The name becomes Abu which translates to mean "father of ...."

Not much is known about Abu Ala al Afri. He was second in command to Baghdadi. Before joining ISIS he was very active in al Qaeda. In al Qaeda he was very close to Zarqawi up until his demise at the hand of the West. Since joining ISIS, Abu Ala al Afri has been a commander.
One interesting detail we do know is that he was a professor of physics.

People report that al Afri is dynamic, interacts well with others, has operational experience and he has very good contacts.

It looks as if Baghdadi was unable to lead and stepped aside in order for his number two to assume the new mantle of leadership.

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Human Rights Watch Condemns Israeli Aid to Nepal
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 2, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Ken Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted this:

"Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel's making in Gaza. End the blockade!"

It is a horrific attack against Israel for helping to save lives after the tragedy that rocked not only Nepal, but the world.
In a warped conception of what it right and what is wrong, Roth was saying that Israel should help the Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel sent two jumbo jets and 260 rescuers to Nepal. The medical equipment they sent included a fully outfitted field hospital.
Israelis are saving lives in Nepal, just as they did in Haiti in 2010.
Israel is one of -- if not the - best in the world when it comes to disaster relief. They have honed their skills and continue to develop better and faster techniques for dealing with disaster when it strikes.

The US pledged $1million and will probably cough up another $9 million. Israel did not give money but their presence is worth far more than $10 million.

The next largest delegation in Nepal came from the United Kingdom. They have 68 members on their team. China has 62 people there and the United States sent a team of 54.

Roth is so anti-Israel that even when Israel does something that can only be interpreted as "good " he finds fault in their actions.

How interesting that an agency that purports to be a humanitarian agency, as Human Rights Watch does, should criticize one nation for offering vital humanitarian aid to another nation in need.

Roth should be chastised. Israel should stand proud.

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Iran Trying to Get Nuke Materials
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

As Iran and the United States and the other P5+1 nations sprint towards an agreement that will meet their June 30th deadline, I saw a small report leaked by AP. As dramatic as it is - and believe me, it is dramatic, I was not surprised to read the release.

England has told the UN special panel on nuclear issues that there is an "active Iranian nuclear procurement network."

The network is connected to Iranian companies and they are reaching out around the world buying uranium and other basics for nuclear development. This warning was presented to the UN on April 20th.

The confidential report to the UN committee names the two Iranian companies that comprise the network. They are Iran's Centrifuge Tech Company and Kalay Electric Company.

Don't be surprised. For Iran, this is clearly an established, tried and true method of negotiation. For Iran, there is no conflict in working to resolve an issue and forge an agreement while, at the same time, secretly undermining the very objectives of the future agreement.

The only question I ask, once again, is how the United States can be so naive that they do not realize this was happening - and right under their noses.

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Interpol Going After ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 30, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS makes about $100 million a year stealing and then selling off ancient art and archeological artifacts. It is a major source of their annual budget. It is so significant that ill begotten art sales equal about 1/3 of their oil revenues.

ISIS has raided museums and historical sites throughout Iraq and
Syria. They strip the sites and sell the artifacts and even pieces of statues on the open market where collectors, through middle men of course, gobble them up. The buyers are willing to pay very good money for these priceless pieces.

The Secretary of Interpol, General Jurgen Stock, has said that his agency is now going to make stopping the sale of these artifacts by ISIS a priority.

"In the eyes of criminals, cultural heritage often stands as an easy target," Stock said. "The current situation in Syria and Iraq presents a significant challenge as sites vulnerable to destruction are often out of effective government control and illicit excavations dominate the picture."

We can only hope that Interpol and other law enforcement agencies in the Western world can stop ISIS from destroying and desecrating priceless pieces of history and that, by clamping down on this illicit activity they will eliminate a very profitable avenue of revenue for ISIS.

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Israel Will Not Hit Syria
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 29, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Two mortars shot from Syria landed in Israel yesterday.

Israel will not respond to the mortar attack.

Israel determined that the mortars were errant. They went astray and were not deliberate shots into Israel. They landed in the orchards of Kibbutz Ein Zivan which happens to be situated very close to a UN camp.

There was fighting in Syria near the side of the border that is very close to the Israeli border. Israel was watching the fighting very closely so that it did not spill over and to make sure that the parties did not simply change the direction of their shooting. Watching and monitoring is one of the standard modus operandi for Israel.

In this case, battle was raging and mortars were flying and two of them simply went off in the wrong direction. So there was no reason to respond.

Israel appreciates it when Hezbollah and al Qaeda fight - they root for both sides to win. They want both sides to use up as many weapons and armaments as possible and for them to kill each other. It makes for a safer Israel.

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Al Qaeda Attacks Hezbollah in Syria- Israel Blamed
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 28, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The al Qaeda Affiliate in Syria, the group that goes by the name Al Nusra, attacked a weapons convoy transporting sophisticated weapons destined for Hezbollah.

It all happened on Friday. Over the weekend this attack was a feature throughout the Arabic media with Arabic stations reporting that it was the Israelis who perpetrated the attack against the weapons. They reasoned that the weapons would fall into Hezbollah's hand and probably be used against Israel.

Both al Jazeera and al Arabiya blamed Israel - but Israel refused to comment. The Arab press later discussed a second Israeli attack that killed 4 Hezbollah members who were setting up a bomb along the border between Israel and Syria just at the spot where the border also abuts Lebanon.

Before too long it became clear that the Israelis were not responsible for the weapons attack. Sources reported that al Nusra wanted to make certain that Hezbollah did not get weapon superiority. Hezbollah was trying to push al Nusra out of Syria and al Nusra cannot let that happen.

This was a perfect move. Israel could have targeted the convoy. It might actually have been on their agenda. But al Qaeda's al Nusra did it first. And that made the region a little safer.

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Palestinians Disappointed in Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians are upset that Netanyahu was reelected.

The Palestinian National Central Council, which is the Palestinian leadership committee, will meet on Wednesday April 29 to discuss upcoming future interactions between Palestinians and Israel.

In brief, the Palestinians think that the next Israeli government will be extremely right of center.

Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, had this to say: "I've been told that this will be the most extreme government in Israel."

He also said: "If the prime minister doesn't want to accept a Palestinian state, what will I talk to him about?"

And: "We will hold the Israeli prime minister accountable for any crimes committed against Palestinians." Continuing: "It will not be cost-free legally."

There are a number of essential points to discuss following these comments by Erekat.

Israelis want peace - but elected Netanyahu. That is because they do not think Palestinians want peace.

Palestinians have thus far sought out and found any and every excuse not to sit at the negotiating table.

And how can Saeb Erekat know the makeup of the government which is still up in the air?

Finally, it has always been a right wing government that has moved Israel toward peace agreements. It is right wing governments that convinced the majority of Israelis that concessions were essential to improving and securing Israel ... that peace is the best security that Israel can hope for.

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New ISIS Video About Healthcare
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 26, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I just watched a new ISIS video.

This one is about their new and wonderful health care.

The ISIS video is staged in the ISIS capital city in Syria, the city is called Raqqa. The video calls on medical professionals to come and join ISIS and contribute their skills to the IS.

The most fascinating part of this slick and very professional video is an interview with an Australian who calls himself Abu Yussef. The interviewee has been identified as Tareq Kamleh, a native Australian who was trained in Adelaide University in Australia and then moved to Perth and now works for ISIS in Syria.

Kamleh aka Abu Yussef speaks about how important his work is and how happy he is helping the Uma, the Islamic people. He actually calls his work a jihad.

As a medical recruitment tool, this video is very effective.

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Iran Will Be a Giant When Sanctions are Lifted
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 25, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

If a deal with Iran is signed on June 30, Iran will be welcomed into the community of nations. Economically, that would have a huge impact.

Iran is the third largest country in the Middle East. Egypt is the largest with a population of about 90 million. Turkey follows with 83 million and Iran has about 80 million people.

Iranians are primarily well educated and young.

Before the crisis of 1979, Iran had a very healthy import from the US. Iran imported of $3.7 billion worth of US products. While at the same time the United States imported $2.9 billion worth of goods from Iran.

That was in 1979, 36 years ago. Today that number would be 4 times higher.

In the 1990s, through subsidiaries, the United States purchased $3.4 billion worth of Iranian oil. Before this last round of sanctions were placed on Iran in this recent UN sanctions move, Iran was the third largest producer and exporter of oil in the world.

When sanctions are lifted Iran will become a major exporter over night - and that will catapult it into a world power. With that power Iran will become the voice of all the small nations and downtrodden peoples in the region.

When the sanctions are lifted - Iran will become a giant.

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Elections at College-- Hamas Wins
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 24, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, located just north of Jerusalem, just held student council elections.

Bir Zeit is the elite university for Palestinians. There are 9,000 undergrads and 1200 graduate students at the university. 47 BA degrees are offered and 26 MA degrees. The election drew 77% of the undergraduate student body.

The results are telling.

In student council at Bir Zeit University, Hamas defeated Fatah. Of the 51 council seats, Hamas' Wafaa party garnered 26. Fatah, the party begun under Yasser Arafat, will have only 19 seats.

Last year Fatah got 23 seats and Hamas 20.

This election was watched very closely by all Palestinian leaders and by Israel.

University elections often offer insight into the perspective of the population-at-large and are the first to show trends in future leadership, in business and in politics.

Winning an election at Bir Zeit, the heart of the West Bank, is a major victory for Hamas and a terrible blow to Fatah.

Hamas is on the rise. There is no possible way of interpreting this election any other way.

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A Miracle -- Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 23, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I marvel at the miracle.

Most of the time I take it for granted, but every year, on Israeli Independence Day, I marvel anew at the miracle called the modern State of Israel.

Israel was established 67 years ago. At the time there were 806,000 citizens. Today there are 8,345,000. That is a ten fold increase.
That's a miracle.

When Israel was created Tel Aviv Yaffa had 100,000 residents. Today there are 14 cities with over 100,000 residents and 6 of those cities have over 200,000 citizens. That's a miracle.

Israel grew by 162,000 people last year. There were 44,000 deaths. 32,000 people made aliyah - despite, or perhaps in spite of, the tension of this past summer. That's a miracle.

Here is the most remarkable number of them all. 176,000 babies were born. Every birth is a miracle. Now multiply that by 176,000.
75% of Israelis are native born sabras.

6,251,000 are Jewish. 1,730,000, or 20.7% of the population, are Arabs.

These numbers are nothing short of a miracle. At 67 years old Israel has exceeded all expectations. 67 years ago, when our parents and grandparents witnessed the birth of the State of Israel, they hardly believed it would last this long.

Happy birthday and forever more.

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Taliban Announce Their Spring Season
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 22, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Earlier this morning the Taliban announced their spring season.

Now that the snow has melted spring fighting will begin. This year the Taliban are calling their new offensive AZM which, in Arabic and in their native dialect, Dari, means perseverance.

Remember, the Taliban have also declared their Islamic state. The Islamic state of the Taliban is called The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

In years past springtime brought a huge increase in attacks against NATO and Afghani forces. This year will be different. Most of the international forces have pulled out of the area and so this spring season the Taliban will face off against Afghan army forces exclusively.

The West has been preoccupied with Iran and ISIS. We have paid very little attention to the Taliban. These next few weeks, the start of the new season, will be important. We need to watch carefully and determine if the momentum shifts in favor of the Taliban. That is something we do not want to happen.

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Carter to Israel - President Rivlin will Not Meet Him
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 21, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Former US President Jimmy Carter is to arrive in Israel on April 30 for a 3 day trip that will include Gaza and the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli President Rivlin will not meet the former US president. Israel's foreign ministry advised Rivlin to break protocol and not meet with this former US president because Carter has consistently done his best to delegitimize Israel and meeting with him would help further that cause.

Carter has spoken publicly about Israeli apartheid policies on numerous occasions and even wrote a book about the subject. Carter has urged Israel to recognize and dialogue with Hamas.

In the past, when Shimon Peres held the post of president of Israel and Jimmy Carter came to visit, Peres would meet with him. And then Peres would take Carter to task - privately and publicly. Peres would use the opportunity to correct Carter on the record.
Rivlin is a different personality and he has decided not to follow in Peres' footsteps.

Carter has good intentions --he is just misguided and he is totally wrong. And if given legitimacy, Jimmy Carter can do terrible harm to Israel and to the region.

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Trust Iran More Than the White House
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

We are learning more and more about the agreement with Iran. And most of what we are learning comes from the Iranians. They are telling us that the four page agreement that the White House and State Department have given us is not at all what our leaders have promised us in what is known as the framework agreement.

An Iranian leader was quoted on Iranian state TV yesterday saying that they will not permit nuclear inspections in any of their military sites.

This is enormously important.

I am suggesting that Iranian sources are more reliable than the White House and the State Department.

Can you imagine what that means?

It seems that the Iranians have maintained that there really is not a framework agreement at all. There is simply an agreement to continue talking until June 30.

To put it mildly, this is very disturbing.

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Iran Cyber Attack Against Turkey
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 19, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

On Tuesday March 31, half of Turkey - 44 of 81 provinces, 40 million people including those living in Istanbul and Ankara - suffered a massive power outage that lasted a solid twelve hours.

The blackout was caused by a cyber hack that originated in Iran.

The cyber attack was payback, a taste of what Iran has to offer.
Everything went down. Computers, airports, air traffic, traffic lights, hospitals, lights, elevators, refrigeration, water and sewage, everything simply stopped. In an instant Turkey was transported back to the stone ages.

Iran's cyber army has propelled itself into one of the world's best.
They have become very good at their craft and have probably inserted malware into the electric grids of many other countries - probably even the US. Over the past twelve months Iran has successfully and repeatedly broken into the defensive systems networks of several Western nations.

This attack on Turkey is the first time that Iran shut down a country through a cyber attack. This kind of an attack can bring the enemy to its knees very quickly.

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Obama Invites Gulf Leaders to Lobby on Iran
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 18, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

President Obama has invited leaders of critical Sunni Gulf states to Washington for a two day meeting. Day one, May 13, will convene at the White House. Day two, May 14, will be at Camp David.

The purpose of the invite to the White House and the coveted presidential mountain resort, Camp David, is to convince these leaders that an agreement with Iran is good for everyone. Especially for those in the region.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have all been invited.

Obama is going to have to be very convincing. These Gulf State countries do not trust Iran. And they think that in his dealings with Iran, President Obama is delusional. They are convinced that Iran will become a nuclear state almost immediately after the agreement is signed and they do not think the United States can stop that from happening.

And if in the end Iran does get a nuclear deal, they want the same deal.

On paper, this meeting is a great idea. Unfortunately though, I think that Barack Obama will be the one sitting in the student seat and be lectured to by those who live in the region and do not trust Iran.

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Al Qaeda in Yemen Now on the Rise
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 17, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Shiite Houthi has nearly taken over Yemen. Saudi Arabia and their eleven nation Sunni Arab coalition has continued to bomb the Houthi in order to prevent them from taking control of Yemen's ports and control of vital assets and resources.

With all eyes on the Houthi over the past few weeks al Qaeda of Yemen, also known as al Qaeda of the Arabia Peninsula, has been left unchecked. Taking advantage of the situation, and al Qaeda has spent their time re-organizing and starting to take control of areas they consider to be strategic.

The Houthi and al Qaeda are arch enemies.

Yesterday, al Qaeda took over the airport of al Mukallah, the fifth largest city in Yemen. They also took over an oil export port and refinery in Dhabah which is on the Arabian Sea.

Al Qaeda of Yemen has scored a huge victory. They beat the Houthi, the Saudis, the Yemeni authority and whatever is left of the Yemeni army all at the same time. With these victories come money, power, prestige and recruits.

They did it all while everyone was ignoring them. The Middle East is not mono-dimensional. There are always multiple balls in the air and many factors in play.

The Houthi were able to gain momentum, at first, because the US was consumed by al Qaeda and paid them no mind. As soon as their attention was diverted towards the Houthi, al Qaeda was free to carry on, unhampered, with their dastardly deeds. They did it all while everyone was ignoring them.

The Middle East is not mono-dimensional. There are always multiple balls in the air and many factors at play. To think otherwise is not wise at all.

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Hamas Building Tunnels & Making Rockets
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 16, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

A report in the Times of Israel echoed a report in the British Telegraph. The reports should not surprise anyone who follows the happenings of the Middle East.

Hamas is rebuilding their labyrinth of tunnels. The report in the
Times of Israel described Hamas using small bulldozers to speed the process and to access small areas.

The British Telegraph said that Iran has funneled $10's of millions in order to reconstruct the tunnels of Hamas.

The most interesting and unique element to come out of the article in the Times of Israel is that military experts and analysts in Israel are reporting that Hamas is building a slew of new rockets. All short range rockets.

The lesson learned by Hamas in their conflict with Israel this past summer was that short range rockets were both less likely to be shot down by the Iron Dome and were more effective at terrifying and terrorizing Israelis.

So now Hamas is dedicating much time and energy to producing new, smaller, short range rockets to fire at Israel in the near future.

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Massive Cyber Hack on Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 15, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The results are in.

April 7th was to be the day for the annual, all out, cyber attack against Israel. It was a huge failure.

The attack is called #OPIsrael. There were to be hackivists from all over the Muslim world drumming up support and energy for a huge tidal wave of hacking against Israel. It was described as a cyber Holocaust against Israel. In fact, the date April 7th was selected because the first year the attack was planned, that date coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day.

This was the third year of the hack. It is coordinated by a hacker named AnonGhost. This particular hacker works out of Tunsia.
There was more hype leading up to the day than actual hacking on the day. A few hundred private websites were hacked and a few thousand email accounts and passwords were leaked - but most of those were recycled from last year's list.

The best analysis I saw was by SenseCY, a cyber security firm in Israel. They monitored the entire event. Most of the chatter was on social networks and not in the dangerous areas like the darknet, where real hackers hang and act.

Even in the social media world the hack against Israel barely got noticed. It peaked at 3000 tweets. That is hardly an international movement.

On one message board people were bemoaning the small turnout and lack of impact relative to previous years. They suggested that people were simply bored and tired of repeating the same hack.

That is not good news for Israel. When amateur hackers get bored and try to work out new plans, the results are often diabolical. This year, Israel got lucky.

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Russia To Send Missiles to Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 14, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Russia decided to loosen restrictions on missile sales to Iran. They will be delivering a shipment of S-300 missiles as soon as possible.

Israel was informed of the decision just before it was made public. Israel is most concerned - but expected it. After all, this is an outgrowth of the framework agreement with Iran.

Israel's main concern is that the S-300's will be shipped from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In 2007, Russia initiated an $800 million missile deal with Iran.
But because of the sanctions they never completed the deal. In 2011, Iran sued Russia for $4 billion in an international court for breach of contract and for losses. The case is still pending.

The White House expressed disappointment with Russia.

But really, what is the message the US is conveying? What do they expect?

Russia said they intend to ship the missiles quickly, as soon, that is, as the political leadership gives the go ahead.

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Bush Calls Out Obama on Castro & Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 13, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Candidates are starting to get serious about the 2016 US presidential election.

Hillary Clinton declared yesterday. Rand Paul declared a few days earlier.

Jeb Bush is still as of yet undeclared, but he is certainly testing the water. He has name recognition and would be a formidable candidate.

Yesterday Jeb Bush tweeted a serious critique of President Obama. Obama met with Raul Castro, the leader of Cuba, a repressive anti democratic regime. We know that Obama has intentions regarding Cuba.

But Bush called him to task in a different way. He asked how can you meet with Castro and not with Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu?!
"Obama meets with Castro but refused to meet w/ @netanyahu," Bush wrote on Twitter. "Why legitimize a cruel dictator of a repressive
regime?"

There is something profound about the statement.

The purpose behind the tweet was to present Jeb Bush as a defender of Israel. It was to get him front and center in the eyes of Jewish donors and lovers of Israel - a position he does not yet occupy.

This is a sure way of getting the important funding every politician needs and will certainly help boost his 2016 campaign.

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Coalition Building in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 12, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Building a coalition to govern in Israel is a huge task.

Theoretically, the winner of the election has power, but practically, much of that power must be ceded much in order to lure other parties to join the coalition in order to govern.

The deadline for the coalition is April 22. It is ten days from now. The winner of the election then gets a total of 42 days to create a coalition. Likud and Netanyahu got 28 days plus a built in 14 day extension.

There are major obstacles blocking the formation of a coalition.
Parties and their leaders vie for more and more power for themselves and try to limit the power of other partners.

Everyone thinks that time is on their side. But it if they do not join the coalition when given the opportunity, and if Netanyahu does not form a coalition within the allotted time, the president will charge another party to form a coalition. And that could mean that these very parties negotiating for more and more will, in the end, lose any chance of having the power. And like most politicians they decisions they make will be dictated by power over principle.

Likud will convince them to join him. I predict a last minute deal.

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What Iran is Really Doing in Yemen
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 11, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday the Supreme Leader of Iran the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei gave a nationally televised speech in which he called the Saudi response to the Houthi in Yemen a genocide that is punishable by international court.

What is important here is not that the pot is calling the kettle black.

What is important is that the Saudis have gotten the attention of Iran in their response to the Iranian sponsored Houthi overthrow and takeover of Yemen.

Two weeks ago the Saudis put together an 11 nation Sunni force to strike Shiite Houthi from the air.

The stakes have now increased.

Last week the Egyptian navy came to the Gulf of Eden and shelled the Houthi who were attempting to take over the port city and choke the gulf. Had the Houthi been successful they would have done immeasurable damage to Egypt and others by shutting down the Suez Canal.

Since then, Iranian war ships were also dispatched to the area around Aden.

Now we have a naval standoff between Shiites and Sunnis in the Gulf of Aden.

It should be clear that Iran and its Shiites proxy want control of the port of Aden and the waterway. It should be equally clear that the Sunnis do not want that strategic waterway to fall into Shiite hands. If it does it would mean two of the most important water passes - the gulf of Aden and the straits of Hormuz, were under the control of Iran.

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ISIS Killing Palestinians in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 10, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Several days ago ISIS took control of a Palestinian refugee camp called Yarmouk. At its peak there were 180,000 Palestinians living there. Since the conflict in Syria, Yarmouk has shrunk to about 18,000 Palestinians.

Yarmouk is really a neighborhood in Damascus. It is located only 5 miles away from the very center of the city.

In the past, ISIS had tried to take over Yarmouk several times. It abuts a neighborhood they already control, and the move to take control of Yarmouk is an attempt to get a flank of the Syrian capital and then use it to move on the center of the city.

Since taking over Yarmouk there have been reports of beheadings and mass murder of Palestinians by ISIS. The UN has said that the situation is worse than dire.

Palestinian Authority leadership has just sent a delegation to Damascus. The group was sent out after a commitment from Syria to use military force to secure Yarmouk was confirmed.

The Syrian army must now make the retaking of Yarmouk a priority. It is a principle for the Palestinians - they must get back their neighborhood. It is also an essential strategic objective for Syria - they must not permit a flank to emerge in their capital.

This delegation from the PA is going to make certain that the agreement is fulfilled.

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ISIS Now Has English Radio
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 9, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS has just launched an English language radio bulletin service.
Every day ISIS puts out a bulletin that runs 9 minutes and 30 seconds long. The intro and end of the bulletins showcase traditional Arabic music. The bulletins contain news headlines and eschew the ISIS point of view, similar to what is produced and presented on the ISIS radio network and ISIS websites.

This English language bulletin joins already running radio bulletins in Russia and in Afghani.

ISIS has opened a social media campaign with the express purpose of driving committed followers and other interested parties to listen to their taped broadcasts. There was a huge twitter response to the new radio spots.

That ISIS is creating slick, impressive, professional youth oriented media should be no surprise. This radio bulletin is just another in a slew of spectacular media products that ISIS has released in order to lure young people to their cause and to attract people to fight for their cause in Iraq and Syria.

These media casting calls by ISIS must be answered by equally attractive counter appeals.

Unfortunately, the Western response has been, at best, uninspired and lackluster.

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Turkey & Iran Meet
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 8, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the now infamous leader of Turkey, visited Iran.

Erdogan of Turkey traveled to meet with his counterpart, Rouhani of Iran. It was a major meeting and in the end they held a joint press conference during which they called for an end to bloodshed and suffering in the region.

The entire episode is mind boggling. These two leaders and their countries find themselves on opposite side of almost every issues in the Middle East – and here they are, acting in concert.

Iran supports Assad. Turkey supports the rebels in Syria and in Iraq. Iran supports Hezbollah, Turkey sides with ISIS.

As late as last week Turkey called Iran a force bent on destabilizing the region thrusting the region into conflict. Turkey joined the multi-national force organized by Saudi Arabia to combat the Houthi in Yemen while Iran sponsors the Houthi in Yemen.

So what does it all mean?

It means that Iran is playing the diplomat card. It means that Turkey wants to be the big diplomat in the region, just as Iran does. It means that this is a very dangerous alliance.

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Islamists Hate one Another
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 7, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

All extremist Muslim Sunni groups are not in cahoots. Actually, many of them are at one another's throat.

I was extremely pleased to note that Hamas arrested a radical sheik who is a Salafi. The sheik, Adnana Khadar Mayat, is being held in a Hamas prison charged with being part of ISIS.

"Adnan Khader Mayat from the Bureij refugee camp (in central Gaza) was arrested as part of an investigation," the AFP reported. The quote was without attribution because the source was speaking on condition of anonymity and gave no further details.

The AFP continued and said that sources close to the Salafists said Mayat had been arrested yesterday "by the Hamas government security services who fight mujahedeen who belong to the Salafist movement."
The essential point here is that one extremist group is fighting the other.

That is important, very important.

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PA Returns Tax Money
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 6, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Last week Israel decided to unfreeze the taxes they have been collecting for the Palestinian Authority over the past few months.
These are taxes that Israel collects from imports and then hands over to the PA.

The total comes to about $130 million per month. Periodically, to apply pressure on the PA, Israel withholds the tax money. And then, after a short period of time the monies get freed up and are handed over to the PA.

This time Israel unfroze the tax money and transferred it to the PA but first subtracted some of the debt the PA owes to the Israel
Electric Company. Not the entire debt, just part of it.
After discovering this --- Abbas decided to return the tax money to Israel.

Abbas said: "We are returning the money. Either they give it to us in full or we go to arbitration or to the court (ICC). We will not accept anything else."

Again, for Abbas and the PA, it is all or nothing.

As an aside: the PA will lose in arbitration at the ICC if Israel agrees to appear. Which they will not agree to do.

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Bibi Demands Iran Recognize Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 5, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Obviously, the government of Israel is not happy with the framework of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

In response Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a statement that any agreement that permits Iran that kind of latitude on nuclear technology must insist that Iran recognize Israel.

"Israel demands that any final agreement with Iran will include a clear and unambiguous Iranian commitment of Israel's right to exist," Netanyahu said in a statement.

The idea is a brilliant counter to Iran's demand for nuclear technology.

If Iran really wants this technology they must state publicly that Israel has the right to exist - then there will be no fear or even a question over using that nuclear material to wipe Israel off the map.

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Bibi's Objections to the Iran Agreement
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 4, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I spent hours pouring over the text of the 4 page agreement between Iran and the P5+1 or what is commonly called the Western powers.

It is filled with specifics that are ambiguous and details that are oblique. There are huge loopholes and details are simply missing.

Some have responded saying - yes of course, that is to be expected, it is only a framework for an agreement. The final agreement will hammer out the details.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks otherwise. He spoke about the details in the agreement after the cabinet meeting on Friday, the eve of Passover.

"Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period."
A deal must "include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist"

Netanyahu said his Cabinet "is united strongly opposing the proposed deal."

"Such a deal does not block Iran's path to the bomb."

"Such a deal paves Iran's path to the bomb. And it might very well spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East and it would greatly increase the risks of terrible war."

"They would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop research and development on Iran's advanced centrifuges," he said.

"On the contrary. The deal would legitimize Iran's illegal nuclear program. It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. A vast nuclear infrastructure remains in place."

There is absolutely no ambiguity in those comments.

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Agreement w Iran
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 3, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

A framework for an agreement was announced.

I did not think it was going to happen. And yet, it did. As I read the agreement - or, more accurately, what information we are being spoon fed about the agreement, it seems that the Iranians agreed to many US demands. It seems they agreed to the ten year and fifteen year waiting period and agreed not to develop nuclear technology during that period of time.

The only better agreement would have been to totally prevent all nuclear activity and the US and the Iranians were never going to do that.

There are big issues with the fifteen year deal.

What happens after fifteen years?

And what happens to the site called Furdow where we have been told thousands of centrifuges are housed. There have been few proper inspections there. Furdow is buried 90 yards under solid rock and cement. It is built into and under a mountain.

And what happens when this agreement is not fulfilled. Iran has never been forthcoming in their negotiations and there is no reason why this should be the exception.

Furdow will not be shut down. It is supposed to be transformed into a center for nuclear physics. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif plainly explained that this center would neither dismantle nor destroy the already existing centrifuges.

There could have been far worse agreements. The real issue here is how to make this agreement work and how to fill in the holes.

Meanwhile, Obama has called Netanyahu and the US National Security team is en route to Jerusalem to brief the Israeli PM and to offer him a slew of gifts.

The hope is that over the next ten - fifteen years there will be regime change in Iran.
To be continued.

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Company Won't Insure Jewish Kindergarten
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 2, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

An insurance company has refused to insure a Jewish kindergarten in Brussels.

The insurance company said that, given all the anti-Semitism that has been flaring up throughout Europe, the risk in insuring a Jewish kindergarten is too high.

The kindergarten has a solid steel door and a 6 digit security code.

Every school in the Western world needs to have insurance. Every nation and every state and every district and every city has that law. Schools often shop around for the best deal. And when risks increase, so too do premiums and costs.

But here the premise is very different. In this case, the insurance company has said that they will simply not carry the risk. There is no premium high enough to insure a Jewish kindergarten, they say.
That notion, I say, is simply not correct.

But even this insurance company prevails, even if no company is willing to insure the Jewish kindergarten, there is an alternative.

In that case, the government or a multi-governmental agency should step forward and promise to cover the risk.

That is what often happens in the aftermath of a terror attack.
Places and people are almost always underinsured and the government steps in to protect them.

Shame on that Belgian insurance company.

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US Resume Military Aid to Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday the White House released military aid to Egypt.

The aid was suspended in 2013 when al Sisi took the reins of power by ousting Morsi, the man elected president with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood.

US law does not permit aid to a government installed by a coup. But since the events of 2013 there has been an election in Egypt and the White House is now satisfied that al Sisi is indeed an elected leader.

As an aside -- although military aid was suspended, the United States continued to give Egypt hundreds of millions of anti-terror aid. Anti-terror aid does not have the same restrictions as military aid.

The aid package now comes to $1.3 billion annually.

Materials immediately being sent to Egypt from the US include12 F-16s, 20 missiles and 125 tank kits

This aid will help Egypt as it works together with Saudi Arabia and valiantly attempts to create a multi-national Arab force to combat Islamic extremism in the region.

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Arabs Bomb Houthi in Yemen
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 31, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

If you think only the Saudis were acting against the Houthi in Yemen, you are wrong. Saudi Arabia has put together a group of at least 10 other Arab nations working side by side with them against them Houthi.

The Arabic press - including the Egyptian press, is reporting that all Yemeni ports are under the control of the Arab coalition.

The press also reported that Egyptian naval forces bombarded the Houthi from the sea in the area of Aden.

This combined effort against the Houthi in Yemen is a very important step towards creating a United Arab front against Islamic radicals - a group that is growing both in force and weaponry.

The idea of a United Arab force was agreed upon at two Arab League meetings. At the meetings the idea was agreed upon in principle, but the details were very sketchy. This set of naval actions moves the principle toward the practical.

The mistake, however, is to think that this force and this action will eradicate the Houthi. The plan, as it now stands, is to bring the Houthi to the table, not to wipe them out.

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Cyber Hackers to Attack Israel April 7
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 30, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The secret cyber group Anonymous announced that they will attack Israel on April 7, 2015.

The video the group released said that they will create a "cyber Holocaust" for Israel. That they will do what they have done in the past and it will bring Israelis to their knees in revenge for all the horrific acts that Israel perpetrated against the Palestinians.

Now, why April 7?

It all started in 2013. April 7, 2013 was Holocaust Memorial Day. And that was the day of the first Anonymous attack on Israel.

But still, why did they choose that day? Why Holocaust Memorial Day?

Holocaust Memorial Day is a day when every person should reach deep inside and realize the depths to which humanity sank during WWII when humans created a mechanism to murder 6 million Jews.

Selecting that day as the day to strike is warped and misguided. And that is what Anonymous is – warped and misguided.

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Arabs to Unite Against Islamic Extremists
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 29, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Arab League Summit wrapped up in Sharm el Sheik earlier today.

As I predicted three weeks ago, the end result of the Summit was a decision to move ahead on a mutli- nation force to confront ISIS and other Islamic extremist forces overtaking the region - like the Houthi in Yemen and extremists in Libya.

Saudi Arabia has already, successfully, put together a ten nation group that is acting against the Houthi in Yemen.

Al Sisi of Egypt concluded the Summit by saying that it is essential to unite because the threats to the region are too great for any nation to fight alone. His assumption is that it will still take several months to work out the details of sharing power.

In the past, these attempts by the Arab League to work harmoniously have failed. But today the strength of ISIS coupled with the crumbling and disintegration of Libya, Yemen, and Iraq, countries where Islamic extremists stepped in with only a few hundred fighters and took over, is reason to worry that the entire region is at risk.

The Summit viewed the entire move of the Houthi in Yemen, a move that was sponsored and supported by Iran, as an attempt to create a proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The Iranians are supporting and arming the Houthi. Saudi Arabia and her allies are confronting the Houthi.

The big question is where the United States is in all of this? The US had the intel and the background, but they made the conscious decision not to confront, not to irritate, not to bother the Iranians.

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Yemen & the Remaining Jews
By Micah Halpern

Saturday March 28, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yemen is imploding. Shiite Houthi has run the Yemeni government and leadership out of their own country. Sana, the capital city, and most other cities, are in Houthi hands.

The Houthi are Islamic extremists.

And what about the Jewish community that still lives in Yemen? The community today numbers about 100 Jews. In 1959 there were 60,000 Jews living in Yemen.

Today about 76 of the Jews of Yemen live in the capital, Sana. The others are scattered in other cities around the country.

Over the years a relationship developed between the Jewish community and the Arab community of Yemen. Recently, especially since September when some very ugly acts were perpetrated by the Islamists, the Jewish community began to live in fear. They are in fear not only of the Houthi but also of their once friendly neighbors. The Jews of Yemen are worried about their safety and security.

Yemen once had a strong and very proud community of Jews - rich in tradition and heritage. Those Jews who chose to remain did so because they felt comfortable and at home. They stayed despite having opportunities to leave.

Now their safety is in the balance.

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US Ignored Yemen
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

How did the U.S. not see what was happening in Yemen? Why did the US not prevent Yemen from failing to the Houthi?

This was a huge regional blunder.

The answer is that the US made elementary mistakes.

The United States had all the intelligence and all the info. They just did not perceive of the Houthi as a power that could and would take over not just Sana, the capital, but the entire country.

The U.S. thought the Houthi were weak and disorganized. They saw them just like they saw ISIS.

The attention of the United States was focused on confronting al Qaeda of Yemen. The Houthi were, quite literally, left alone.

Another reason the US left the Houthi alone is because they are sponsored and supported by Iran. The U.S. did not want to disturb or irritate Iran and jeopardize their very sensitive nuclear talks.

Now Saudi Arabia has begun the task of confronting the Houthi. The Saudis cannot have an extremist Islamic group spilling over across their border.

The U.S. has dozens of drones flying and relaying Houthi movements to the Saudi Air Force. Also joining Saudi Arabia in their air strikes are the Jordanian Air Force and the Egyptian Air Force.

The United States did nothing as Yemen fell. Now they are providing only intelligence.

This is a colossal failure on the part of the United States. Even bigger than Libya.

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Saudi to Intervene in Yemen
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 26, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

It looks like Saudi Arabia is getting closer to intervening in Yemen.

The Houthi are taking over more and more of the country and anarchy is reigning. And so, the Saudis are amassing more and more troops on their border with Yemen.

On Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al- Faisal said that if the anarchy is not solved quickly and peacefully the Gulf States will take "necessary measures" to protect the region from the "aggression of the Houthi" and their allies --- who are the Iranian backed forces.
Yemen is in tatters. Violence and destruction is ravaging the country. There is no rule of law.

Saudi Arabia cannot let this violence spill over.

The violence is fueled by Islamic rejection of current leadership.

The Houthis reject both the monarchy and democracy. They reject all forms of government except for a caliphate, which is a government run by a religious authority. That authority is their version of Shariyah (Islamic) law.

Time is running out for Yemen.

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PA PM to Visit Gaza Tomorrow
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 24, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

We need to watch internal moves and machinations within the Arab world. We need to see how and if situations change, to know if progress is made and to understand in what directions the Arab world is moving.

When I discovered that Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah will not only visit the Gaza Strip on Wednesday but that he will also spend several days there, I was very interested in knowing the why and how of this visit.

This is the second trip of Hamdallah to Gaza.
Gaza is controlled by Hamas and there is great tension between the Palestinian Authority and Gazans.

It looks like they are now trying to mend fences. I would probably guess that the fence mending has to do with resources - especially electricity and the donor funds that are supposed to pour into Gaza.

I would also guess that in Gaza, Hamas and the PA will also be talking about Iran, about ISIS and about Israel under Bibi.

The biggest question they have, their biggest conundrum, will be how to engage with the United States and either meet or divert the expectations that the West has set for the Palestinian of Gaza and the PA.

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Enough Bickering from the White House
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 23, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Enough -- I have heard enough about Bibi Netanyahu saying that he now rejects the two state solution. And enough about how the United States now needs to re-evaluate their relationship with Israel.

The statement made by the prime minister of Israel was not a rejection of the two state solution. It was simply a continuation of statements the prime minister has always been making. There does not seem to be a partner for peace on the Palestinian side of the negotiating table. And until there is a partner, there will be no peace.

Netanyahu has been saying this for three years.

The White House has now become afflicted with selective hearing. When they only hear what they want to hear, entire scenarios become skewed.

There is no convincing way to explain what is happening in the White House and its relationship with Israel. The only person who can adequately explain what is happening is the president himself.

The White House is really not very interested in what was said and why. They are only interested in exacting a penalty - a tax on Israel for not toeing the line. This behavior is called "disciplining" in Washington speak. The White house is using discipline in an effort to control Israel and rein in Netanyahu.

This is not an isolated incident. The White House will continue to discipline Israel. Get used to it.

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Obama & Bibi Sound like Teen age Boys
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Sometimes the people involved in international relations need to rely more heavily on the tools needed to manage adolescent behavior and conflicts than one would imagine. Mediating between presidents, prime ministers and diplomats is very much like dealing with full blown adolescence.

The recent chastisement of Israel by the White House is a perfect example.

It sounded like 15 year old kids playing a game of "dare", albeit with much higher stakes. Like kids who say things they should not be saying just to get a rise out of the other side.

This was more or less the tone of the White House statement:
"We are thinking of withdrawing our cover for Israel at the UN."
Many people were livid that this sentiment, even in an unattributed statement, would be expressed.

The media grabbed it.

Republicans went berserk.

In the end, it will never happen. It is a ploy. It is all about the reaction it will illicit. It is so adolescent.

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Media Tried to Defeat Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 19, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I have been asserting that the media was biased against Netanyahu.
That the media used its power of communication to influence voters to cast their ballots not for someone, but against Bibi.

Ten days before the election, one of the leading papers in Israel ran an expose on Prime Minister Netanyahu. This newspaper and its very popular website made it very clear that they do not like the sitting prime minister.

News should be news - and it should be objective.

The expose was framed as a news item but the timing of its publication made the agenda very clear. The story is still running on the web site. I ask you, how many stories stay up on the internet for two weeks - the internet where news changes every few seconds.

The expose was written by Nahum Barnea, an excellent commentator and analyst with extremely good contacts and reliable sources. Barnea listed all the concessions Netanyahu was prepared to make with the Palestinians. He wrote about secret negotiations that took place between Israel and the Palestinians in London.

Ultimately, according to the expose, Netanyahu was ready to give up on almost everything in order to get a deal.

This information could have killed any chance Bibi had of winning the election. Obviously, as we all now know, it did not ruin his chances. Any why not? Because the expose was deemed, by readers as well as by other media outlets, as interesting but not germane to the business at hand.

The article challenged the right wing bona fides of Netanyahu. How could he be a rightist leader if he was willing to capitulate on so much. The implication was that if you are a right winger you should not vote for Bibi and Likud --- you should instead vote for a marginal small party.

If that had happened, if that advice had been followed, Likud would not have received the votes it got or the seats it has or the royal crown worn by the winner.

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Bibi Wins & Why!
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 18, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

There are several important lessons to be learned from this Israeli election.

First has to do with polling and coverage.

A man from Mars watching the coverage leading up to the election would have been convinced that Netanyahu and his Likud party --- in fact, the entire nationalist camp would be trounced.

But that did not happen.

For three months the Israeli media painted a portrait of a Bibi Netanyahu as a loser. In the final weeks before the election, many media outlets here in the United States jumped on that bandwagon. Not only was he not ousted, he came out a winner, much as he predicted for himself three months ago when he called for new elections.

It was not really analysis, it was wishful thinking. It was a prophecy that many pundits wanted to see fulfilled.

Next was the belief that the vast majority of Israeli voters are in the center - perhaps center right, or perhaps center left, but somewhere in that wide center swatch . And the largest block of voters, it was believed, was center right.

That belief is correct. That's the way it up until this election and that is what we are seeing post this election.

We were told that Israel needs change. We were told that all Israelis want change. And yet, the only real change to emerge from this election is that the political power of extremists on the right and left was severely diminished. Other than that, little has changed

The results we have today will not be the results we have tomorrow. The final breakdown will still change. Ah! Finally, a change! But the big winners will remain the big winners. Old time Likud and the new party on the block, Kulanu, led by Moshe Kahlon, which garnered 10 or 11 seats will be the big players come coalition building time.

The fun and games of campaigning are over. Now comes the real work. Building a government, or, in this case, cobbling together a coalition that will be willing and able to govern.

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Saudis Want What Iran Gets
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 17, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Today is election day in Israel. The vote is still up in the air so I will not write about it - for now. But I know that these election results and their aftermath will be dominating my writing for the
next few weeks.

And, as it turns out, there really are other noteworthy events taking place in the world right now.

For instance, a very senior Saudi prince announced that a deal between the West and Iran will spark a Middle East nuclear arms and technology race.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi ambassador to DC and London as well as the former head of Saudi intelligence, said: "I've always said whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same." He made this statement, almost a declaration, in a BBC interview that aired on Monday.

The point al-Faisal is making is quite clear. If Iran gets any nuclear technology, Saudi Arabia will demand and quickly get it also.

The delicate balance of power will be upset if Iran gets such technology. Other Gulf States will follow Saudi Arabia's lead.

This is an important variable and it deserves serious consideration.

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Elections in Israel are Tomorrow
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 16, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Tomorrow is election day in Israel. This election will be a real nail biter.

Israeli media analysis is hard to trust because the bias of each media outlet is so obvious. The polls are difficult to discern.

But come what may, one thing is for sure --- there will be a winner and a loser come Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

Real questions emerge: Israel went to early elections. It was Netanyahu who agreed to dissolve the government and go to those early elections. Why did he do it?

Netanyahu called for new, early, elections thinking that he was a shoe in. So what happened over the past three months to transform a sure deal into a race that is way too close to call?

Most importantly, elections make people contemplate change. Elections make people question whether their situation could be better. Whether their country has more to offer them. And that is exactly the campaign that the opposition ran on.

Do you want four more years of Bibi and for more years of this? The opposition did not even need to offer voters a real platform. That was only officially published late last week.

Ahh, the beauty of elections and the nature of the polity. Voters can and will be fickle. And that is exactly what we are seeing in this Israeli election. Stay tuned.

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Egypt & Saudi Arabia Conflict about the Brotherhood
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 15, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Egypt has fired 41 judges who have been supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The leadership of Egypt sees the Brotherhood as a direct threat.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the founding influence of Hamas. And since its inception, the Brotherhood has been challenging traditional Egyptian leadership -with the exception of the year that Brotherhood was in power, under Morsi.

Egyptian tension over the Muslim Brotherhood is the major bone of contention between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia does not see the Brotherhood as a major threat and certainly not at the level that Egypt sees it.

In Egypt, the Brotherhood plots and perpetrates attacks almost every day. The Brotherhood is aligning with ISIS and the result has been a slew of even more brutal murderous attacks.

Egypt understands how dangerous the Brotherhood is. But Saudi Arabia is not convinced. The new king of Saudi Arabia does not feel that he should be funding a campaign to stymie and stifle the Brotherhood.

This is but one example of serious tensions emerging in the Middle East. Tensions between the most populated Arab country - Egypt, and the richest Arab country, Saudi Arabia.

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Media Bent on Bibi's Fall
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 13, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Elections in Israel are around the corner. You can literally count the hours.

Polls are coming in and all the campaigns are in full stride as they come into the final stretch.

In the US we speak about an October surprise - some last minute out of control issue that takes place that can alter the nature of the vote. In the US it takes place somewhere in the last six weeks before ballots are cast.

In Israel the October surprise can take place the morning of the election. There are many factors that determine how Israelis vote. Of the two biggest determining factors, one is economics, the other is security.

At this point if the economy, housing and jobs are the main issue then the Zionist Unity camp will win hands down. However, if it is a question of security then Likud has a strong chance of winning.

The newspapers seem bent on defeating Bibi.

To give an example --- In today's Yediot the image that ran with the article on the latest news polls has a picture of most of the candidates crowded together in a row. In the middle looking straight ahead, space on both sides of his picture, is the leader of the center left, Yaakov Herzog. Four people away to the right, second form the end, is Netanyahu. That position on the other side was given to Meretz leader, Zahava Galon, a party that may not even break the Knesset threshold.

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Iraqi Atrocites May Lead to Loss of US Aid
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 12, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

There have been reports that the Iraqi army has perpetrated war crimes parallel to those of ISIS.

There are reports of massacres, torture, brutal beatings, public executions and decapitations. There are even reports of soldiers walking around with severed heads.

The problem that emerges from this is that these Iraqi troops were trained by the United States and they are using US weapons. US money and training cannot be used to in such ways.

ABC reported on this situation and it is now being investigated by Congress. If Congress discovers that atrocities were carried out by members of the Iraqi army that would put in question all US aid and all US assistance - not just to Iraq.

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Israel Elections Roller-Coaster
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 11, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

In less than a week Israelis will run to the polls.

I use the word poll for a reason. The only poll that actually counts is the election poll itself. Understand that and you will have an easier time riding the roller-coaster of Israeli elections.

Over the next few days elections will be in high gear. Final public polls will be published. This party will be up and that party will be down.

A very wise person once explained the entire polling system to me in a very logical and compelling way. She said "polls don't lie --- people lie."

That is so true. People tell the pollster what they believe the popular line is at that moment in an effort to be politically correct. In the privacy of the ballot booth, however, they do as their conscience dictates.

In Israel an election can be swayed by a last minute surprise issue. Is defense and Iran more important than social issues like housing?
It is if that is the tone set on election morning.

There is no way of predicting how close this election will be, no way to know which party will win, which person will lead his party to victory.

The next few days promise to be very interesting. If people claim that they can predict the results of this election, think of them not as analysts, think of them as wishful thinkers.

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Arab League Against ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 10, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Arab League has called for a united front and an organized force to fight and eradicate ISIS and al Qaeda in Yemen.

At a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers, Secretary General Nabil el-Araby called for action against ISIS.

"What is required now and urgently is to look into creating a...multi-national force that is able to look at what unites them in terms of responsibilities in the areas of quick intervention to fight terrorism, the activities of terrorist groups, helping in peacekeeping operations and securing humanitarian operations."

This is another important step in organizing the Arab world against ISIS and al Qaeda.

The Arab League will meet again in another few weeks in Sharm el Shiek, and there, they are hoping to add some flesh to this initial bare bones idea.

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US Bombs ISIS Oil Refinery
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 9, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Thirty ISIS members were killed in a single air strike in Syria yesterday, just on the Turkish border.

The US coalition hit an ISIS oil refinery. Oil has been one of the key ways that ISIS bankrolls its operation.

Until now the US coalition has been reluctant to strike the fields or the refineries. They steered clear because the West wants to preserve the infrastructure - especially natural resources and income producing infrastructure.

The idea is to have a turnkey income and operation as soon as the good guys take over. This policy is in place so that there is no need to rebuild. Then the new, controlling, power can have immediate income.

The situation with ISIS is getting ridiculous.

ISIS keeps making money. There is no timeline for a reduction of their power and control of the oil fields or of oil refinement and production. ISIS just keeps going on and on.

Even the loss of thirty fighters does not set them back at all.

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Boko Haram & ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 8, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yes, Boko Haram pledged loyalty to ISIS.

This should come as no surprise.

The broadcast came in Arabic announcing that the Nigerian group is now fighting together with ISIS and supports Baghdadi as the Caliph, or general leader, over all of Islam.

"We announce our allegiance to the Caliph ... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity." The pledge of allegiance was attributed to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.

Boko Haram is a Nigerian based terror group that has been terrorizing and fighting in Nigeria for several years. Their name says everything. Boku means book in their Nigerian dialect and Haram means forbidden.

Boku Haram means "Books are Forbidden." It is a major attack against women's learning. The entire purpose and name of the groups is to stop the education of women.

In the year 2015 - WOW!

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ISIS Destroying Archeological Cities
By Micah Halpern

Friday March 6, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Iraqi ministry of tourism and antiquities announced on their facebook page that ISIS was destroying archeological sites.

ISIS destroyed the ancient archaeological site Nimrud also known as the biblical city of Nimrod named after the character from Genesis 10.

Nimrud was one of the capitals of the Assyrian Empire. It was there that Sannacherib built his palace. In the ancient world there was always movement from Nimrud to Nineveh which is less than miles away. They were like sister cities.

Nineveh is the famous biblical city found in the book of Jonah.

ISIS destroyed Nineveh just last year and now they have destroyed Nimrud. According to the Iraqi government ISIS bulldozed the site.

This is such an amazing site that major sections of the site were moved to London to be housed in the British Museum where they have been since the 1840's.

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Kerry in Saudi Arabia
By Micah Halpern

Thursday March 5, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry, is in Saudi Arabia to discuss Iran and ISIS.

Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia after three days of nuclear talks or, to put it more accurately, three days of negotiations with Iran.
Kerry said that there are still very large gaps between the parties.
Over and over again we see that Iran really understands the United States.

The Iranians know that the Obama administration really wants a deal. They want something on paper. It does not matter much if it is a good deal or a bad deal.

The Israelis, however, are saying that a bad deal means that they will be destroyed.

The United States does not feel the same way, the administration is not moved by that statement.

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Why Critique the Bibi Speech
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday March 4 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I am shocked by responses to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech.

So much so that I am, jokingly, wondering if I missed the parts of the speech that everyone is critiquing. And to know me is to know that I missed nothing. I am not just talking about Pelosi saying she was insulted or Obama saying there was nothing new. That I expected.

The purpose of the speech Netanyahu gave was not to divulge new material - actually that is why he said you could Google all the info anyway. The Israeli prime minister has often been criticized for leaking details so he was deliberately not going to do that again, before the entire world and announce state secrets. Doing that is illegal both under Israeli and United States law.

Interestingly, Al Arabiyah had a very positive column saying how on target Netanyahu was. Their report was that the prime minister of Israel described the Iranian threat perfectly. And Palestinian President Abbas said that Bibi accurately described the explosive nature of the Middle East.

His message has not changed in over a decade. It is the same threat - it is just becoming more threatening.

The speech was not supposed to change people's minds. The purpose of the Netanyahu speech before Congress was to remind people of the danger, the very grave danger, posed by Iran and to explain why there is a difference between the US point of view and the Israeli point of view.

And in that, Netanyahu succeeded.

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Obama vs Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday March 3, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

President Obama has responded to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to AIPAC in anticipation of his speech to Congress.
Obama described the difference between the two sides.

Obama is telling us that Bibi is exaggerating, that he is painting an unrealistic portrait of the situation. Obama said that sanctions have not worked.

His new plan is, in Obama's eyes, the only hope for stopping Iran.
He also says that the entire episode, the brouhaha over Netanyahu's coming to address Congress, is simply a distraction and not permanently destructive.

Obama says: "why not wait if there is a going to be a deal" and see whether or not Iran will actually accept a deal. "Why will we not take a deal?" "There is no good reason not to let the negotiations play themselves out."

The space that separates the Prime Minister and the President is enormous.

The difference comes down to this: do we trust the Iranians or do we not trust the Iranians.

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Sisi Visits Saudi Arabia
By Micah Halpern

Monday March 2, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

With all eyes on Bibi Netanyahu and his trip to Washington DC, other important stories from the Middle East are going almost unnoticed.

Yesterday President al Sisi of Egypt visited Salman, the new king of Saudi Arabia. This visit follows only days after the King of Jordan made the same trip to Saudi Arabia.

The Egyptian / Saudi conversation was very straight forward. These two heads of state see things eye to eye. Egypt wanted to make certain that the new king continues to support him politically and monetarily. And both countries needed to make certain that they share info and intel on terror and Islamic extremists.

I think that they probably decided to create a joint force between their two countries to confront the new challenge from ISIS in Iraq Syria and to control the new tensions emerging from Libya and Yemen.

Salman and al SIsi need to work well together. What they do and say will have tremendous impact on the rest of the Arab world. They can convey a sense of stability - or not.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the two most powerful of all Arab countries. Saudi Arabia is the richest, Egypt is the most populous. They have clout.

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White House Will Exact Revenge on Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday March 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The White House can be very vindictive. They do not take kindly to being publicly humiliated or chastised.

The Administration responds according to its own timetable and in their own way.

So YES, expect that Israel will have an expensive price to pay because Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be speaking before a joint session of Congress.

There are several tools the White House has immediately at their fingertips.

They can simply drag their feet on requests from Israel - requests for aid, for intel for experts or advice.

They can cut the requests out and trim aid packages.

They can close doors that had been open and not provide info and intelligence about terror threats and movements as well as about Iran.

They can give a cold shoulder to Israeli politicians and diplomats who need to confer with their US counterparts.

When the White House wants to teach Israel a lesson, there are many ways to do it. And right now, the White House wants Israel to know that antics like this one cannot go on without a serious response.

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Iran Hacks Casinos
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 28, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Clapper confirmed that Iran hacked Sheldon Adelson's computer system at the Sands Casino Corporation.

Casino computers were non-functioning for several hours.
Adelson is a huge republican supporter and a very big donor to Israel. Actually, he is one of the largest contributors to Israel in the world.

A cyber attack against his hotel, the Sands Casino, is a major attack against a US company. Put this attack together with the North Korean attack on Sony and we see that nations are searching out and striking at US commercial interests - not just at military or governmental interests.

Iran is has become a real powerhouse in cyber hacking. They are certainly in the top ten and maybe even in the top 5 in the world of hacking. The United States, Russia, China, Israel, are the other nations in that league.

When it comes to cyber warfare, I ran is a force to be reckoned with. Beware of more Iranian hacks.

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New ISIS Video
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The newest ISIS video is five minutes long and it shows members destroying ancient archeological treasures. The video was shot in the Mosul museum. Bearded men with drills and sledge hammers are seen destroying priceless antiquities.

In five minutes we learn exactly what ISIS thinks of ancient history and of other cultures. This is their portrayal of themselves - not someone else with their own biases, analysis or interpretation. ISIS wants everyone to understand that they reject history and culture.

An essential and fascinating side bar to this is that a significant percentage of the ISIS annual budget comes from the sale of antiquities. It is unclear exactly the sum that ISIS earns. But it is certainly in the 10's of millions. Collectors have commissioned their intermediaries to negotiate with ISIS on archeological relics.

It is ironic that, on the one hand, ISIS hates these pagan symbols and destroys them. And on the other hand, they are unearthing new finds and raiding museums and sites to capitalize on the monetary benefit of the pieces.

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Kings Meet
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 26, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday The King of Jordan travelled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to meet their new king, King Salman.

This is an extremely important meeting. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are part of the coalition against ISIS. Both have strong relations with the United States.

More than anything else, both monarchies are in the cross hairs of
ISIS. Both know that ISIS wants to take over their kingdoms. And both kings know that there are already individual people and organized groups inside each of their countries who are affiliated with ISIS and with al Qaeda.

I would bet that these two kings agreed to increase their cooperation against ISIS even outside the coalition and to step up and strike ISIS and al Qaeda and to support one another and share information.

Fighting ISIS is a battle of survival. Abdullah and Salman know that very well. In order for their reigns to survive they must defeat ISIS.

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Spain Breaks Up ISIS Recruitment Ring
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 25, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

As part of an ongoing attempt to crack down on ISIS recruitment at its roots, Spain arrested a recruitment ring on Tuesday.
The ring was dedicated to recruiting young women into ISIS. Four
recruiters were arrested and all of them were women.

This is a huge success - but it is still only the tip of the iceberg.
Europe needs to find these recruiters and the websites they use as recruitment tools. The stakes here are very high.

It is not simply that recruits go off and fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It is that they return home with training and the motivation to strike targets in Europe - and there is almost no defense against them.

In the long run, the best way to protect the homeland is to make certain recruits never get recruited. This is not about economic and social issues - an improvement in those areas will not change the minds of highly motivated would-be recruits.

The only way to prevent local Europeans, or Americans or Asians for that matter, from running into the arms of ISIS is to arrest them.
And then shut down the systems of broadcast that they found so enticing

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Will Egypt Attack Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 24, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I was not surprised to see a piece in the Hebrew press about Gaza and Egypt.

Salah Bardawil, a senior figure of Hamas in Gaza, was quoted as showing real concern that Egypt might launch attacks in Gaza after it recently bombed ISIS targets in Libya.

There is no doubt that Egypt is thinking about crossing their border and entering Gaza and using helicopter gunships and fighter jets to strike targets responsible for terror attacks in Egypt that were planned and supported and inspired in Gaza.

At this moment Egypt might cross into Gaza while in hot pursuit. But as of now I do not think it probable that Egypt will strike Gaza in any way.

But as the situation is in flux , Egypt might feel the need to strike Gaza to emphasize the point that they must control their terrorists.

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ISIS Is Not Hurting
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 23, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Reuters recently ran an insightful piece about how Europe is beginning to crack down and stem the flow of Europeans into ISIS.

New laws preventing citizens suspected of interacting with ISIS from returning home and the seizing of travel documents of anyone suspected of ISIS activity are now in effect. It is an attempt to strangle the constant stream of European recruits into ISIS.
ISIS has responded by saying that now, most of their recruits are no longer coming from Europe.

"Now most of the (foreign) fighters are coming from Asian countries, like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. They are tough fighters," said an official who was quoted by Reuters.

Another official said that at first people did not take ISIS and their recruits seriously. That was a big mistake. He said, "At first these countries took us lightly, they thought the fighters will come here and die. But what they did not see coming was that they get trained and also started to contact their friends and relatives to join."

It is true that recruits are flocking to ISIS from all over the world and especially from the Far East. There has also been an influx of recruits from Libya and Egypt.

ISIS is not suffering for lack of money or manpower.

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Turkey Launches Raid into Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 22, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

There have been reports that ISIS has moved significant numbers of fighters into Turkey. The fighters are in Turkey as sleepers and they will strike when ready.

At the same time, Turkey has been guarding the tomb of its founder's grandfather, Suleiman Shah, which is located in Syria about 25 miles from the Turkish border. The tomb is in Kobani in the Aleppo province and has been the site of huge battles between ISIS and the Kurds as well as the target of airstrikes by the United States and her coalition partners.

Forty five Turkish soldiers protect the tomb.

Last night Turkey launched an operation to transfer the tomb into Turkey. One soldier was killed in the action. The Turks say that the death was not a result of fighting or of defending the tomb, but an accident that took place during the night time move.

Despite Turkey's reluctance we are going to see many more operations by Turkey and Jordan into Syria and Iraq.

Turkey and Jordan will be the boots of the coalition on the ground.

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3 London Girls Run Away to ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 21, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

London police and airport police are trying to figure out how three teenage girls boarded a plane at Gatwick, one of the two international airlines servicing London, en route to Turkey to join the fight for ISIS.

The girls never told their parents of their plans.

All three girls lived in East London. They boarded a Turkish Air flight to Istanbul. From there the trail runs cold, but it is assumed that their recruiters arranged for a pickup at the airport and from there they made their way across the Syrian border.

London is hoping to reach out to concerned people in the region of Turkey and Syria to give them information about the girls. Then they will try to reach out and convince the teenagers to return home.

Of course this is a total hoax.

A recently released report tells us ISIS executed 125 Europeans and other foreign fighters who wanted to return to their homes.

Whatever these girls are thinking, whatever they were hoping for, they are in for a very rude awakening.

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Islam is Not Like Christianity
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I have been paying very close attention to the speeches he has made and the statements he has given and I now understand how President Obama has come to his conclusions about violent extremism.
President Obama, like many other Americans, thinks that Islam is a religion like Christianity.

Islam is a religion like Judaism, Islam is not at all like Christianity.

Christianity is a faith based religion. Belief is everything. And belief is the emphasis in what is called Pauline Christianity. Paul ridiculed the Jews for adhering to precepts and laws.

Islam, like Judaism, has essential beliefs but their world revolves around a set of laws. Their world revolves around codes of behavior and those codes dictate actions.

In Arabic there is no real word for "religion." The most commonly used word is "din." Din means to comply with Sharia law. It is also used to describe Christians prayer. The word comes from the Zoroastrian Persian.

Interestingly, in Hebrew, too, the word din means law and for the very same reason. Like in Arabic, there is no Hebrew word for religion. Hebrew borrows a different word from Persian to describe religion, that word is "dat."

Islam cannot be compared to Christianity at all. There is no such thing as the secular in Islam. One cannot even say hello or goodbye in proper Arabic or respond to any greeting without invoking the name of Allah.

The West needs to understand this.

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New Stuxnet Worm Attacking Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 19, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Kaspersky, the Russian cyber security firm, announced that a new set of malware and worms are spreading. The new malicious software is infecting computers in the Middle East - especially in Iran.

Kaspersky says that this set of malware and worms is very similar to Stuxnet.

Several years ago Stuxnet was one of the most vicious worms to invade Iran. It took over their nuclear program and infected almost all computers connected to the development of nuclear technology.

A spokeswoman for Iran said about this latest danger: "The Islamic Republic of Iran pays great attention to this matter because we are one of the targets of (cyber) espionage."

The word on the street is that Israel and the United States have been guilty of creating several waves of these computer viruses. Stuxnet is, according to these rumors, just one example.

We are now entering another stage. It remains to be seen who becomes infected and who spread the virus.


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Help ISIS by Getting them A Job
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 18, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

At first, I believed State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf's interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC to be too inane to be taken seriously. Now, on further reflection - and given the fact that there has been no back peddling by the Administration, I realize how serious she really was.

In response to questions about ISIS and whether the Administation has a plan for dealing with ISIS, Harf responded:

"We cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war," Harf said. "We need, in the longer term - medium and longer term - to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups - whether it's lack of opportunity for jobs."
"We can work with other countries around the world to help improve their governance," Harf said. "We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.

Many members of the press skewered Harf. Her responses were anything but realistic. They gave a sense that Washington has no idea of what ISIS really is or how to deal with them.

And yet, I still expected that someone in the inner circles of Washington would have the presence of mind to stand up and say that simply getting a better economy will not change ISIS' POV.

Bottom line: I was not shocked by the comments made by Marie Harf nor by the way the press ridiculed her. I was shocked that the Administration has not clarified the points Harf made in her name.

That means they agree. And that is truly frightening, because no amount of leadership training or economic development will transform ISIS. No amount. Not ever.

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Germany Tries 93 Yr Old for Holocaust
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 17, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

In Germany yesterday a 93 year old was indicted on 170,000 counts of accessory to murder. His name has not been released.

The history is clear. The man was a German guard in the horrific
Nazi death camp Auschwitz which is situated in Southern Poland.
Interestingly, the man does not deny being an Auschwitz guard. His defense is that he was stationed in the camp known as Auschwitz I.

The prosecution agrees. However, they also say that this man, despite being stationed in Auschwitz I, was integrally connected to the selection process which took place at Auschwitz II aka, the infamous Birkenau.

Selection took place immediately upon arrival in Auschwitz II. That is when and where Jews were directed to life or death.

The massive Nazi murder machine with all of its apparatus was in Birkenau - but it was still a part of Auschwitz, as were dozens of smaller camps.

Claiming that he was in one camp instead of another is hardly a defense. Auschwitz was the nerve center of the labyrinth of camps.

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France Arrests 5 Boys for Destroying 300 Graves
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 16, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

In France, five teenage boys were arrested for destroying 300 Jewish graves and the Holocaust memorial in a cemetery in the Alsace region.

The country was shocked by the blatant horrific act of anti-Semitism. Leaders and media decried the vandalism as barbaric and anti-French. They called it an assault on all of France.

The response of his countrymen had an impact on the youngest of the vandals. He told a friend what he had done and the friend urged him to come forward and admit to his crime.

Prosecutors say the boys claim there was no reason for their acts of vandalism or no anti- Semitic motive behind it. This is very hard to believe given the extent of the destruction. 300 graves plus a memorial. The graves included a substantial number of mausoleums.

It takes significant force and energy to destroy these buildings.
This was not a simple boyhood prank.

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Terror in Denmark
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 15, 2015

I've been thinking:

Details are still scant. But what we do know for sure is that two terror attacks were perpetrated in Copenhagen, Denmark. One attack was at a solidarity meeting for freedom of speech. The other attack was perpetrated at a synagogue where a bar mitzvah was taking place.

Two police were wounded outside the synagogue and the Israeli/Danish security guard at the synagogue was killed. One person, a Danish filmmaker, was killed at the solidarity event and three police were wounded.

The Prime Minister of Denmark labeled both the attacks terror. There is no question about it, she said "they were politically motivated and so we consider them as terror."

Denmark has about 5.5 million citizens and about 7,000 of them are Jews. Almost every Jew is totally integrated into the social fabric of Danish society and has been for decades.

There is even an urban legend that during the Holocaust the king of Denmark wore a Jewish star. Not true, but he did find and organize the escape of 8,000 Jews across the sea to Sweden.

Denmark is a place where Jews felt safe. All that might have changed overnight.

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France Arrests ISIS Recruiters
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 14, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

France arrested six people this week for recruiting and raising money to support terror.

They were charged with the preparation of terrorist attacks and terrorist financing. The prosecutors say that the six were recruiting fighters to join ISIS and to fight in Syria.

The six are being held without bail.

This is a significant change for France and it is a very important step. The French need to continue to try to stop the terror at the point of its origins and on the organizational level.

France must be aggressive in fighting their terrorists and their legal system, especially the investigation and the prosecution side of the law, needs to expand in order to best clamp down on this new wave of terror.

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Turkey Israel Trade-- $5.6 Billion
By Micah Halpern

Friday February 13, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

I just read a spectacular piece on "The Media Line" website showing that despite terrible diplomatic and political tensions and even crises between Turkey and Israel - their foreign trade is impressive.

Foreign trade between Turkey and Israel was $5.6 billion last year.
Half it imports, half of it exports.

Many of the Japanese cars being drive all over Israel are actually made in Turkey. The fresh fruit and dried fruits that Israelis love so much - much of that, too, is imported from Turkey.

Turkey is still Israel's 7th largest trading partner. The bulk of exports from Israel to Turkey are chemical and technical supplies.
In years past, especially in the 1990's, Israel exported weapons and contacts to train, repair and improve and even swap Turkish weapons.

That was then.

Despite all the public vitriol it seems that the all mighty dollar trumps political anger.

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Elections in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday February 12, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Zionist Camp went on the offensive with a biting campaign against Likud and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

There had been serious critique by many in the Camp that the new/old now merged party has no real campaign. So they started one.

A huge billboard was erected. New radio and TV spots were produced. Bumper stickers were plastered all around the country. Posters are all over the place.

What is their message?

There is a picture of Bibi Netanyahu and the caption reads: He spends 10,000 shekel a year on ice cream and you do not have enough money for cottage cheese. Only a fool votes for Netanyahu.

A real zinger.

The word that was selected for fool is "Fryer." We do not really have a synonym in English. Fryer is more than just a fool. A fryer is a person who allows him or herself to be abused by others.

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Syria Starts End Game
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 11, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Syria has begun a serious advance south of Damascus. In this strategic move Assad is using Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon.

It appears that Assad wants to clear out not only the al Qaeda rebels inhabiting the area south of Damascus, but also the independent rebels who are not connected to either al Qaeda or to ISIS.

This is a big move.

It means that Assad sees a way out and is starting to implement an end game strategy. The independent rebels are those who the United States feels could replace Assad after ISIS and al Qaeda are cleared out.

At the same time, Assad is indirectly involved in the US sponsored attacks on ISIS and al Qaeda.

In a BBC interview when asked if he was in the loop or if he was indirectly getting info from the United States in his quest against ISIS, Assad admitted --- "That's true, through third parties, more than one party, Iraq and other countries, sometimes they convey message(s), general message(s), but there is nothing tactical."

So now Assad is having the US attack one enemy (ISIS and al Qaeda) and Hezbollah attack his other (the independent rebels).
It has taken him a while but Assad finally seems to be in control o the situation. For better or for worse.


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Syria Says No To Jordan
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 10, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Syria is not happy with Jordan's new aggressive stance against ISIS.

The main reason for the Syrian displeasure is that Jordan has attacked ISIS targets in Syria - which is a clear violation of their air space and their borders.

Jordan is now threatening to also launch ground offensives against ISIS. And Foreign Minister of Syria Wallid Moallem has said very clearly that Jordan is not welcome and that Syria sees this Jordanian involvement as an infringement of Syrian rights.

He said that Syria will not permit any foreign ground forces to enter their country. That includes an international force and it certainly includes a Jordanian force.

Of course, the Syrians have neglected to mention that there are huge amounts of Iranian forces in Syria and as many as 35,000 Hezbollah fighters who are also there. That is perfectly okay with them.

Syria needs to apply more pressure on ISIS - but they want to do it on their terms. Jordan, on the other hand, does not seem to care about either Syrian or ISIS sensibilities.

A major diplomatic conflict is brewing. Sometime soon that conflict may lead to a skirmish or two between these cold neighbors.

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Quartet Says Don't Force a Palestinian State
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 9, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Quartet met during the International Security Conference that took place in Munich.

The Quartet, which is composed of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia issued a statement stating that they do not condone nor think it proper that the Palestinians force Israel into a de facto recognition of a Palestinian State.

Here is the statement the Quartet released, "a sustainable peace requires the Palestinians’ aspirations for statehood and sovereignty and those of Israelis for security to be fulfilled through negotiations based on the two-state solution."

It went on asking "both parties to refrain from actions that undermine trust or prejudge final-status issues." And that both parties utilize "UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, the Madrid Principles, including land for peace, and the agreements previously reached between the parties."

In other words - do not make any unilateral moves.

This is a very strong and important statement. Given the move in European capitals and their parliaments to recognize a Palestinian state and the move in the UN and in the Security Council vis a vis a Palestinian state, this decision by the Quartet is very important.

At last, world leadership recognizes that face-to-face negotiation is the only way to create a Palestinian State.

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ISIS Imam Questions Burning Pilot- Now He is To Go On Trial
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 8, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

A religious leader in ISIS who voiced his objections to the burning of the Jordanian pilot has been removed from his official position.
He will stand trial and he himself may be executed.

At a meeting of the religious leadership of ISIS that was held in al-Bab in the Province of Aleppo, the Imam said that the burning of the Jordanian pilot was a violation of Islamic law. Many Islamic scholars, even some who are al Qaeda advisers and supporters, have condemned the burning and the compilation and release of video.

The Imam also said that those responsible for the burning should face trial.

Remember, these statements were made not as a public pronouncement, but rather, during a discussion among religious leadership.

It must be made clear to everyone - even ISIS religious leaders are not able to honestly express their feelings and thoughts. In ISIS, there is no room for discussion - even among those who we once thought of as inner circle.


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Jordan is More Complicated
By Micah Halpern

Saturday February 7, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Jordan is demonstrating great furor and fury in their fight against ISIS. So much so, that the Jordanians are decorating their bombs with verses from the Koran condemning ISIS.

On their return flight from a bombing raid that targeted ISIS, fighter jets did an honorary pass over the home town of their fallen pilot-in-arms.

And while it is not being spoken about, I am certain that Jordan has begun special ground ops raids into Iraq to get better intelligence about ISIS and even to attack ISIS encampments.

The King rushed back from the United States where he had been visiting to take his place at the helm of his country in this time of crisis. He has announced that Jordan will double down in their fight against ISIS.

Not all of Jordan agrees with the King and with the anger aimed at ISIS. There is a part of Jordan that is in agreement with ISIS beliefs and tactics and it is important to know what they are saying. Be prepared to see real divisiveness in Jordan - and by extension, in the rest of the Arab world.

After the video of the burned and mutilated Jordanian pilot went viral, many Jordanians took to social media with a hashtag that quickly became popular and reads:#notourwar and #notmypilot.

A large group of Jordanians are not empathizing with the pilot, his family, or his mission - but they are empathizing with his brutal murderers, the ISIS terrorists.

The pilot came from a tribe that was extremely loyal to the King of Jordan. That tends to be the division. Tribes are loyal while
Palestinians, who compose about 60% of Jordan, tend to be less loyal and consequently less trusted by the King.

The potential for internal conflict in Jordan is huge and ISIS knows it. So does the King. Jordan has turned into a potential, future, battle ground for ISIS.

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Palestinians May Want Bibi To Win
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 6, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Everyone thinks that the Palestinians are rooting for Bibi to lose the upcoming Israeli elections. After all, it seems that the peace process has ground to a halt and that Palestinian leader Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are arch enemies.

Conventional wisdom has it that a prime minister from the Labor camp, from the newly merged party called the Zionist Camp, would be more amenable to Abbas and Palestinians demands than Likud. The Labor camp wants a resolution more than Likud does and will do more to get it. At least, that is what the pundits are saying.

The truth, however, is that it is unclear that the Palestinian Authority and Abbas even want that resolution. They may actually be rooting for Netanyahu. Why?

Because Netanyahu is the perfect scapegoat. He is the perfect reason for not needing to move toward a resolution. With Netanyahu in position as prime minister, the Palestinians can blame the lack of progress squarely on him.

If part of the Palestinian goal really is to avoid a resolution- and I think it is - then it should be obvious that they will be extremely happy if Likud and Netanyahu trounce the newly merged middle left Zionist Camp. But do not expect them to admit that publically.

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EU Chides Jordan -- Why Kill Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 5, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

There has been nearly unanimous condemnation of the recent horrific murder of the Jordanian pilot.

Condolences and messages of support have been sent to Jordan.
Some of that support was coupled with very mixed messages.

We support you but...
We want to fight terror but...
We condemn any form of capital punishment but...

Below is the statement presented by the European Union to Jordan. Note how the EU both supports and condemns Jordan. These comments show the root of Europe's problems with confronting terror.

Here is the official EU statement.

"While all efforts must be made to counter terrorism and hold the perpetrators accountable, our reaction to the threat posed by (Islamic State) needs to be consistent with our common values on justice and the rights of prisoners."
"Our action has to be guided by the respect of international human rights law and humanitarian law. The European position against death penalty remains unchanged and we believe capital punishment does not serve any deterrent purpose."

Imagine what ISIS leadership thought when they read this statement.
Now imagine how the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan feels.

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Israel Cut Electricity to the PA
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday February 4, 2015

I've been thinking:

Israel has decided to cut electricity to the Palestinian Authority.

No it is not what you think!
The Palestinians owe Israel 1.8 billion Shekel. That is $600 million dollars that they owe to Israel for electricity.

So the Israeli electric company is shutting the electricity. Well, actually, sort of shutting it off, but not really. For one hour every morning and for one hour every evening, Israel is reducing the electricity that will be delivered to the Palestinian Authority by 50%.

That means for two hours a day the Palestinians will have to conserve and only use half their normal allocation.

That is hardly a hardship. But make no mistake about it, Israel will certainly be admonished for taking even this small, limited, action.

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Bibi More Popular Because of Obama Shun
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday February 3, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

People quote polls as if they were quoting the gospel.

They are not - and polls now being conducted in Israel, prior to the upcoming election, are a great example.

Recent polls are showing that Likud, the party of Prime Minister Netanyahu, is gaining. Likud has moved into the top slot. With each passing week their numbers have been increasing.

This increased fame and political fortune comes despite the fact pundits in both Israel and the United States predicted that Bibi would take a huge hit because he accepted the Boehner invitation to address both house of Congress.

Actually, the opposite is true. Netanyahu is more popular and his party continues to grow in popularity.

One of the reasons for this rise in popularity is that Israelis enjoyed seeing their prime minister standing up to Obama. If the

White House wants to sabotage Bib in the next election - they should be nice to him. That would send a very different message to Israel.

It would paint Netanyahu with the brush of a failed US Mid East policy and that would be the political kiss of death.

Instead, Obama has breathed new life into his campaign. Netanyahu and his Likud party are flourishing.

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Ahmadinejad - A Blast From The Past
By Micah Halpern

Monday February 2, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Here is a name from the past ---- Ahmadinejad.

Yes, Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, former president of Iran, just opened a web page. The page features a smiling photo of Ahmadinejad with the caption "Coming Back Soon." That seems to be his new theme: Coming Back Soon.

It looks like the former political leader is setting the stage to make a comeback in the upcoming elections, set for next year.

The past few years have been a PR nightmare for Ahmadinejad. Many in his inner circle have been convicted of corruption in various forms.
His vice president, for example, was just convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison and a $300,000 fine. The charges were so problematic that even other right wing politicians saw Ahmadinejad as toxic and moved away from him.

Ahmadinejad has been out of the public eye.

Now he is preparing to re-enter and he needs to distance himself from the corruption and present a new face.

Ahmadinejad is very conservative - and that message is very powerful in many parts of Iran. Do not discount him. There are many positions of power that he may be seeking. And one of those positions is most certainly a return to the presidency.


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Jordan Threatens ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Sunday February 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Jordan responded to ISIS.

ISIS has said that they will execute the downed Jordanian pilot they captured and are holding unless Jordan releases a female terrorist.

Jordan has decided to up the ante. They have countered and are now threatening ISIS. They want proof that their pilot is alive and they have clearly told this to ISIS. If you kill our pilot, the Jordanians said, we will execute all ISIS prisoners in Jordan.

This is not an idle threat. Jordan can and will do exactly what they have threatened to do. Jordan is betting that ISIS will understand and respond to the threat of force.

That remains to be seen. How will ISIS respond?

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UN Fed Up w/ Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 30, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The UN is expressing its frustration with the infighting and lack of organized government in Gaza.

The United Nations is laying the blame on inter-Palestinian power struggles. The most important issue for the UN is that they have a plan to rebuild Gaza but their plan is going nowhere because there is no government in Gaza to help in the rebuilding.

Robert Serry, who doubles as the personal envoy to the region for the UN Secretary General and as the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, is very frustrated.

Serry complained saying: "We need a government ... that is able to take responsibility." He continued: "We have a (UN) mechanism that is working but almost everything else is not in place and that influences decisions of donors... I am not (absolving) donors for their responsibilities, the fact that so little money is available is scandalous."

For months I have been writing that there are two things that will prevent the rebuilding of Gaza.

# 1: Donors will not give to an environment where they are not certain that the fund will 100% go to rebuilding.
#2: The Palestinians are not interested in rebuilding. They have not organized themselves to rebuild.

Until these two items happen there is no way there will be any reconstruction in Gaza

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US Says No To Iranian Diplomat
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 29, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Everyone who enters the United States needs a visa. That includes diplomats and even ambassadors to the United Nations. Even heads of state traveling to speak at the UN need visas.

The man appointed to be the ambassador to the UN for Iran was denied his visa. So Iran needed to appoint a new ambassador.

Hamid Aboutalebi was the original Iranian appointment. The United States said "no" to his entry, even on a restricted visa that would have permitted him the ability to travel a 25 mile radius from the epicenter the UN which would include all New York City airports. The US State Department denied entry to Aboutalebi because they believe that he was involved in the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Teheran.

This is very important.

There was a time, in November of 1988, under President Reagan, when the United States would not grant a visa to Yasser Arafat because he "knows of, condones and lends support to acts of terror." As a result, Arafat could not address the United Nations in New York.

In that instance the United Nations picked up, packed up and moved the General Assembly to Europe, specifically to Geneva, Switzerland, and Arafat was able to deliver his address to the UN.

There is a lesson in all of this. I am glad that the United States, or at least the State Department, is using the law to take a stand on certain important issues. I wonder when the White House became aware of the decision.

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Iran Threatens Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 28, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Iran sent a message to Israel via the United States.
The Islamic Republic News Agency, known as IRNA, reported that Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdullian told the Americans to pass a message to Israel.

"We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act."

He continued: "We tell them to await retaliation but we will decide about its timing, place and the strength."

The death of an Iranian general at the hands of Israel while he was, literally, on the border of Israel in Lebanon together with a Hezbollah team was a painful blow to Iran.

And Iran needs to save face. Their operations in Lebanon and Syria most often go unreported and are unknown to the world. This Israeli intervention forced the spotlight on Iran's presence in those areas.
And it showed that Iran was plotting and planning and advising Hezbollah in ways to attack - and even try to destroy, Israel.

There are those who say that the Israeli action was a mistake. Iran could attack Jewish sites around the world in retaliation. This is true. And in the past they have done just that.

But it is also essential that Iran knows they cannot get that close to Israel without consequence.

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BBC Wont Use Terms Terror or Terrorist
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 27, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Some people are afraid to call them Muslim terrorists because it is a value judgment. And some media believes that if they refer to Islamic mass murderers as terrorists they will be accused of showing a bias.

Me, --- I have a bias for the innocent victims who are slain by the Muslim mass murders who openly profess their desire to intimidate us, convert us and if that does not happen to destroy us.

I was floored when I read the comments of the head of the Arabic section of the BBC. This is the BBC's largest foreign section. The name of the depatment head is Tarik Kafala.

In an interview with the British newspaper The Independent Kafala described how he approached coverage of the terror attacks in France.
Kafala said "We try to avoid describing anyone as a terrorist, or an act as being terrorist."

He continued, "What we try to do is to say that 'two men killed 12 people in an attack on the office of a satirical magazine'. That's enough, we know what that means and what it is."

Kafala tried to explain his editorial style by saying "We know what political violence is, we know what murder, bombings and shootings are and we describe them." "That's much more revealing, we believe, than using a word like terrorist which people will see as value-laden."

How sad. And Kafala is just being a good BBC soldier. He is following the BBC guide book of style and usage which, he said, cautions that "the use of the words 'terrorist' or 'terrorist group' can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality."

The BBC advises using words other than "terrorist", words such as "bomber", "attacker", "gunman", "kidnapper" or "militant".

The free press is supposed to promote freedom, not suppress freedom.

What a very sad state of affairs for the BBC.

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Yemen is a Real Mess
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 26, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yemen is a real mess. The government resigned - and that is the least of their problems. Yemen is a country of 24 million people.
It is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East with an annual average income of about $1400.

Yemen is also the major base of al Qaeda in the Middle East. One of the al Qaeda groups working out of Yemen is al Qaeda of the Arab Peninsula. It is probably more potent, more powerful, more organized and has more members than any al Qaeda group anywhere in the world.

Another of the al Qaeda groups in Yemen goes by the name Houthi.
They have taken over Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, a city of nearly two and a half million people.

The United States has been trying to prevent al Qaeda from taking over Yemen. They have been training Yemeni military forces and using unmanned drones to strike al Qaeda and its leadership.
Unfortunately, the intelligence that the US has relied upon for their drones has been almost totally infiltrated by al Qaeda.

The military training and the use of drones simply falls shy of what is necessary to protect and save Yemen.

The day after the government resigned tens of thousands of people marched in the capital demanding a government and asking for order in an attempt to say "no" to al Qaeda. There was some violence.

The people of the capital city Sana'a do not want al Qaeda to take over. So what can be done?

Yemenis must create a group of loyal, dependable and trustworthy fighters who are capable of attacking al Qaeda directly. They need to seek out and strike at al Qaeda everywhere they live. These forces will need air support from the United States. They may also need to get support from their neighbor Saudi Arabia who abhors and detests al Qaeda.

The United States needs to immediately identify and support this group. They need to ply them with weapons and money and set them loose. This is the only way to stymie and defeat al Qaeda. Right now al Qaeda has the advantage of momentum. That energy must be reversed.

Time is of the essence. And right now time is not on the side of Yemen.

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Iran To Enrich More
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 25, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Here is a peek into Iran's point of view on nuclear negotiations.

Yesterday the parliament in Iran began drafting legislation that would empower scientists to continue to enrich uranium in their new generation centrifuges.

There is a nuclear committee in the Iranian parliament and the spokesman, Hussein Naghavi Husseini, is quoted in the Iranian media
explaining the draft legislation.

He said: "This bill will allow the government to continue enrichment, using new generation centrifuges."
"The parliament's nuclear committee is working on the technical issues and details of this draft."

There is no doubt that the parliamentary committee is expressing the feeling of many Iranians and their leaders.

These politicians are not confident that an agreement with the West will benefit Iran. More than that -- they strongly believe that it is their inherent right to develop nuclear technology and the West has no place to limit that right.

For Iran it is an issue of pride and power.

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US Ban Embassy Workers from Israeli Public Transport
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 23, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv has issued a travel warning to all employees.

US Embassy employees are not permitted to use public transport or to come within 1.5 miles of the borders of Syria, Jordan or Lebanon without permission.

The statement from the US Embassy reads "Because of concerns about security on Israel's northern borders, US government personnel are currently required to obtain advance approval if they wish to travel within 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of the Lebanon border, or travel on or east of Route 98 in the Golan Heights."

Banning public transport is an exaggerated response.

No doubt terrorists have targeted public transportation, but public transport is a way of life in Israel. The suggestion that US embassy personnel are not safe while performing the most basic of Israeli daily activities is not just truly insulting to Israeli society, it is a total misunderstanding of the situation.

Barring personnel from approaching a hostile border makes sense. But shutting off employees from buses and the trains sends the wrong message. And it does not make them safer.

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Lone Wolf Terror in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 22, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

There was another lone wolf terror attack in Israel.

The perpetrator is a young Arab man from Tulkharam. He boarded a Tel Aviv bus and started stabbing - attacking 13 people. He ran and was shot in the leg by police as he attempted to escape. He was arrested.

The terrorist explained that he perpetrated the terror because of Israeli actions in Gaza over the summer. He said that he was excited by the internet videos he saw and by internet discussions about seeking revenge.

There are certain givens about lone wolf attackers against Israelis.
The lone wolf in Israel is almost always:

A young Arab man in his 20's or 30's.

Angry over a family member who was wounded, killed or interrogated by Israel.

The attack is often an initiation rite or an attempt to prove something.

The attacker is almost always illegally in Israel.

Lone wolves attack public transport because that is where Israelis are stationary - waiting for a bus or train, sitting and traveling. The public transport system makes Israelis easy targets for the lone wolf.

At this stage it is pretty clear who the "lone wolf" is. Now Israel needs to put a stop to the terror. It will take intel and a strong security presence.

Israel needs to advance its intelligence on people who illegally infiltrate the country. They need to stop them and watch them.

It is not an easy task, but Israel needs to clamp down on these lone wolves. And they need to do it soon.

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Hamas Building New Tunnels
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 21, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

We have known some of the details since the battle with Gaza ended.
Now we know more. More details and specifics that further our understanding - not conjecture, not hypothesis.

Since the end of the 50 day conflict, Hamas has been reconstructing, recreating and digging new tunnels.

Tunnels into Egypt. Tunnels into Israel. Tunnels within Gaza. Tunnels, tunnels and more tunnels. And with these new tunnels comes newer, more sophisticated technology.

According to Israeli intelligence Hamas learned from their experience in fighting Israel and they are applying those lessons in their new tunnels.

And Israel has begun to counter. The IDF engineering corps that focuses on these tunnels is called Yahalom (Diamond). Yahalom is adding hundreds of personnel to their unit. Not only is Israel significantly increasing the size of this specialized unit, they are also upgrading the status of its commander. The commander, once a Lt. Colonel, will now receive the rank of Colonel.

Israel must anticipate the technological advancements Hamas will use and develop strategies and practical devices that can defeat them.

This expanded engineering corps is essential.

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Israel Kills Iranian General in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday I discussed the Israeli attack on Syria that actually struck Hezbollah.

It is now clear, from Arab news reports and video, that 6 Hezbollah members were killed and 6 Iranians were killed including an Iranian general. Iran has confirmed his death.

The airstrike was not against a location or a base but against two vehicles, two SUVs. One was a Jeep Cherokee and one was a Kia Sorento. Both were travelling in the northern section of Quneitra, seven miles from the Israeli border.

The video shows that both vehicles totally destroyed. Burnt out and blown to bits. Just pieces remained. UN witnesses said that they saw two drones fire but news reports cite Hezbollah witnesses saying that an Israeli helicopter shot two missiles that destroyed the cars.

The difference between what we knew at first and what we know now is important. A strike against two vehicles with six people in each vehicle means a great deal. It means that these people were planning and plotting and sketching out responses to a potential attack by Israel on Iran. And the presence of an Iranian general seven miles from the Israeli border is very significant and is extremely telling.

That Israel knew and stopped the plot was very impressive.


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Israel Strikes Syria - Hits Hezbollah
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 19, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday, Israeli helicopter gunships hit a Hezbollah base located in Syria, on the border with Israel situated on the Golan Heights.
The target was large arsenals of missiles and rockets that could have endangered Israel.

One of the dead was the leader of Hezbollah strategy on the Golan, Jihad Moghniyeh. He was the son of one of the most important leaders of Hezbollah - their chief strategist Imad Moghniyeh, who was killed in 2008. Some say that the father, too, was killed by Israel - but the list of potential sponsors for the assassination of Moghniyeh senior is very long and it includes Saudi Arabia.

Will Hezbollah launch a large scale retaliation against Israel in response? No, they will not.

They will not do it even though only last week Hezbollah proclaimed that they were prepared to attack Israel. There may be some small responses, those can and should be expected, but no large reaction.

And why not? Because Iran has supplied Hezbollah with 10s of thousands of rockets to respond when Israel launches an attack on Teheran - but they are not to be used now.

In addition, there is no real justification for attacking Israel for striking at Hezbollah in the Syrian Golan Heights. After all, Hezbollah will have a difficult time justifying their response in defending Syria - and not southern Lebanon.

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Canada Stands w Israel Palestinians Egg FM
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 18, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

John Baird, Canada's Foreign Minister, went to Ramallah to meet his Palestinian counterpart Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malilki.
As soon as Baird stepped out of his vehicle, he was pelted with eggs and shoes.

Not a propitious moment! And certainly not what one would expect when greeting the leading Canadian diplomat who was venturing to Ramallah as part of an official visit to learn about the situation.

Want the back story? Unknown to most people, Canada has been a staunch supporter of Israel these past few years. Since Stephan Harper and his Conservative party took over the reins of leadership Canada has been a major bull-work in the international community explaining and lobbying for Israel's point of view.

What was unknown to the average reader was well known to Palestinian leadership - and certainly to the egg throwers.

Using his own words, here is how Canada's Prime Minister Harper described Israel. Calling Israel a "light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness" he said: "When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the 3 D's - it is a responsibility to stand up to them."

Canada stands strongly beside Israel and the eggers of Ramallah showed their disapproval.

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Belgium Suffers From Muslim Extremists Too
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 17, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

People have been asking me about Belgium . They want to know about the Islamic influence there.

I begin by saying that when in Brussels, I am more likely to speak Arabic than French.

But more importantly, after the series of anti-terror raids it should be pretty evident that Belgium has a significant number of organized radical Muslims. And it should come as only a small surprise to learn that the weapons purchased for the Paris terror attacks were procured in Belgium.

There are some important numbers to remember. Belgium estimates that 40 of their citizens have been killed in Syria fighting for ISIS.
They also estimate that another 170 Belgian citizens are there right now, in Syria, fighting for ISIS.

Each of these numbers has a name - so they are hardly estimates. I would guess that the real number is probably three times higher, making it 100 deaths and about 600 Belgians who can now be counted in the ranks of ISIS.

Many more Belgians hare returned home having already fought for their new-found cause. They return with training and proceed to recruit and train others.

The most devastating number of them all is this: for 18-25 year olds in Belgium, unemployment is over 50%. On a bad day, ISIS looks very good.

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Cyber Terror in France
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 16, 2015

I've been thinking:

In the week since France was thrown into the throes of a series of Muslim terror attacks, a new set of threats has enveloped the country.
In the course of one week 19,000 French websites have been hacked by cyber terrorists.

Muslim cyber terrorists have initiated a full court press on the internet - disrupting and destroying normal internet activity.

President Francois Hollande is trying to bring a sense of calm back to his country. He has addressed the Muslim community. He has reassured them that they are welcome. That France respects them.
That France respects Islam.

Hollande said -- "France is a friend, but it is a country that has rules, principles and values. One of them is not negotiable - freedom and democracy."

Hollande is trying to strike a balance. Using words, not actions, he hopes to convince the five million Muslims living in France that they need to fight for democracy.

In this effort, I believe that Hollande will be successful. But it is not peace-loving Muslims who are the problem - and that's the problem France must deal with.

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Conspiracies say Mossad Behind Paris Terror
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 15, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Conspiracies abound. Websites are spewing anti-Semitic rhetoric about the terror in Paris. Some sites and some media outlets have gone as far as to actually blame Israel and the Mossad for the terror. Believe it or not, many of the sites are hosted in the United States.

ADL has put together a very troubling collection of examples of people blaming Jews for the attacks.

Mark Glenn, a virulently anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, wrote on his blog The Ugly Truth that "the massacre in Paris as (sic) yet another False Flag event aimed at re-igniting and re-invigorating Judea's declared war against Islam."

One of the most disturbing pieces of this vitriol was published in an established media outlet in India, the International Business Times.
They outright claimed that the Mossad perpetrated the terror attacks in Paris. And then they admitted there was no proof.

"Although there is no way to verify the claims that Mossad was involved, the back-drop in which the attack took place seems to indicate that they might be involved, many conspiracy theorists have noted. Mossad is responsible for intelligence collection and has undertaken many covert operations for Israel in Europe that aim to further their Jewish cause."

In defense of the outlet, the article was pulled and a note was posted saying that the "article should never have been published."
One might expect these ideas in the Arab world but not from Jordan.
On January 8, the Rawafed News website which comes out of Jordan posted a piece by Assad al Azony titled "The Tragedy of Satirical Charlie Hebdo." The essential is this: "One must be certain that Jews and the French extreme right wing executed this terrorist attack."

One might expect that sentiment from some parts of the Arab world, but not from Jordan.

There is only one word to describe this material and these attitudes. Anti-Semitism. Weave together conspiracy theories and call them proof. It's classic. Classic anti-Semitism.

They weave together conspiracy theories and call it proof.


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Mistakes in France Helped Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 14, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

There were serious snafus in French intelligence gathering and security. The terror that devastated France may not have been perpetrated had intelligence and police acted differently.

The French neither tracked nor followed the terrorists - even though they possessed the knowledge that they were a serious security threat.

That was a sin of omission. It was something that France should have done, but did not do. And they also committed a sin of commission. French police did something that they should not have done. They did something that altered the course of terror.

When the terrorists left the offices of Charlie Hebdo they drove their car into a narrow alley where they got out to reload and to celebrate. They shouted in elation that they had ravaged Charlie Hebdo and avenged the Prophet. At that point a police cruiser came down the alley.

The terrorists assumed they would be shot at. But instead, after a few seconds, the police, ignoring the actions of the terrorists, sped backwards allowing the terrorist vehicle to pass.

The terrorists were shocked. They jumped back in their car and eased forward cruising out of the alley. After going nose to nose with the police cruiser, the brothers quickly turned left and sped away. The police car stood still the police were not in pursuit.

And thus began the massive national manhunt that ended two days and five innocent lives later. All the police had to do was not let the terrorist car turn. But instead, they let them turn.

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France Asked Bibi Not to Attend Rally
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 13, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

On Sunday Haaretz, the Israeli daily paper of record, sent out a screeching alert that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was going to Paris to participate in the rally - defying terrorism and standing in support of the fight against terror by honoring the 17 French victims, 4 of whom were Jews murdered in the kosher supermarket.

The kicker is that French President Hollande did not want Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to attend the rally. WOW!
Obviously, Netanyahu went anyway. And just as obviously, they came to an understanding.

Here are the probable reasons Hollande had for asking Netanyahu to keep out of his rally.

1- The presence of both Netanyahu and PA President Abbas might steal the show. The spotlight would shine on them and the lack of progress in their negotiations towards peace.

2- Netanyahu would arrive with a very large delegation and a very large security team. It would make the rally very difficult to manage securely.

3 - Netanyahu has been calling on French Jews to move to Israel as a result of the threat of terror and the flagrant anti-Semitism running rampant in France. This is a direct offence to the French who do not see the threat as substantial.

4 - Hollande and his advisers do not believe that terror in Israel can be paralleled to the terror they face in France. In Israel, they maintain, terror is understandable. It is political and, therefore, in their eyes it is justified. In France, the terror is Islamic.

Netanyahu speaks about the Western world working to together to confront the same threats. France would like to think that the Palestinian terror Israel is confronting is not the same as the threat they are facing.

In the end the French changed their minds. Israel played the victims card. How would it look if the prime minister of Israel announced that he was going to France and then changed his plans. How would it look if he was not at a rally in honor of 4 Jews brutally murdered in a kosher market and awaiting burial in Israel.

I'll tell you how it would look. It would look far worse than if the president or vice president of the United States was not there.

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France Not Mourning Death of Jews
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 12, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The French are not mourning the brutal murder of four Jews at the hands of a Muslim terrorist. They are mourning the loss of their own innocence.

The 17 people murdered by Muslims terrorists in Paris last week awakened France to the dangers of Islamic terror. Until now the French saw Islamic terror as an atrocious act reserved for Jewish targets. They were repulsed but did not act significantly to stymie the threat. There were a few rallies and politicians recited touching rhetoric. But there was little significant movement to combat the terror threats.

Once the attacks touched the fabric of French culture - the press, then the nation woke up.

France is not prepared to deal with the threat. Terrorists on the US "no fly list" were not even tracked in France. Even if they were tracking the terrorists the French could not and would not be able to tap their phones and computers or share the material with other countries to battle the terror.

The French need to change their laws. They need to realize that, in the current state of terrorist affairs, it is crucial to cooperate with others and to track their own threats inside their own country.

The alternative is now obvious, even to the French.

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French Terrorists Were ISIS- Video Proves
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 11, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

A video has emerged showing French terrorist of Algerian extraction, Amedy Coulibaly, pledging allegiance to ISIS and specifically to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS and the Caliph.

Since events unfolded on Wednesday analyst and columnists and talking heads have stubbornly refused to see the ISIS connection. They were all basing their assumptions on the past history of the Kouchi brothers, asserting that they were involved only in al Qaeda.

But things change - especially in the world of extremism. And for hard core extremists the more radical you become the more likely you are to seek out radical movements. When ISSI came around these French terrorists hit the web and created a club of like minded ISIS followers. They were certainly influenced by ISIS - and this video proves it.

In the video Coulibaly explained his connection to the Kouchi brothers saying: "We've done things a bit together, a bit apart, to try to and achieve more impact."

The terrorists were clearly linked. That is why Coulibaly demanded the release of the brothers and why he threatened to murder the hostages in the kosher supermarket if they were not released.

ISIS is not about membership, ISIS is about affiliation. It is crucial that we understand the difference. As soon as you click onto ISIS sites you are affiliated.

This is just one in a long list of examples demonstrating how little we understand ISIS and the people who will pick up the sword to fight their cause.

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A Muslim Challenges ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 10, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

For over a decade I have been calling for Muslims to stand up against extremism within Islam. Very few have taken up the challenge. Many Muslims are fearful of reprisal, petrified that they will be attacked verbally and physically.

And then, I discovered a convenience store manager in Minnesota named Ahmed. Ahmed is producing video shorts combating Muslim extremism. He is going it all alone. Each of his shorts cost about $4000. As says, he is addressing one issue at a time. His audience is small.

ISIS, on the other hand, produced a 55 minute long format video that went viral. Called the "The Flames of War" it is all over the internet. ISIS inspires young people to join the cause and fight the West.

So Ahmed from Minnesota decided to create a 76 second short called "The Flames of Hell." It is a cartoon that depicts a Muslim who is shooting captives, all of whom are bound, in the desert. The cartoon asks: "How many innocent children, women and men has the Islamic State killed today? Do you want to save mankind or kill mankind? Your choice!" In the background is the echo of gunfire.

All the videos Ahmed creates end with the expression "Peace Up, Extremist Thinking Down" and all the characters give a thumbs up and a thumbs down. He uses the Koran in his videos in an effort to disprove the much more slick media produced by al Qaeda and ISIS.

Over the last few months the short videos received a few thousand views on Youttube. That can be considered a modest success. Ahmed from Minnesota is fighting a long, uphill battle. A large number of kids from Minnesota have run off to Somalia and Iraq and Syria to fight.

Ahmed needs to make more videos. And more people need to watch them.

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Paris Terorists Were ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 9, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Much has been written and reported about the horrific terror attack in Paris.

The terrorists are said to be from al Qaeda - but that is not so clear. One of the terrorists, Charif Kouachi, was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 for recruiting and organizing people to join all Qaeda and fight for the cause.

But between the years 2008 and 2015, ISIS emerged and many groups and many organizers went from al Qaeda to ISIS.

It is more than probable that the Kouachi brothers started as al Qaeda and ended up as part of ISIS.

Al Qaeda has a loosely knit organizational structure in Europe. Al Qaeda sends commands through the internet. They have coded communications. The hierarchy of leadership draws up plans and then recruits are vetted and terrorists are trained and selected to implement those plans.

ISIS is not a membership organization in Europe. ISIS trained their people in combat in Iraq and Syria. Then they sent them home to wreak havoc. If they frequented ISIS websites -- they were ISIS.

That seems to be how this heinous attack unraveled in Paris.

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Rand Paul Says Stop Funding PA
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 8, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Senator Rand Paul, who will almost certainly throw his hat in the ring as a Republican presidential contender, submitted a bill to the Senate to immediately stop all aid to the Palestinians.

He said:
"We are currently sending roughly $400 million of US taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority."

"Certainly, groups that threaten Israel cannot be allies of the US; I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure this president and this Congress stop treating Israel's enemies as American allies."

The Leahy bill already makes it illegal for the United States to give any money to the Palestinians if they bring Israel before the International Criminal Court, the ICC. Some say joining the Court is the first stage of that process, others say it is only after April 1 when Palestinians actually become members of the Court that they will have stepped over the boundary of what the US considers acceptable behavior, and still others say it is only after they submit legal papers outlining the complaint.

Senator Paul is proposing stop the aid now - without a discussion on when the Palestinians actually violate the existing Leahy law.

As a rule, Rand Paul is against foreign aid but he knows that it is necessary - sometimes. Here is a perfect example of why aid should sometimes be stopped.

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ISIS: An Eye For An Eye
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 7, 2015

I've been Thinking:

ISIS is known for decapitations..

They have decapitated countless numbers of people. In Syria, one of the most prominent ISIS leaders responsible for those beheading was known as the Deputy Emir of the Hesbah Force.

He is now dead - decapitated. What poetic justice that was.
Imagine the surprise - or perhaps even relief, when the discovery was made and then reported to the public. The body was found near a power plant. There were signs of torture.

This was a message to ISIS, there should be no doubt about that. Victims of ISIS cruelty were saying that they, too, are capable of great brutality. They were saying that they will seek revenge against ISIS torture and beheadings using the same methods that ISIS uses against them and their families and communities.

It is the Koranic equivalent of Exodus 21:24 "an eye for an eye."
The Koran says in Surat al Maidah 5:45 "And we ordained for them therein a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds is legal retribution. But whoever gives [up his right as] charity, it is an expiation for him. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the wrongdoers."

The message was heard but it is not convincing. Why? --- Because ISIS knows that they are far more brutal than their victims will ever be.

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Israel Slows Electricity to Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 6, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Israel Electric Company (IEC) is slowing the flow of electricity to Gaza. They are not shutting off the electricity - just slowing it down. Israel says that Gaza owes them 1.7 billion NIS, which is just about $400 million.

Gaza may get electricity from Israel, but the agreement and the bill go to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel is also with holding $120 million per month of tax money that it owes the Palestinian Authority.

According to a treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, all Palestinian imports that come into Israel are taxed by Israel and at the end of the month Israel is supposed to hand over the tax money to the PA.

Once the Palestinians decided to join the international criminal court -- Israel decided that as of January 1, 2015 they would not be handing over the tax money.

Several times a year, as a form of punishment for various transgressions, Israel decides to withhold the taxes for a few weeks, and then, a few weeks later, they deliver the money.

In this case as in others, after a few days or weeks Israel will hand over the tax money. But Israel will probably keep some of the money back to defray the 1.7 billion shekels that is owed to the Israel Electric Company.

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Revote in Sec Council on Palestinian State
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 5, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians confirmed several items over this past weekend.

First, Palestinians President Mahmoud Abbas made a public statement confirming that the Palestinian will ask Jordan to resubmit a resolution to the United Nations Security Council to vote on Palestinian statehood.

Second, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said that they will be submitting two cases to the ICC in The Hague.

"The two main files will be the aggression against Gaza and the settlement file, since this is a continuous crime."

It is not clear that these cases will be heard by the ICC court - and not just because of the political aspects. The Court tends to steer clear of certain unresolved issues and, in this case, the Court can also easily side with Israel.

The Court has, in the past, made clear distinctions between civilians killed in acts of self defense and the targeting of civilians when there is evidence that they were defending themselves.

Now we wait.

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PA Puts A Noose next to Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 4, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Today on the Fatah - Palestinian Authority facebook page, on their main page, a picture of the Israeli prime Minister was posted. In the picture Benjamin Netanyahu was shown wearing the red uniform of a condemned prisoner, dangling next to his head was a hangman's noose.
The accompanying Arabic text read: in the near future.

Creating and posting this picture unveils for us exactly what the PA and Abbas are telling their people. The Palestinian Authority is gunning for Netanyahu and for Israel.

The objective of Palestinian leadership in going to the International Criminal Court in The Hague is to bolster Palestinian pride by bringing Israel before the ICC.

The problem Palestinian leadership may face is that the ICC may not take the case - and then the PA will be open to prosecution in its own right.

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Harper Collins Wipes Israel Off Map
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 3, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Arab world has found another way to wipe Israel off the map. And Harper Collins helped them do it. Literally.

In the Harper Collins atlas for English speaking schools in the Middle East, Israel is missing from the map. Yes, Harper Collins they did not put Israel on the map. According to their representative it was because of "local preferences."

Since the story became public, however, Harper Collins has issued a statement and destroyed all remaining maps.

"HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas. This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologizes for this omission and for any offense caused."

See the map here: click

What kind of world do we live in where the reason given for Israel being removed from the map was that it would offend the locals - with no concern for distorting the truth or eliminating facts. Facts and truth tend to fall by the wayside, at least in the world occupied by Harper Collins.

In the end Harper Collins realized their error and corrected it. In the end they realized that they had published a blatant untruth.
So much for fact checkers and editors.


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Palestinians and the UN
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 2, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians have really climbed up a very high tree. In order to get down, they will need assistance.

We know that most countries in the world support the Palestinians and their push for a state. But they really mucked up the support they have been gathering around the world with the ill thought out and poorly planned proposal they had the Jordanians present on their behalf to the UN Security Council.

Plain and simple the Palestinians want a state. And they want that state without going through the trauma and drama of negotiating with Israel. Now, at the same time the Israelis want negotiations, but negotiations that will not in the end create a state.

The Palestinians were not thinking clearly. It is not good enough to have the support of most of the world. There are still procedures and diplomatic rules to adhere to in order to achieve the ultimate goal of statehood. One cannot trounce up the rules and still hope to get the support of those who created the rules.

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Iran Has More Men Fighting ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 1, 2015

I've Been Thinking:

Deputy head of the Iranian elite unit called the Revolutionary Guards announced yesterday that Iran has more forces fighting ISIS than does Hezbollah.

General Hossein Salami said that the number of their Guard soldiers in Iraq and Syria far outnumbers the soldieries that Hezbollah has sent over. His point was to say that Iran is actively fighting ISIS on the ground. And he was explaining why a Guards Brigadier General was killed earlier in the week in Iraq while confronting ISIS.

To get some perspective, the best estimates we have are that when Hezbollah was actively fighting ISIS in Syria they had 15,000 fighters there. And those fighters made a difference. Hezbollah swayed the tide of the conflict and successfully brought the momentum over to the Assad side.

Iran wants everyone to know that the United States created a coalition for air strikes against ISIS. But everyone knows that real transformation can only happen with forces on the ground. And indeed, that is what happened. Iran put boots on the ground to try to root out ISIS.

I would bet - and it is certainly not beyond the realm of possible, that we will see US aircraft laying down cover for Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen as they battle ISIS.

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UN Sec Council Rejects Palestinian State
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 31, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The United Nations Security Council voted to reject a resolution that would have created a Palestinian state twelve months from now.

Rejection of this resolution should be viewed as a major misstep by the supporters of a Palestinian state. Even those in favor of the state could not actually support the resolution as it was written.

The major supporters of the resolution were hoping to force the vote and the issue by embarrassing those countries who say that they support a Palestinian state but who would really vote against it.

In order to pass, the resolution needed nine votes. If it would have gotten the necessary nine the United States or the United Kingdom would have been forced into using their veto to stop the resolution.

In the end the vote was 8 for, 2 against, 5 abstentions.

The eight countries voting in favor of the motion were China, France, Russia, Argentina, Chad, Chile, Jordan, Luxembourg. The two countries opposing the resolution were the United States and Australia. The five abstentions belonged to the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Nigeria, Korea, Rwanda.

Imagine--- the resolution was so ill thought out and planned that even countries like the US and the UK could not support it. The deadline is what did the resolution in. Even if a state was not created within the year, it would still, automatically, be recognized by the Security Council.

That is so out of touch with the way the international conducts itself that even the UK, the US and Nigeria had to reject it.

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ISIS Interview w/ Jordanian Pilot
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS released an interview with the Jordanian pilot they shot down last week.

The interview was in Dabiq magazine.

Dabiq is a very appropriate name for an ISIS periodical whose is to inspire followers and convince would be and wannabe followers to join the cause.

Dabiq is a town in Syria. But more importantly, in Islamic eschatology Dabiq is the central location of the final battle and the end of days.

It is the Muslim equivalent to Megiddo.

The interview with the Jordanian pilot, First Lieutenant Muadh al-Kasasbeh, has him describing how his F-16 was shot down on Wednesday by a heat-seeking missile near the Islamic State group's regional capital Raqaa in Syria. That to this day the U.S. denies is even possible.

This is a huge PR success for ISIS. And they have plastered it on the glossy cover of their new magazine.

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Iran General Killed by ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards announced on Sunday that one of their commanders was killed in Iraq while aiding the Iraqis in the battle against ISIS.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards is an elite military unit. The Guard is a serious political and economic force. They control almost every aspect of Iranian society.

The Guards announced that "Brigadier General Hamid Taghavi was martyred during a mission to advise the army and Iraqi volunteers ... in the city of Samarra."

Samarra is about 70 miles north of Iraq's capital, Baghdad.
Over the past year there have been several reports that Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel have been killed while fighting ISIS and reports that some have even captured by ISIS or al Qaeda. But this is by far the most senior person in the Guards to have been killed.

That old adage about "the enemy of my enemy" is alive and well and at play in the war against ISIS and al Qaeda. Thankfully.

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ISIS Executed 2000 Since July
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Since July ISIS has executed nearly 2,000 people - most of them civilians. But thousands is too nebulous for the gravity of the killings and the levels of depravity and brutality ISIS exercises almost every single day. Let's examine one specific incident.

The figures come from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory is the most reliable agency on the ground, in the region, and we quote their figures with great confidence. Home based in London, the Observatory relies on locals and has a network of checkers to confirm their findings.

930 ISIS victims were fellow Sunni Muslims from the tribe and area of Sheitat located in Eastern Syrian. The reason for the massacre was twofold. The tribe of Sheitat has been fighting ISIS since ISIS first appeared on their turf. More recently, the groups were engaged in a heavily pitched battle for control of two oil fields. In the end, ISIS defeated Sheitat. In order to make the point clear to all who followed the battle and to intimidate anyone who might challenge ISIS, nearly 1,000 civilians were butchered in August.

And then ISIS executed 120 of their own fighters. Why would they murder their own?

All of the 120 fighters were foreign fighters. And they all were planning on returning to their homes. Once again, ISIS murdered in order to drive home a point. You do not go home, not unless you have orders to do so. If you plan to return home you are traitor, and traitors are publicly executed.

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Iran Shows US Their Weapons
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iran claims it is in the midst of the largest military maneuver in their history.

The Iranians are saying that this maneuver is taking place over six days, on land, air and sea, using 13000 personnel and covering 2.2 million square kilometers.

The general in charge of the operation, General Hasham Allah Malka, said that the exercise is an "Important message of peace to our friendly neighbors, but also a show of force regarding our defense abilities which sends a message to our enemies."

The operation is called "Mohammed Rasoulallah" which means, "Mohammed the Messenger of God."

The maneuver will cover sea areas in the Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Aden. Iran has been active in the Gulf of Aden in the battle against the rise of piracy that has plagued that region. The entire exercise, which will conclude on December 30, will end with a parade.

When Iran presents its weapons and its military, we must sit up and watch very carefully. We must compare what the Iranians say is happening with what our intel is telling us and with what the Iranians have said in the past.

We try to correctly assess the capabilities of Iran. We can never take their pronouncements at face value.

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ISIS Downs an F-16 - A Big Victory
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It was a huge feather in the cap, make that kaffiyah, of ISIS when they successfully shot down an F-16 fighter jet yesterday, a jet that was part of the US led coalition against them.

The US-made fighter jet went down in the area of Raqqa in Syria. It was piloted by a Jordanian pilot who has been captured by ISIS and ISIS forces are cheering and celebrating. The pictures do not look good.

Raqqa is a major center of ISIS. In Raqqa ISIS has crucified Christian children for not fasting on Ramadan. They have decapitated men for the crime of being members of "the wrong family."

The downing of a coalition fighter jet is a huge psychological victory for ISIS. It might just be victory enough to mollify the pain of defeat ISIS forces suffered earlier this week when Kurdish Peshmerga fighters forced them out of a vast area around Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq. Fighting in that area is now going back and forth.
The pendulum swings.

The fact that it was an Arab piloting the downed jet, that ISIS now has an Arab as captive, makes the ISIS maneuver even more potent. You see, as much as ISIS is fighting the West they are also fighting other Muslims.

It is very simple. ISIS wants everyone to convert to their version of Islam. Not just Westerners. Even other Arabs. Everyone.

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Polls in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I have been repeating over and over that the Israeli elections will take place on March 17 - and that is just over 10 weeks away. I keep repeating myself because, for Israeli elections, ten weeks is a huge span of time.

There are polls coming out and while it is important to look at them, they in no way show what will happen mid March. These polls are important in terms of movement and ideas and followers.

The secondary questions the pollsters are asking are very important. Polls often ask which party you would vote for and then, they ask whom do you think is the best person to be prime minster or who is best equipped to be prime minister.

In the most recent polls Labor and Likud looked about tied 22 - 21.
The party of Naftali Bennet, Jewish Home, looks to jump from 12 to 17 seats. The party of Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid, will probably drop to 10 seats.

But when asked which leader would be a better prime minister Netanyahu overwhelmingly won 38 - 32. And then when asked who was best equipped Netanyahu won again, 30 - 22.

Again it is far too early for any of this to mean much. But it is essential that we look carefully and watch for changes as the campaign develops.


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ISIS in France
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Look at the last three days in France.

On Saturday, in Paris, a man stabbed and wounded three police officers while he shouted, in Arabic, "AllaHu Akbar," which means God is Great.

On Sunday, in the city of Dijon, a man rammed his car into a crowd injuring thirteen people while he shouted, in Arabic, "AllaHu Akbar."

On Monday, in the western city of Nantes, the sixth largest city in France and the city known as the Venice of the West, a man drove a van into a Christmas market wounding ten people, five of them very seriously while he shouted, in Arabic, "AllaHu Akbar." In this case, after he stopped, the man stabbed himself.

These attacks were all, plainly and clearly, stimulated by the ISIS. The attacks were perpetrated during the Christmas season in the hope of striking fear into the hearts of the community.

These attacks are modeled after the car terror in Israel and they are fueled by the social media of ISIS.

We are going to see many more of these attacks in France and throughout Europe. Be prepared.

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ISIS Pushed back
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday there was some good news about the battle against ISIS.
Kurdish fighters, called the Peshmerga, forced ISIS out of a 2500 square mile area around the Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq.

The Peshmerga brought in 10,000 fighters and then an addition 350. Together with US fighter jets, they forced ISIS out. Local can now, finally, come home. Most of the people who had been displaced were Yazidis - tens of thousands were living in transit camps with no water.

Peshmerga means "those who confront death" in Kurdish. It should be clear that when you join the Peshmerga you are expected to fight to the death.

This recent victory against ISIS brings with it great hope. The area around the Mount Sinjar is large. Now the allies and the Peshmerga must work together to expand control and to slowly and progressively continue to oust ISIS

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Syria Making Local Truces
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iran's powerful speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani is on a visit to Syria where he met with Syrian President Bashar Asad.

Assad told Larijani that Syria is in favor of developing small, local, regional treaties as a way to ease, if not bring about a total cessation, of civil war in Syria.

The principle behind the instituting of treaties is that local leaders, even leaders who oppose Assad, will come to an agreement about local resources and security. It really would be mutually beneficial to break the area down into regions controlled by tribal leaders - that way all sides are satisfied, but with some reservations.

For obvious reasons, the two groups which would be left out of these treaty agreements are al Qaeda / al Nusra and ISIS. They are what Assad calls the terrorists.

Iran was very pleased to hear about the Assad plan and the potential for alleviating much of the internal conflict fueling the Syrian civil war. If the plan progresses as Assad hopes it will, it will demonstrate a clearer identification of ISIS and al Qaeda / al Nusra as the enemy.

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2% of Peldges to PA Have Been Paid
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Months ago donors gathered in Egypt and pledged $5.4 billion to help rebuild Gaza. The pledges far exceeded the expectations. That was not surprising.

And since then, almost no one has paid their pledges and those that did come in were for only a fraction of the promise. Once again, as
I always say, this is not a surprise.

Thus far of the $5.4 billion only $100 million has been paid and that was by the United States and the European Union. That comes to about 2% of the pledges. And those were monies already in the pipeline.
Qatar promised $1 billion, the Saudis $500 million.

Now, we also know that the supplies that have been delivered to Gaza are either in storage waiting for proper supervision or they have been stolen and Hamas is using them to rebuild tunnels and create new ones.

Of the pledges, 50% was to go to rebuilding and the other 50% was to go to bolster the Palestinian economy.

Recent history of donor conferences and pledges has taught us that the only group that actually fulfills pledges and pays on time is the United States. And that is the only reason that the United States still has influence in the region.

The Palestinians cannot run to the highest bidder because the bidder may not pay, may not pay on time or may not pay the pledged amount.
Welcome to the Middle East.

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Did Israel Infiltrate Inner Circle of Hezbollah
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The name of the Israeli double agent inside Hezbollah was divulged by Al Jazeera. His name is Mohammed Shurba. Shurba lived in Southern Lebanon. He was head of foreign operations and at one point was even in charge of Hassan Nassrallah's security detail.

When the announcement first came out saying that Hezbollah had captured an Israeli spy, they gave only the letter M as his name.
Reports are that Hezbollah followed Shurba to business meetings and witnessed him meeting with his Israeli handlers. It was at first unclear that the reports were actually true because, in the past, Hezbollah declared on more than one occasion that they had rooted out spies. But this report rings more true than previous reports.

If this really is true, it will be a great loss for Israeli intel.
This highly placed and reliable resource helped prevent massive terror attacks against Israel and aided in assassinating numerous terror leaders.

Here is the remarkable piece. If true, that means that Israel successfully infiltrated Hezbollah at the very highest levels possible. They had a double agent in place, since 2008, in the inner circle of Hezbollah.

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2 15 Yr Old Brits on Flight to ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

At a London airport a flight was stopped on the runway as it was about to take off.

On board were two 15 year old girls from East London who has saved up their own money to fly to Istanbul and from there, they were planning to cross over the border into Syria.

One of the girls was detained and brought back home by the police and she will be dealt with by the proper authorities. But the other 15 year old escaped before the police arrived. She will certainly be found.

The girls are minors so the law will be more lenient on them. If charges are proffered against them, the law will certainly treat them as minors. But affiliating with a terror organization is a serious charge - even for a minor.

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Al Qaeda Takes a Main Route in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It was two days of non-stop battle and in the end 100 Syrian soldiers were killed and 80 al Qaeda al Nusra fighters were killed.
When the fighting stopped control of the strategic base in Wadi Deif which controls the central artery between Damascus in the South and Aleppo in the north switched hands.

Now the essential base is in the hands of al Qaeda which not only killed 100 Syrian soldiers but also captured 120 Syrian soldiers.

These numbers and many details come to us courtesy of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British group which has been the eyes and ears of the West in Syria.

This strategic base is an essential site in Syria. Whoever controls Wadi Deif has control of almost all trade and transport in Syria. Al Qaeda now has that control. But I predict that within the next week Syrian land forces and the Syrian air force will launch a campaign to retake the base.

Assad cannot allow that route to be shut down and he cannot permit the south of Syria to be cut off from the north.

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ISIS is Behind the Australian Kidnapping
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS and the West - so complicated and yet, so very simple.
ISIS wants to invade the West and destroy it. But Islam is multi layered and complex. Sunnis hate Shiites and Shiites hate Sunnis.

When a Shiite refugee from Iran kidnaps Australians and demands an ISIS Sunni flag, even we in the West should get recognize that things are not so simple.

The Lindt Cafe terrorist, Man Haron Monis, was inspired by ISIS.
There is no doubt about it. To deny that is to both be deceived and to deny our potential to properly protect ourselves from ISIS terror.
ISIS is not just about weapons and beheadings. ISIS has created a huge web and social network presence. ISIS Youtube videos are impressive and they inspire young people to join their mission in the West.

ISIS wants to take over the West from within. They promise their followers respect, wealth success, sex and power. And their followers believe ISIS.

That is what happened in Australia.

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Palestinians Move at UN Security Council
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 15,2014

I've Been Thinking:

On Wednesday Jordan, a member of the United Nations Security Council, will submit a proposal for Palestinian statehood.

The draft resolution for Palestinian statehood was crafted jointly by Jordan and The Arab League. The resolution contains two elements - one of them is a deadline. By November, 2016 a Palestinian state will emerge with United Nations recognition.

The second element in the resolution is that the new state will be located within the pre 1967 borders.

This resolution will go into effect regardless of whether a negotiated resolution is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.

Everyone, supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestinian statehood alike, are wondering what the United States will do.

Will the United States use their veto? Or will the United States articulate its frustration with Israel and support Palestinian statehood by fiat and not through negotiations?

Wednesday is the day.

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Hamas Celebrates
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas held a rally earlier today. They were celebrating the 27th anniversary of their creation.

For the rally, Hamas brought out their rockets and their elite teams. Hamas even paraded their naval commandos for all the public to see. At the end of the rally a blurry figure was shown - and Hamas asserted that it was Mohammed Deif, who Israel claimed to have killed in August. Deif was head of the Hamas military wing. As he was paraded out, an old speech of his was played.

Thousands of people, including children, marched and thousands more came to watch. For Hamas It was a huge propaganda show. Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Hamas military wing said, "Hamas was able to stop the ambitions of the Zionist enterprise and because of that, it is today on the verge of collapsing and disappearing."

Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya, shouted "After 27 years, Hamas holds aircraft and holds the sea. It has the ability to penetrate the enemy by sea, land and air. Anyone who thinks that Israel is here to stay is wrong. All of Palestine is Islamic land and no one will share it. Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine and the center of the conflict."

Propaganda is war, too.

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Hamas Tests Long Range Rockets
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas fired 3 rockets into the Mediterranean Sea earlier today. Last month they fired 4 test rockets. In October they shot test rockets two times, once into the sea and once into the Egyptian desert in Sinai. They also conducted a few tests in September.

Hamas shoots the rockets and then their spotters, positioned in likely strategic positions, watch to see where each rocket lands.

The Israeli security defense system is set up to sound alarms whenever a rocket is launched - even if it does not land in Israel.

The rockets Hamas is test shooting are M-302 rockets. They are mostly homemade, based on a Syrian design that was given to Hezbollah. They have a significant range and can hit as far as Haifa.

The head of Hezbollah named the rocket Khaiybar. Khaiybar is a dessert oasis about 70 miles east of Medina in Arabia. It features prominently in Islamic tradition. Khaiybar was a town mostly inhabited by Jews. The Jews living there rejected the teachings and prophecy of Mohammed and so they were slaughtered in what is called the Battle of Khaiybar.

The choice of weapon should be no surprise, neither is the choice of name for this weapon. Hamas is not just rebuilding, they are testing and improving their systems.

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Germany Clamping Down on Jihadis
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

This week a court in Frankfurt convicted a German homegrown jihadist of membership in ISIS. The trial went on for four years.

Another trial is taking place in Stuttgart. A Lebanese German is being tried for joining ISIS in Syria and then returning to Germany to get medical supplies and weapons.

These are the first two legal cases in Germany, trying Germans, for membership in ISIS. Germany is very concerned about this radicalization. They know that many young people have joined the fight for ISIS and they know that many more support that fight.
German federal prosecutors are investigating 83 people and regional prosecutors are investigating another 100. The estimate is that 550 Germans are fighting for ISIS right now, 60 have been killed and another 200 have returned to Germany.

How Germany is going to stem the tide towards ISIS is a real challenge. The speed of the radicalization in Germany has been dizzying. But if nothing is done to stop it, Germany will be facing an even bigger problem as soon as next year.

Kudos to Germany for tackling the problem head on.

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Iran Upset at Price of Oil
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Since June oil prices have fallen more than 40% to under $70 per barrel.

OPEC has decided to keep output the same and not play with the supply or demand side of the price curve.
Iran is very upset.

The Iranians submitted their budget for next year and they are reducing their expectation of oil profits. They are relying on less oil profits because of the drop in price. As a result, less of their budget will be oil based. Oil sale profits will be less substantial for Iran.

Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani explained that the new budget, especially in issues of national infrastructure, will receive significantly less capital from oil profits.

Rouhani told his cabinet that the cause was "conspiracy against the interests of the region, the Muslim people and the Muslim world."

He was referring to many groups - but his primary target was Saudi Arabia which was the most significant force within OPEC making certain that oil output did not dip.

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It was Anti Semitism
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The stabbing of a Jewish man sitting and studying in a synagogue in Brooklyn, NY is a horrific act.

Authorities do not want to label act as either terror or as anti-Semitism. In their eyes those labels could potentially inflame the community - and they are trying to calm the community.
But it was anti - Semitism. The stabbing cannot and should not be interpreted any other way.

Even if Calvin Peters, the perpetrator of this act of anti-Semitic targeting and terror, was homeless or bipolar or arrested 19 times - shouting the words "kill the Jews" and stabbing a Jew in a synagogue is anti-Semitic.

His actions spoke as loud as his words. Peters came in and out of the place of worship. When he came back in, he started stabbing and shouting. He chose a target that was Jewish. Peters came from Valley Stream. Valley Stream is on Long Island, it is a significant journey from there to Brooklyn. He did not stab anyone in Valley Stream.

NY authorities have been playing down the terror and the anti-Semitic side of events of late. NY and US authorities have difficulty calling any lone wolf a terror attack - by their definition, the act
needs to be organized before it can be labeled an act of terror.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

This attack is different from the brutal stabbing in a synagogue in Jerusalem - but it did not happen in a vacuum. The Jerusalem terrorists claim to have been politically and religiously motivated, they professed the credo of Hamas. The Brooklyn, NY terrorist is, perhaps, emotionally unstable, but he clearly knew that he was attacking Jews. Knives were used in both attacks. And where did
Calvin Peters come up with the idea of bringing a knife to a synagogue - knives are not commonly used as the weapons of choice in the United States when the attacker does not personally know the victim.

We must face the facts and call these attacks what they are. They are, both the attack in New York and the attack in Jerusalem, violent anti-Semitic acts.

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Hamas Delegation in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A delegation of high level Hamas leaders touched down in Iran on Monday morning for meetings that are scheduled to takes place over the next few days.

The meetings are being called a new chapter in Iranian Hamas relations. The Hamas leaders are expected to meet with numerous Iranian leaders.

This is a very important trip. Iran wants to be the supporters of Hamas. They want a foothold in Sunni society in the Palestinian world and in the greater Arab world. There is a natural tension between Sunni and Shiites. But Hamas needs the money that Iran can give them and they are willing to push that difference aside in order to receive the badly needed support.

As a rule, the Islamic world sees Iran as a pariah. The Iranians are not part of the mainstream of Islamic world leadership. But Iran has a plan to move themselves into world Islamic leadership. Part of that plan includes being the benefactor or sponsors - and even the protector of the Palestinians.

Iran has big plans for this relationship.

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What Arab Leaders Think of Bibi
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I just read a fascinating and insightful piece about the upcoming Israeli elections. The piece was written from the point of view of the halls of leadership in the Arab world. In other words, what are they saying in the palaces. What do the kings and emirs think about the upcoming elections in Israel.

The overall consensus as expressed by the piece is that the entire Arab world would like current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fail and be replaced with a Labor/Lapid moderate government.

From Egypt to Jordan to Saudi Arabia all the palaces of power despise Netanyahu the article reported.

While it is clear the Arab world can wish for whatever they want, in the real world there is almost no scenario in which Netanyahu does not, once again, emerge as prime minister of Israel.

It is almost a waste of time to consider the alternatives. Certainly the palaces of the Middle East have the money to get better analysis. Tsk, tsk. As I said, it was a fascinating and insightful read - but also very off base.

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Israel Strikes Syria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday December 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Media reports and the internet have been lit up about two Israeli strikes against military sites near Damascus.

The reports ran on Hezbollah, Syrian, Lebanese and even Christian websites. All the reports are spin-offs using the same material, just rehashing it. The most important points are that no one was hurt and that the sites were located outside Damascus.

Other intelligence says that the sites stored S-300 rockets. S-300s are the Russian made and Iranian marketed rockets with a range of up to 150 miles. They are a serious threat to Israel both from Syrian and from Hezbollah. Their launcher is very large. It looks like a very long and wide tube that sits on the ground or on the back of a semi truck. The rockets themselves are very large, 23-25-feet long.
They weigh about 4000 lbs and carry a 400 lb warhead.
Israel will neither confirm nor deny that they struck the depot of weapons. But all indications appear that this is an Israeli operation.

Israel needs to always prune back the technology and the abundance of sophisticated weapons that her enemies procure but they cannot destroy all weapons. These actions do not eliminate the weapons - they just make certain that Hezbollah does not have too many of them. This is a very different kind of defense.

The principle is -- the fewer sophisticated weapons the less likely you are to use them.

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Danish Court Convicts Muslim of Incitement
By Micah Halpern

Saturday December 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The other day, in Copenhagen, a Danish court ruled that inciting terror included statements on facebook accounts.

A Danish bookseller, originally from Morocco, named Sam Monsour posted "We are all terrorists, and we are proud." Monsour and his lawyer argued that it was free speech in a free country and they actually drew the parallel to the Danish cartoonists that lampooned the prophet Mohammed.

There are several huge issues at hand. One might expect this reaction from a book seller - but the lawyer should know better.
Lampooning a historical figure, regardless of how venerated, is a clear issue of free speech. The fact that people were insulted by a cartoon does not violate an issue of free speech. Being insulted is not one of the rules used to limit free speech. That is just disrespect and poor taste.

However, preaching hatred and inciting violence _ that needs to be reined in by the law.

So the Danish court is correct.

There is some latitude. The court could have ruled that it was freedom of speech simply because Monsour was on line and was siding with the terrorists.

But given the environment in Europe at this very moment, the court felt that they had to stem the tide of public affinity with terror.
The court made a clear connection between public affinity and the support of terror and the terror itself.

This should be the direction courts take regarding terror in all Western democracies. Publicly supporting acts of terrorism is a form of incitement to terror. Publicly supporting terror justifies the destructive acts of terror.

And that should never be condoned or allowed.

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Good Part of Elections
By Micah Halpern

Friday December 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

March 17 is the day new elections will be held in Israel.

Israeli elections have always been a fascinating blend, a combination of pathos and humor. This election will be no exception. Old parties die, new parties emerge, large parties shrink and traditional parties break up.

Over the next three months we will see a slew of ads and jingles and bumper stickers portraying the ideals, visions and foibles of each party.

Beyond the failed parties and the arrogance, however, something great emerges. Israelis will spend the next three months debating and discussing the priorities of their state.

That discussion is enormously positive.

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Ugly New Anti Semitism
By Micah Halpern

Thursday December 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

In Moscow yesterday a Jewish student was brutally beaten just outside his yeshiva. Literally, he was 20 yards from the entrance of the school. Three attackers armed with brass knuckles beat him in the head and caused serious damage.

During the beating they shouted terrible anti- Semitic slurs. The attackers took no money.

Add to this two more cases of blatant and evil anti-Semitism that took place in the past two weeks. A Jewish man in Antwerp was stabbed. And a Jewish woman was raped near Paris.

These attacks were all clearly anti- Semitic.

What is essential to understand is that Jews are feeling threatened all over the world - and even in Western countries that were once host to the rise of Western freedoms.

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Why Bibi Is Going For Elections
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday December 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It seems that early elections will be taking place in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu has already fired many of his ministers and pulled his support from the Cabinet.

According to sources, elections will take place on March 17. The heads of the various parties need to be consulted and the date will be selected.

I am going to let you in on a big secret. There is no need for this upcoming election. Netanyahu could have kept the coalition together. There will be an election because Netanyahu wants an early election. He wants to reshuffle his coalition - to bring in the ultra orthodox and oust the moderates.

Now here comes a bigger secret. Netanyahu is constantly conducting polls for internal consumption only, what are called internal polls.
The prime minister has devoted or, better yet, invested a small fortune in polling. There is never too much polling info. Suffice it to say that the current prime minister would never even engage in election talk unless he had very positive polling information.

Netanyahu is hoping for the implosion of several of the new parties.
He is assuming that he will hold on to or even gain some of the seats that will be the casualties of the implosion. Even if he drops a seat or two, Netanyahu will be fine as long as no other party gains seats.

Even before his present government comes to an official end, Bibi Netanyahu has a very good sense of what the next political landscape will look like. And it pleases him.

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New Elections in Israel?
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday December 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

People in Israel are talking about national elections.

Analysts are saying that the prime minister is floundering and that the final straw is that the finance minister and he have come to an impasse.

The problem with this analysis… which is correct ... is that it assumes that there will be a reshuffle with a new election.

Yes there will be a reshuffling - but not with the traditional parties. If there were an election tomorrow there is no doubt that the big losers would be the new parties. It is the new parties which would suffer the most.

The current leading party, Likud, may lose some seats but Likud would still be the party to beat and Likud would be the winning party.

Other than Likud, there really is no party or leader on the horizon. The parties which want to flex their muscles and apply pressure to pull down the government in a vote of no confidence would actually be weakening their own current political power and their own positions.


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Abbas Provokes Again
By Micah Halpern

Monday December 1, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas made a provocative announcement to the Arab media yesterday.

Abbas proclaimed that Hamas and Israel are conducting secret talks.
The Palestinian leader asserted that Hamas and Israel coordinate their public announcements. He said that it seems easier for Israel to talk and coordinate with Hamas than for them to conduct discussions with the PA.

Of course there have been indirect conversations between Israel and Hamas. Egypt has been the intermediary and has successfully brokered deals by relaying information between the two parties.

But Israel does not speak directly to Hamas.

Abbas is correct when he says that it is very difficult to get Israel and the PA to speak - even when the US is the intermediary. The main reason for the difficulty is that both parties continue to point the finger at one another and do not seem to be interested in sitting down with each another.

Abbas is always blaming Israel.

Instead of blaming each other, Israel and the Palestinian Authority should sit down and start talking.

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Terror in Nigeria
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A set of bombs and a hail of machine gunfire killed at least 120 and wounded 270 people in Kano, Nigeria's second largest city.

The bombs and the bullets exploded in the central mosque right in the middle of the city. The people had gathered to hear the Imam speak.

All signs suggest that the attack was the work of Boko Haram. The attack was very similar to many others that have struck the area since September - all of them perpetrated by Boko Haram.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called on people to unite and fight the terrorists.

He said: "continue to take every step to put an end to the reprehensible acts of all groups and persons involved in acts of terrorism."

He asked the people of Nigeria: "to remain united to confront the common enemy."

Boko Haram has terrified the people of Nigeria. The only way to defeat the terror of Boko Haram is for the masses to stand up against Boko Haram.

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ISIS Shuts Off Phones
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Mosul is a city of 2 million people. It is the second largest city in Iraq. And Mosul is controlled by ISIS.

This week ISIS turned off all cell phone and telephone service in Mosul. Can you imagine a city without phones in November of 2014?
What was the ISIS rational for this decision? Most people would probably say it was the nefarious influence of the web on smart phones. NO!!!

ISIS believes that the people of Mosul were informing on their activities to members of the Iraqi army. And ISIS believes that the information was being used to attack ISIS targets. So the best option to stymie the flow of information was to cut off the source --- the phone.

Interestingly, the internet system in Mosul is still up and running. That system uses a different network and has not been affected. I would guess that the ISIS will figure that out pretty soon and that internet will soon be turned off too.

And when that happens, the city of Mosul will really be closed down, shut off, out of contact, groping around in the dark.

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Israel Proposal to Fight Terror
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 27, 2014
I've Been Thinking:

A proposal for a bill to fight terror is in the works in Israel. The bill was developed by Likud member Yair Levin at the request of the Prime Minister.

The bill contains eight significant points. Some of those points will almost certainly be struck down by the Supreme Court for violating the "basic law." There will be some conditions within the bill that apply only to those in the West Banks - that comes under

the Army Code of Law and is determined using military and security guidelines.

It is not yet a perfect bill, but it is certainly a very good start.

Here are the highlights of the plan:

Anyone caught involved in acts of terror or in supporting terror will lose their Israeli citizenship or Palestinian Authority residency.

After completing a prison term, those people will be deported.

Terrorists will not receive a funeral.

There will be no transfer of the body of a terrorist and the body will be buried in an unknown location.

Houses of terrorists will be destroyed within 24 hours.

Anyone caught throwing stones or firebombs, etc. will remain remanded until trial. Illegal protests include the waving of enemy flags. Anyone waving the Palestinian flag will be arrested. Anyone participating in illegal protests will lose their social benefits and driver's license for 10 years.

Family members of terrorists who supported the acts of terror will lose their citizenship and will be deported to Gaza. That support includes social media and internet.

Businesses that print posters and materials that support terror will be closed.

Some of these items are anti-democratic in nature and will never pass the Knesset. But others will.

The Supreme Court of Israel will certainly weigh in heavily on the material contained in this bill.

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ISIS Earns $45 Mill in Ransom
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The United Nations Security Council Committee on Counter Terrorism was briefed yesterday.

The most salient point to come out of the regular briefing was that
over the past year, ISIS has earned $45 million in ransom.

The amount is baffling. ISIS has made kidnapping for ransom a very good industry.

In the West, especially in America, we see photos and video of the kidnappings and the beheadings - and we are appalled. What everyone must understand, however, is that almost everything we know about what transpires in ISIS captivity and almost everything we know about the ISIS victims comes from those hostages who have been freed by ransom. The dead cannot talk.

US policy on ransom will shock many people. It is not something the Administration advertises. It is their big secret.

The United States refuses to pay ransoms and has intimidated the families of hostages not to pay. The United States government has even threatened to prosecute families who wanted to raise money to ransom their loved ones.

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Erdogan Again Puts Foot in Mouth
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Should I write a column about Turkish President Erdogan or should I just collect a list of his most ridiculous comments? What a dilemma!

For example:

Remember last week Erdogan said that it was Muslims who discovered America and not Columbus? Well, yesterday Erdogan said that women and men are not equal. He said that women, especially feminists, cannot possibly understand the special role women have in Islam.
They should be mothers.

Erdogan said, "You cannot put women and men on an equal footing." He said, "It is against nature. They were created differently. Their nature is different. Their constitution is different." Erdogan continued, "Motherhood is the highest position ... You cannot explain this to feminists. They don't accept motherhood. They have no such concern."

Earlier this year he said that women should have at least three children.

Erdogan is a deeply religious Muslim and the party he created is an Islamic party. He is clearly trying to pull back from the great democratic freedoms that have enveloped Turkey over the years.

Every time Erdogan opens his mouth to speak about women his anti-women sentiments become more pronounced -- and more ridiculous.

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Iran Deal: No Plan B
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The deadline for decisions about Iran and nuclear talks is upon us. Obviously, no agreement has been reached.

An extension will be arranged.

Iran and the West have different sets of objectives. The West very much wants the agreement. But Iran is not about to compromise on two basic issues.

Iran does not want to dismantle their 10,000 operational centrifuges and scale back the 9,000 more that are nearly operational. They want all 19,000.

And Iran wants a quick removal of sanctions - they will not even consider the option of a ten year, slow removal, process during which the international community checks and verifies that they continue to live by the agreement.

The United States has already shown flexibility on the numbers of centrifuges. But 19,000 is way too many. And the US will not immediately lift the sanctions.

Bottom line: neither party trusts the other.

But trust is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that the United States has no "Plan B".

The United States has no backup plan other than to enlist the help of China and Russia. And while it is true that China and Russia are not in favor of a nuclear Iran, neither are they keen on going to the mat on this issue - especially because they would be doing the bidding of the United States.

This is a real problem.

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Germany Says Dialogue is the Only Way
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 22, 2014

"I've Been Thinking:"

The move to recognize Palestine has been dizzying. Parliament after parliament, country after country, has been voting in support of Palestinian state recognition.

But Germany has said no.

On Friday German Chancellor Merkel announced, rather emphatically, that Germany supports a two-state solution and "we see how difficult that is, so we also believe that unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state won't move us forward."

Merkel explained that the two sides look distant right now and dialogue is not immediately on the horizon. She said "that appears very difficult in the current conditions."

She continued saying that none the less it should be clear - the only way to create a Palestinian state is through dialogue and not through fiat and votes in parliaments around the world.

Merkel is correct. A Palestinian state will only emerge through an agreement with Israel. Because, in the end, a Palestinian state can not exist without the support of Israel.

I just wish everyone else understood what Merkel understands.

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Hamas Plots to Murder
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It should come as no surprise that Hamas wants to attack Israel and part of that plan would absolutely include assassinating Israeli leaders. The more prominent the leader, better. The more vocally anti-Arab the leader, the better.

Israeli intelligence has successfully arrested a Hamas cell for plotting the assassination of Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The plan was extremely detailed. The most important dimension of the plan focused on the essential fact that Lieberman lived in Nokdim, a settlement in the Gush Etzion area. Lieberman traveled through the West Bank at least twice a day.

The nature of the roads and the topography of the West Bank provided an important element of the perfect assassination plot. The Hamas cell procured RPG's (Rocket Propelled Grenades) which they planned on sitting atop a hill in order to target the minister as he drove thru the area en route to Jerusalem. Lieberman is the only minister who lives in the West Bank.

Lieberman would be a prize target. Thankfully the cell was discovered.

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How to Stop Lone Wolf
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

People have been declaring that it is impossible to defend against the lone wolf terrorist. Wrong ... it just takes different tools.

The best tool is to change the atmosphere and create a sense of trust and economic hope. It is harder than it sounds, but it is essential. When political and economic issues improve there will be less interest in terror.

This does not happen overnight.

Almost all these lone wolves are connected both religiously and politically. That nexus needs to be identified, it needs to be monitored on the web and monitored through real intel.

Israel also needs to increase the number of agents working in those communities from which the terrorist come. Lone wolves do not come ex nihilo, they come from an environment rich and saturated in this hatred. Identify the environments, monitor them and then shut them down.

Arrest agitators and arrest leaders who preach and write and support terror. Stop local religious and political leaders who inspire the terrorists.

Jewish extremists need to be reined in too. Jewish extremists need to act within the limits of the law and not step outside the law.

Strengthening and utilizing local Jewish community volunteer resources and the civil guard will help increase the numbers of alert trained personnel to assist in protecting their communities.

Finally, there needs to be an increased number of soldiers and police in locations that are high risk and in communities that foment terror - that is another way to deter terrorists, even lone wolf terrorists.

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This Terror was a Game Changer
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The terror attack in Jerusalem yesterday is a game changer, it is an absolute watershed.

Let me explain why: The attack took place in a synagogue -- no one, not even the most secular person, can understand how Palestinians could attack Jews in the act of prayer. Americans, especially US leadership, were shocked. Even Muslim leadership in certain parts of the world were stunned that the terrorists chose to murder people in the act of prayer.

The attack place in Jerusalem where Israel is in charge of security - not the Palestinian Authority.

The two terrorists who perpetrated this attack came from within
Jerusalem. They were from a Jerusalem that, in 1967, was offered
Israeli citizenship. Rather than citizenship the villagers chose to become permanent residents. People ask how the terrorists were able to get in to Jerusalem. They did not have to get in, they were in, these terrorists lived in Jerusalem.

In the aftermath, Palestinian Incitement continues. Even as Abbas condemned the attack, he justified the attack by giving it context. Abbas explained that it is because of the occupation and Israeli disrespect of Al Aksa that the attack was perpetrated.

This attack was not spontaneous. It was planned. The terrorists knew the workings and timing of the synagogue. A huge amount of preparation went into this attack.

Was not a single lone wolf at least 2 were involved if not more.

The many of victims were dual citizens - 3 were Americans and one from Great Britain.

Was not on the seam of the city between Arab and Jewish sides of Jerusalem.

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ISIS Butchers Innocents
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS has murdered well over 1400 people, all non-combatants. Thousands have been killed in battle.

This group of 1400 victims were beheaded, shot in the back, had their throats or were stoned. Brutal mass murders, most of them carried out in towns after ISIS members entered the area, gathered the relatives of opposing fighters - and butchered them.

It is impossible for the Western mind to comprehend how a military force can sponsor the murder of so many civilians. It is all part of the ISIS master plan. In order to reduce military opposition, ISIS intimidates the masses. If you challenge ISIS and lose, ISIS will search out you and your family and publicly murder you all.

That alone is enough to convince would-be opponents not to challenge ISIS.

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Palestinian Music Video -Calls to Destroy Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There are several effective forms of mass media today - a handful are gripping.
Video shorts, 30 seconds to 4 minutes long, sound, music, stills and motion shots blend to create a message. Some of the messages go viral.

Over the summer Palestinians produced a short music video called: "up, hit, bomb, do terrorist acts."

The video turned into a hit. It glorified terror. The production was gritty. It was performed in broken Hebrew with Hebrew and Arabic subtitles. The Arabic "B" sound replaced the "P" sound. Most Arabs cannot say the "P" sound and there is no hard "P" in the Arabic.

The same group came out with another video short. Also in Hebrew, this one was far better performed and produced. See for yourself at:
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4591242,00.html

This video talks about destroying Israel by way of the new Intifada. The producers show a great deal of knowledge about the Israeli army and Israeli history. It is graphic and it is powerful.

Worst of all, this music video proclaims - through words and music - that every Arab participate in the fight to defeat Israelis and destroy Israel.

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Muslims DID NOT Discover America!
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Absurd and ridiculous are the first two words that came to mind when I read that Turkish leader Erdogan addressed a conference of Muslims from Latin America and informed the group that Muslims discovered
America - not Columbus, and that Columbus actually wrote that in his diaries.

"Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus."
"Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178. Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast."
"I would like to talk about it to my Cuban brothers. A mosque would go perfectly on the hill today," the Turkish leader said.

Erdogan is wrong. The quote he gave is not from Columbus or from his diary - it is from Bartoleme de Casa who rewrote the ship logs from his own point of view and through his own eyes. And the actual quote goes: "has a hill on its summit like a graceful mosque."

De Casa was describing what they called San Salvador. He was hardly describing a mosque on the hill. Actually, quite the opposite!

The irony of it all is that de Casa was most probably a converso - he was from a Jewish family that had been forcibly converted to Christianity.

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ISIS Minting Money
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS, or as they call themselves the Islamic State, announced yesterday that they are beginning to mint their own money.

ISIS coins are minted out of gold, silver and cooper. According to the announcement, the purchasing strength of the money would be the weight of the metal. In other words - the market value of gold would be the weight of the gold piece. The same for the silver and cooper coins.

All the coins read: Islamic State/A Caliphate Based on the Doctrine of the Prophet.

One coin is a map of the world, symbolizing how Islam will soon conquer the world.

One coin has a sword and shield, symbolizing jihad.

One coin has the image of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The point of this coin is the connection between the Islamic State and grand Arab and Muslim issues and the Palestinian quest.

As they say, money talks!

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ISIS & Al Qaeda Unite
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There had been rumors about ISIS and al Qaeda agreeing to put their differences aside and join forces to fight their common enemies.

So I was not surprised yesterday when AP reported, in a tiny little release, that ISIS and al Qaeda of Syria are now working together.

This puts another huge obstacle in the way of the US led coalition as it tries to fight ISIS and al Qaeda. The most important problem that emerges as a result of the unification of ISIS and al Qaeda forces is that they will now totally intimidate, decimate or even annihilate any moderate forces within Syria. Moderates will go into hiding and never be found.

The United States had been counting on those moderates and planned to arm and even train them. When ISIS and al Qaeda were warring factions there was a chance that the United States could put them under their wings. But if they unite, fear alone will paralyze all moderates.

As a united front, ISIS and al Qaeda can pool resources. That means that they can share money and share intel. It is a good match. ISIS has a lot of money and less intel. Al Qaeda has more intel and less money. It also means sharing weapons and training each another on new weapons.

This is only bad. Now add to the mix the CNN report that President Obama charged his senior analysts with figuring out how to fight ISIS and oust Assad. According to the report Obama believes that defeating ISIS will require toppling Assad.

The situation is looking very grim. Ousting Assad and fighting ISIS and al Qaeda are entirely different missions. The unification of al Qaeda and ISIS will certainly fill any power vacuum that may be - created especially if Assad is ousted.

This is a mess and the White House is making it even messier.

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World Wide Intifada
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The riots and the protests, the rocks and the Molotov cocktails, the car attacks and the van attacks - they are the weapons Palestinians are using in confrontations with Israel.

And they are extremely dangerous.

Around the world Palestinians and their allies are also attacking Israel. The attacks are sometimes physical, but most often and far more dangerous are the attacks on college campuses and in the media.

There are protests and rallies shouting death to Israel. There is an overall rejection of Israel. There is a tone that Israel is wrong and evil. In most of these places, the case for Israel is at best faint, more often it is non- existent.

Youth, especially campus youth, are being poisoned by this terrible anti-Israel tone. The consequences are huge. An erosion of support for Israel among the youth of today - those who will become the leaders of the future, is a certainty.

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New Intifada and ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is a strange and unusual blend. I am talking about the combination of motivations that roll into the violence/riots/unrest between Israel and the Palestinians.

Previous Intifadas were mostly motivated by politics. After that Palestinian frustrations grew out of political dead ends. And of course in the background there were religious tones. This unrest is different.

This unrest has strong political issues. But it is also fueled by strong feelings of revenge. And finally religion is playing a role.
One part of the religious push is a conspiracy theory that Israel wants to take over and destroy al Aksa and the Temple Mount. The second is ISIS. The idea is to get rid of any non believer.

Yesterday a 17 year old boy was arrested in Jerusalem with a large knife hidden in the lining of his pants. After he was arrested he shouted at the police "ISIS and Hamas will take care of all of you."

Religious issue are becoming even more significant. This Intifada is taking on a character of its own.

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Abbas Says Will Move Arafat to Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat.

Two very significant things happened yesterday. Hamas in Gaza cancelled a rally in honor of Arafat saying that they could not protect attending participants. There has not been ceremony since 2007.

Second, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he is planning to transfer the shrine of Arafat from Ramallah to Jerusalem. The announcement was made in MA'AN the official Palestinian media outlet.

Making such an announcement is an invitation to the Palestinians masses to take to the streets to riot in Jerusalem. This announcement by Abbas about Arafat on such a day is a call for Palestinians to fight in Jerusalem.

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Intifada Or Not
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

They are calling it the "Silent Intifada." In Arabic, some are referring to it as the "Automobile Intifada."

It is certainly a period of rioting and unrest. And over the past few weeks the level and intensity of the violence has waxed and waned.

The word "Intifada" is a hard word to translate. Most people just say, uprising, resistance or rebellion. The root in Arabic actually means to shake off, even to shake up, to awaken and, to get them to stand up.

The word "Intifada" was first used in 1965 to describe politics in Bahrain when leftists rose up against British colonial power. In 1970 the term was used again as the "Zemla Intifada" against the Spanish in the Sahara.

"Intifada" became best known as a term during what is now called the First Palestinian Intifada which lasted from 1987-1993. And then it resurfaced during the Second Palestinian Intifada from 2000- 2005.

And now - the Silent Intifada. This Intifada gets its name because there is no organized controlling power. The two previous
Palestinian Intifadas were well organized and perpetrated by trained leaders and organizers.

While this Intifada is certainly being egged on by leaders, there is no Tanzim identifying targets and orchestrating demonstrations. This Intifada thrives on spontaneity. It can spin out of control or it can fizzle out at any moment. Or it can linger for a long time creating a low level, constant, terror and rock threat.

Interestingly, the most powerful force in a spontaneous riot is Mother Nature. When it rains or is cold outside, fewer people participate. The good news here is that the region is in the rainy season and it is getting darker earlier. I would guess that the weather will put a damper on this Silent Intifada.

That is of course unless it gets organized.

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More Conflict in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Saturday November 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

More violence in Jerusalem. Riot erupted as the second Jewish victim of Wednesday's terror attack, Shlomo Baadani, was buried. Not Jewish riots - Arab riots.

At Baadani's funeral Sepharadi Chief Rabbi Yitzak Yosef spoke and told people to stop going up to the Temple Mount. "We need to stop this, only then will the people of Israel's blood not be spilt."
Rabbi Yosef demanded that people listen and not ascend and visit the holy site. He said that stepping in the wrong place on the Mount is a sin that is punishable by death. He said: "It's inconceivable that b-rate rabbis will argue with Israel's most prominent and prestigious rabbis."

This is not a new argument. The father of the present chief rabbi, Rabbi Ovadiah Yossef, was also Sephardic chief rabbi. His counterpart, Aschkenazi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, was a major advocate of going up the Temple Mount and even wrote a very detailed book with dozens of maps describing exactly where one can and cannot step.

Rav Goren was hardly a b-rate rabbi.

There are serious questions about Jewish law and ascending the Temple Mount today. But they are hardily simple and mono-dimensional. That said, there is no doubt that the specter of Jews going up to the Temple Mount is explosive.

Since this conflict there are no groups or individuals permitted up --- only politicians and security personnel. And yet, the violence and rioting continues.

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Ultra Orthodox Jews Say Don't Go To Temple Mt
By Micah Halpern

Friday November 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There are those trying to understand the nature and the cause of the rioting in Jerusalem. And there are those trying to cast blame.

One group says that Jews going to the Temple Mount is incendiary, just explosive. They may be correct.

The largest ultra religious paper in Israel, Yated Neeman ran an editorial telling Jews not to go to the Temple Mount and it criticized those who do go.

To quote the editorial, going up to the Temple Mount is like "throwing a match into an oil well which will bury the Middle East in smoking ashes."

The editorial blasted those Jews who want access to the Mount saying, "They are laying out a red carpet for terrorists which will only become redder with blood as the tensions are intensified. These [people] will not be satisfied until they leave behind them and their activities politically scorched earth, and when Jerusalem, which sits on a powder keg, burns with the fires of hatred."

They conclude that the Temple Mount should be officially off limits to Jews in order to maintain order. "The government of Israel must close the Temple Mount [to Jews]. It is not only a terrible security threat but more seriously an awful stumbling block for Jews, [who may violate] one of the most serious prohibitions."

The more serious prohibitions are laws and demarcations on the Temple Mount delineating exactly where only certain Jews were permitted in Temple times. Stepping in the wrong place is absolutely forbidden.

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Abbas Calls the Terrorists Martyrs
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The increased number of terror attacks in Israel is troubling - but it is not surprising.

Using a car as a weapon is not a new idea. Recently, a major Hamas leader made a statement in which he said, literally, that every
Palestinian with a car has a weapon. And he said those who do not use that weapon are cowards and are betraying and forsaking the Palestinian cause.

This is to be expected from Hamas and from Hamas supporters. Hamas wants to murder Jews and Israelis.

What troubles me most is not Hamas and the terrorists - I expect them to act and to speak in this way. They are, after all, self proclaimed mass murderers. What troubles me is the reaction of Abbas.

Abbas is the president of the Palestinian Authority. He is supposed to be a partner in peace, or at least, believe in basic rules of conflict.

Abbas wrote a letter to the family of last week's terrorist Mutaz Hijazi and called him a martyr. Hijazi is the man who shot Yehudah Glick four times in the middle of Jerusalem and then jumped on his motorcycle and drove off. Abbas wrote that Hijazi was a martyr and he will be sent to heaven.

And what do you think Abbas called the perpetrator of yesterday's terror attack, Ibrahim al Arki, who murdered one person and injured fourteen others? Abbas also called him a martyr.

Where are the leaders of the free world? Where are the Americans? Why has no one called Abbas on the table for these comments? These endorsements are carte blanch invitations to perpetrate terror.

The double standard is so blatant - the world is telling Palestinians that they can do no wrong. And that is not right.

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Saudis Buy Weapons For Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday November 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Lebanon is buying $3 billion worth of arms and weapons from France.
The weapons are being stockpiled in order to defend Lebanon - once known as the Switzerland of the Middle East, from extremists ... from all kinds of extremists.

Lebanon is in need of real serious materials to assist them in defending their country. They need defense against ISIS, al Qaeda, Hezbollah and, in their minds, even against Israel.

But Lebanon does not have an extra $3 billion sitting around to procure weapons.

Saudi Arabia stepped up and plopped down the cash. Not a loan - the Saudis gave the Lebanese a gift. Saudi Arabia sees itself as the Protector of the Sunni World. Lebanon is caught in the middle of a series of major conflicts. Their biggest conflict is between Sunnis and Shiites.

Despite the current conflict with ISIS, the most dramatic issue confronting the Muslim world is the internal conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. Sunni Saudis want to insure that Lebanon is not toppled by Shiite Hezbollah. They want to make certain that neither ISIS nor al Qaeda move into Lebanon.


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US Supreme Court Hears Jerusalem Case
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday November 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Menachem Zivotofsky is 12 years old. He was born in Jerusalem in 2002.

Yesterday the nine members of the US Supreme Court heard all about Menachem. His parents want the US passport of their son to read "Jerusalem, Israel" in the box designated for place of birth. As of now, all US citizens born in Jerusalem have simply the word "Jerusalem" in their passports. The box for country is blank.

In 1995 Congress passed a law clearly stating that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. In 2002 Congress passed another law saying that the United States should move its embassy to Jerusalem and that US passports should read Jerusalem, Israel.
George Bush signed that law.

The US Administration and State Department argue that adding the word "Israel" in passports would undermine United States power and interests. Their legal argument is a constitutional one. They claim that foreign policy is determined by the president and that Congress has overstepped its bounds and that the law is unconstitutional.

The sixty minute arguments were on that issue alone. The case for the Zivotofsky family was eloquently presented by Alyza Lewin. It looks like the nine justices are split down the middle - the swing vote is Justice Anthony Kennedy. From his questions he seemed to truly be undecided.

Justice Elana Kagan paralleled this case to that of selective vanity license plates. Pro-Israel US citizens would be able to choose Jerusalem, Israel for their passports but pro-Palestine US citizens would not be able to have them say Jerusalem, Palestine.

It could go either way. In June the decision of the justices will be made public.

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Hamas Blocks UN Aid for Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Monday November 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has been blocking the United Nations from supplying the people of Gaza with UN aid and services.

Hamas leadership is not pleased with the plan that the United Nations proposed in September, after the 50 day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Hamas expressed their reluctance then and now they are refusing to permit the UN to distribute badly needed resources.

Hamas has a reason. According to the UN plan, Hamas is sidelined in the revitalization and rebuilding of Gaza process. According to the UN plan, they are not the people distributing and/or receiving the goods.

That means that Hamas will be powerless and unable to exert control locally.

It also means that hundreds of tons of cement and other building supplies are just sitting behind fences and armed guards - unwanted and unused. The badly needed supplies have been there for more than a month. I expect that there will be no resolution to this standoff in the near future.

So close - and yet, so far away.

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Tension in Jerusalem Could Cause World Conflict
By Micah Halpern

Sunday November 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Tensions in Jerusalem are still high - but it appears that calm might yet prevail.

How and why tension rose and are slowly dropping is not a simple story. Let's just start with Wednesday.

On Wednesday night there was an attempted assassination of Yehudah Glick, an activist for Jewish access to the Temple Mount. The attack took place in the middle of Jerusalem.

On Thursday the Israeli government joined by the Israeli police determined that the attempted assassination had crossed a red line.
In response they decided to shut down the al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, the third most holy site in Islam. Palestinians and Arab and Muslim leaders interpreted the closing as an assault against all of Islam. Some called for a massive uprising. Jordan's king called it state terror.

On Friday Israel modified the closure of the mosque and al Aqsa was reopened. People aged 50 and over were permitted to enter and to pray. This is a common restriction in times of tension.

On Saturday nature intervened. It rained so there was little conflict, just a fire bomb thrown at police in Shuafat, just north of Jerusalem.

On Sunday the Israeli cabinet voted to increase the punishment for rock throwing to 20 years in prison. The Jordanian king said that the Jordanians would defend Muslim rights at the mosque. There was a massive rally of Jews in support of Yehudah Glick who is still in critical, but stable, condition. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he was continuing the famous status quo on the Temple Mount. He also called on all leaders to exercise calm. He instructed them not to stoke the flames of anger.

Actions taken and not taken over the next few days will determine if the region - or for that matter the world, will go into greater conflict.

Cool heads must prevail.

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Israeli Technology Fighting Ebola
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 31, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has developed two technologies that will help fight Ebola.

The first technology is a made-to-specifications special pop-up isolation tent. The technology was created by an Israeli company called SYS. All that is needed are the desired dimensions and details and the tent will be delivered in only two weeks.

So far Ebola has been detected in eight countries. 10,000 people have contracted Ebola and 50% have died from it. These tents control the contamination. They also come with special stretchers to isolate the patient in transit to the tent.

The system utilizes positive air technology to create a hermetically sealed system. Many airports and hospitals have already placed their orders. The SYS tents are already being used in Guinea.

The other technology that Israel has developed is for an infrared thermometer which can be used in airports to detect if travelers have a temperature.

These new products developed by and marketed in Israel will both save lives and control the spread of Ebola.

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Attack in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The attempted assassination of Yehudah Glick, in the middle of Jerusalem, just outside the Menachem Begin Center, marks a new low point for the city and for Palestinian - Israeli relations.

The shooter actually got very close to Glick, an activist and extremely vocal proponent of the rights of Jews to traverse on the Temple Mount. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Glick's political point of view, the attack set a new nadir. The shooter confirmed that it was Glick by asking his name. Then he shot him four times - in the head, the neck, the chest and the arm and fled on a motorcycle.

As the news spread, Israelis were in communal shock. Such a brazen act of terror in the heart of Jerusalem is deeply worrisome. This heinous act was not simply an assassination attempt. It was an expression of the desire to ignite a full blown Intifada.

When nighttime came, the sky was lit up by fireworks in celebration of the attack. Yes, Palestinians in Jerusalem were elated that Glick was shot. To them it was an act of courage and heroism.

That is hard to comprehend.

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Egypt Attacks Hamas Tunnels
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Egypt is very seriously and aggressively destroying the new tunnels that Hamas has dug from Gaza into Egypt.

It is through those tunnels that terrorists smuggled themselves and their weapons into Egypt and were able to conduct an attack against
Egyptian soldiers, killing 31 Egyptian military personnel.

Egypt has now evacuated every home and every building which borders Gaza. They are instituting a buffer zone. That buffer zone will protect Egyptians from Gaza and from the tunnels.

The exact dimensions of the buffer zone are still unclear. It will certainly vary according to specific locations. But it is clear that the buffer zone will reach far enough into Egypt to make it very difficult for Gazans to burrow under.

Understand - this does not mean there will be no more tunnels.
Creating a serious buffer zone means there will be significantly fewer tunnels. It means that building the tunnels will be more difficult. It means that entering Egypt and committing acts of terror will happen less frequently. It means that life just got harder for the terrorists of Gaza.

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Pressure Building on Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is being squeezed in a diplomatic vice grip. Israel is being pressured into accepting a two-state solution.

The United States and the European Union have publicly denounced the decision by Israel to build 1000 housing units in East Jerusalem.
They both used similar language in their official comments suggesting that Israel cannot be serious about peace when they continue to build.

The US and the EU and frankly, almost every other country, is trying to understand why Israel continues to build. Unfortunately, it will be very difficult to convince any of those nations of the inherent right of Israel to build - even if the areas being developed will almost certainly fall within Israel in any future agreement with the Palestinians.

The problem the United States has is not legal. The US sees building as a direct act of breaking down any sense of trust that might possibly emerge diplomatically.

And so, the US, the EU and just about every other Western country has concluded that current Israeli leadership is simply not interested in a two-state solution. These nations believe Israeli leadership is making up excuses and buying time. They see the Israelis as not fully committed to finding a negotiated resolution.

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Israel - Jordan to Sign Gas Deal
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Jordan and Israel are about to sign an energy agreement.
Israel will provide 600 million cubic feet of gas per day to Jordan for 15 years. The deal should save Jordan $1.5 billion per year.

Jordan has been suffering since the collapse of the pipeline from Egypt, which ran through Israel, was destroyed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Jordan used to receive 80% of their natural gas through that pipeline. Now, two years later, they struggle to find natural gas to power their electricity.

Due to population increases Jordan's natural gas demands have increased by about $6 billion per year. They have great difficulty keeping up with their electrical demand.

This deal will make natural gas easily accessible and extremely secure for Jordan. It is a very simple decision Yet, there was much debate and dispute about it among Jordanian parliamentarians.

The deal will be signed soon without public fanfare. It will be a new lifeline for Jordan. And it will also be an important positive link between Jordan and Israel - a link that underscores the mutual gains that emerge from good diplomatic relationships.

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US Disses Israel in DC
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's Defense Minister Moshe "Boogie" Yaalon has been in Washington. Not a single member of the US Administration or even
their assistants was cleared to meet with him.

Imagine that - Washington is teaching Israel a lesson.

Yaalon and his boss Prime Minister Netanyahu have been insolent and publicly insulting to the US. Yaalon told US Secretary of State Kerry to just get his Nobel Prize and stop coming back to the region - and that is just one of his numerous public outbursts.
So when Yaalon comes to DC, no one will meet with him.

This is not childish or immature behavior. It is the way things are done. Everyone and anyone who has been involved in foreign affairs knows that the United States expects theirs friends, especially those who receive three billion dollars a year are expected to be civil towards them. If not, they will be disciplined in DC. Hence the cold shoulder.

This is simply a lesson and Israel had to know that it was going to happen.

I would have done things differently. If I were the Administration I would have scheduled the meetings and then cancelled them seconds before they were to happen to further humiliate Israel and to make certain that Yaalon could not use his time in Washington for other meetings or purposes. That way, his entire trip would be turned into a colossal waste of time.

That would not be called vindictive diplomacy, it would be appropriate diplomacy.

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US Calls Terror Attack in Jerusalem a Traffic Accident
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The US Consulate in Jerusalem sent out a memo calling the murder of 3 month old United States citizen Haya Zisl Braun - a traffic accident.

Here is the exact wording of the memo.
" As of 2105 hrs Reports of unrest/demos in many EJ neighborhoods all related to earlier traffic accident near french hill"

The United States could have called it an incident, they could have called it an act or even an event. They chose to call it a traffic accident. The United States is afraid.

There are many ways to parse word and diplomats are very good at creating words or at using many words to say nothing. The situation now is that the United States does not like the word "terror."

The US has yet to call the axe wielding incident that took place in Queens, NY on Thursday terror. They officially called it "another crazy New Yorker" even though Zale Thompson, the axe wielding terrorist, changed his name to a Arabic name and posted numerous online justifications for murdering innocent people in the name of Jihad.

This is not a good sign for the United States of America.

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Nigerian President Visits Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Make sense of this. Goodluck Jonathan, the president of Nigeria, made an agreement with the terrorist group Boko Haram to free the 219 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped six months ago.

Next year there is a presidential election scheduled for Nigeria and Goodluck is the incumbent.

But today, Goodluck is arriving in Israel and visiting Jerusalem to get some good luck. Jonathan is a devout Christian and believes that Jerusalem - and specifically the Western Wall is holy and that he will get blessed by visiting. He will participate in a mass of 300 Nigerians.

Goodluck Jonathan comes to Israel as a president with a private plane and an 80 member delegation. They book 40 rooms at the brand new beautiful Jerusalem Waldorf.

I have not even gotten to the strange part yet. The strange part is that Nigeria sits on the UN Security Council. And during his stay, Israel will try to convince Goodluck Jonathan of the importance of not backing Palestinian Statehood.

Israel is deeply invested in Nigeria. About 50 Israeli energy companies operate there.

Right now Nigeria has been non committal about their stance on Palestinian statehood. Hopefully, Goodluck will get good luck and will commit to supporting Israel at the Security Council. If Nigeria supports Israel, the United States may not have to utilize their automatic veto.

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Terror & Riots in Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Thankfully, there was only one death as a result of the terror attack perpetrated in Jerusalem yesterday. Tragically, the one death was that of a three month old Jewish infant name Haya Zisl Braun. Haya Zisl was buried almost immediately after she was declared dead - brutally murdered in a terror attack at the light rail station. The terrorist deliberately ran her down.

And then the rioting in Jerusalem began.

One may have thought that the rioting was by angry relatives of the three month old or by anger Jews frustrated about the death of this innocent soul.

But NO!

The rioters were Palestinians who took to the streets and threw rocks and burned tires and tried to further disrupt life in Jerusalem.

Nir Barkat, Jerusalem's mayor, a leftist by all definitions called on the police to restore order. He said "the situation in Jerusalem was intolerable." Arab violence had reached the point where the police must enter into Arab neighborhood and restore order.

Watching the video of the terror attack was surreal. A white car slowly moves out of its lane, driving between a pole and barrier and then deliberately swerves into the crowd. That is where the driver murdered Haya Zisl.

Arabs rioted after the brutal murder of a Jewish baby by an Arab driver. Jews went to the funeral to mourn with and comfort the family.

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Assad Hits 200 Sites - US Hits 7
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Syrian air-force launched 200 strikes against rebels within the last 36 hours.

And yesterday, with the new increased intensity of the US led coalition, the United States and her allies launched 7 strikes.

At the same time Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, spoke about the US strikes against ISIS. He said that the US strike against ISIS pales in comparison to the Israeli strikes against southern Lebanon in 2006. Actually, he said that all the strikes combined do not equal a single day of Israel air strikes.

We can understand why Assad is striking the rebels. The Syrian president fully expects that the US will soon send weapons to the Syrian rebels - just like the US sent weapons to the Kurds. Assad and his air force are also taking advantage of the moment as the United States busies itself with attacks al Qaeda affiliated groups and ISIS. That way, there are fewer attacks on Assad and he is free to strike against the rebels.

200 is a heck of a lot of air strikes.

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Qatar Wants UN Directorship
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Emir of Qatar is throwing a lot of weight and a huge amount of money behind his former prime minister. The Emir is backing his PM for secretary general of the United Nations.

The Emir of Qatar wants his former prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, to take over the position of UN chief now held by Ban Ki-moon, who will vacate his post when his term concludes in 2016.

This is very problematic.

The Emir of Qatar is one of the most powerful men in the Middle East. He is also the single largest supporter of Hamas in the world.

With this kind of money and an already very well oiled campaign in place, Hamad bin Jassim will be a very serious candidate for UN secretary general. He is the man to beat - and as of now, more than a year away from the actual election, no one else is even on the docket.

If Hamad bin Jassim wins, the entire United Nations will shift directions. Overnight Israel and most of the Western world, including the United States, will become pariahs. The strength of the non aligned nations will become unprecedented.

It will be the end of the UN as we know it.

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Israel To Sell Gas to Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The tables have turned!

2.5 years ago Islamic terrorists of the Muslim Brotherhood were blowing up the natural gas pipeline that led from Egypt to Israel.
They were upset that Egypt was providing gas to Israel.

Thirty months later, Israel and Egypt have signed an agreement. This time Israel is providing Egypt with natural gas and using the same pipeline. But now the pipeline is more secure. Egyptian President al Sisi believes he can provide the line the protection it needs.

Over the next 3 years Israel will regularly provide a minimum of 5 million cubic meters of natural gas to Egypt.

Egypt has not yet recovered from their internal turmoil and crisis. The Egyptian economy, especially their oil and natural gas industry, is dependent on outside powers for a jump start - and it has barely moved.

Egypt has a long way to go. They need to import. And the perfect partner is Israel which is now marketing their newly discovered natural gas resources.

Strange but true, just the way things happen in the Middle East.

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Kerry Makes A Silly Statement Again
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry recently made the startlingly ridiculous statement that in his travels in the Middle East "there wasn't a leader I met within the region who didn't raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation."

The suggestion that the lack of resolution between Israel and the Palestinians is in any way a reason for radicalism and the rise of ISIS is simply uninformed fiction.

The presence of the United States and the role of the United States in the Middle East - including the coalition, have much more to do with increased recruitment to ISIS and radicalization in the region than the lack of progress between Israel and the Palestinians.

And that is still no reason for the US to stop its involvement.

Kerry continues to stun me. How can the person responsible for US policy in the Middle East repeatedly make these ridiculous statements?

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NYC Imams Condemn Extremism
By Micah Halpern

Saturday October 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The other day almost a dozen Imams from New York City gathered on the steps of City Hall. They announced that they were going to fight extremism.

This is a huge step forward for the Muslim community and for Muslims living in the United States.

The Imams announced that Islamic law forbids acts of terror and violence against innocent people.

The leader of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, Imam Al Hajj Talib Abdur Rashid, explained that the group would now start a serious educational campaign to combat extremism. They would use the web and counter extremist propaganda.

In addition, they will educate their constituency about balance - especially the need to balance public safety issues and constitutional issues with Muslim issues.

I will monitor them carefully. I wish them good luck and great success. So far they have received no death threats from Muslim extremists.

Death threats tend to silence moderates.

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US Finally Hitting ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The tide might be changing. The Kurds are scoring more points against ISIS - especially around Kobani.

The coalition against ISIS has been more and more effective in their air strikes and the Kurds of Kobani and elsewhere have been more successful in pushing ISIS back.

The United States announced that they believe that they had killed several hundred ISIS members on Wednesday. It is not clear that the Kurds now have the power of serious momentum pushing them forward, but in the short term, we are seeing a change.

So why are the coalition aerial assaults more effective this week than they were last week? Good question.

The answer is that the Kurds are currently giving the US and the coalition the proper coordinates. With proper coordinates the air strikes are making a difference.

So why did the US and the coalition not use Kurds to get them they coordinates they need earlier? Another good question.
Unfortunately, in this case there are no good answers.

I could speculate and in doing so the possible answers would not cast positive light on the United States or on the coalition.

Whatever the answers --- at least now the US and the coalition are getting intel from the Kurds.

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US Names Operation LOL
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The US has now named the operation against ISIS. We know that it is a coalition of many who agree to stop ISIS - but in reality most nations are not actually doing anything.

Inherent Resolve is the name of the operation.

I think the name is very appropriate. Resolve is necessary to defeat ISIS. Inherent implies that everyone, every human being, should have that resolve.

If the message is so inherent, that may have been a reason that the operation went without a name for so long, at least until yesterday.
Now the operation has a name. Now we know what we are fighting for and what we are fighting against. And we know that we are fighting it inherently and with great resolve.

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Israel in Line for Huge Conflict
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is gearing up for a huge fight.

Not the kind you would expect. No guns or rockets, no Iron Dome.

This is a diplomatic battle.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom recently voted, in a non-binding vote, to recognize the Palestinian State. France will soon do the same. Other Western European countries will follow suit.

In addition, there is an international, primarily European, move to punish settlements and settlers and boycott Israeli products from the West Bank. Some are even calling for a total boycott of Israel products.

The political leadership of Europe understands the need to not step forward and recognize a Palestinian State but the masses, even rank and file politicians not in leadership positions, see no harm in recognizing a Palestinian State.

Why is recognizing a Palestinian state so dangerous? It means that the fiat, or votes, around the world trump direct face to face dialogue.

The only way to create a state is for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to discuss and then agree upon the terms. A unilateral declaration is simply counterproductive.


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Iran Sudan Rift Will Hurt Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iran and Sudan are at one another's throats.

Sudan shut down all Iranian culture centers in Sudan. The shutdown was ordered by the king himself.

Sudan shut down the Iranian centers because Iran was using them to spread Shiite tradition and influence Sunnis in Sudan.

This breakup will have a huge impact on weapon transfers to Hamas. Iran sends weapons to Sudan and the Sudanese then bring the weapons through Egypt and into Gaza.

This breakup between Iran and Sudan is troublesome - but it is also typical. All Sunnis are skeptical of Iran. The Sunnis fear that the Shiites want to poach Muslims and bring them over to Shiite Islam.

The difference between Shiites and Sunnis is so dramatic that they think of each other as heretics and can kill each other with impunity.

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Iran Tries to Help the US
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Stranger things have happened. But they are seldom as strange as these reports from the Iranian press.

Iran appears to be looking out for the United States and Israel.
Iran has warned the United States that toppling Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will increase the risks to Israel's security.

Over the weekend Iranian news covered and quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Amir Abdullahian as having specifically told his counterparts in the US that ousting Assad would endanger Israel.

There is no doubt that the Iranian assessment is correct. An ISIS or an al Qaeda/al Nusrah government in Syria would endanger Israel.

But why does Iran care enough to let the United States know their evaluation? And why have they made that message public?

The answer is that Iran does not think that the United States sees the region with the proper perspective. So they are helping the US view the region from the POV of US interests - or at least the way the Iranians see US interests.

Iran thinks that the human rights issue is so dramatic that ousting Assad is on equal footing with fighting ISIS. I fear is that Iran is wrong and that the United States does not understand it own priorities.

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Donor Conference For Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Today, in Cairo, the Donors Conference to rebuild Gaza is taking place.

The Palestinians are asking for $4 billion. As might be expected, the donor nations and agencies know that giving money to Gaza needs to be properly administered to make sure that it really goes towards the reconstruction of Gaza - and is not funneled to other purposes.

The United States planned on pledging $118 million. But in the end John Kerry pledged $212 million. That is hardly a significant sum.

Every donor nation thinks that if they give money now to rebuild Gaza, in two years Hamas will launch more rockets into Israel. They do not want Hamas involved in the rebuilding. The PA needs to step in.

The Conference is sponsored by Egypt and Norway in cooperation with the European Union, the United Nations and the Arab League.
There is almost no that the conference will reach the projected money goal.


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EU Lifts Sanctions on Iran Oil Tankers
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday an EU court lifted the sanctions against Iran's main oil tanker company. The court said that the sanctions have been annulled.

The EU did not even present an opposing point of view and so, the sanctions were automatically annulled. The time frame allotted for appeal had elapsed and no paperwork had been submitted in order to continue the sanctions.

That means that Iran's largest oil tanker company known as NITC which stands for the National Iranian Tanker Company is free to deliver oil to the European Union without restraints.

Of course there are still limits on the export of Iranian oil --- but not on the Iranian tankers delivering the Iranian oil.

This effectively destroys any potential power a European boycott of Iran would have. It means that there is almost no way to effectively pressure Iran. Their most important cash cow is free to function as it wishes and Iran is now able to provide Europe, a continent starving for fuel especially oil, with as much as they demand.

What a downturn and disappointment this is for those hoping to create a united front to pressure Iran to adhere to international demands and expectations regarding nuclear technology.

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Who Can Beat ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday October 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is a crap shoot. That is the answer I give when people ask me what the chances of defeating ISIS are.

I know the West can win. But ...

Every day, about 30 times a day, I get reports about battles and conflicts with ISIS and al Nusra. I read about losses and injuries, casualties and beheadings. I get regular reports on the vast numbers of people running away to escape the horror.

The real issue is not if the United States air force will inflict enough pain on ISIS or whether ISIS can endure the pain of the aerial strikes. The real issue is will ISIS be contained, do the Kurds and Hezbollah have the where-with-all to repel them.

Hezbollah and the Kurds are the only real groups on the ground with the psychological power to confront ISIS, they are the only groups with the need to succeed.

The reports I get concerning battles between Kurds and ISIS bare very important. If the Kurds trounce ISIS, that is a very good sign.
And if Hezbollah forces ISIS out of major parts of Syria, that, too, is very good.

It has nothing to do with agreeing with Hezbollah or liking Hezbollah. It has to do with wanting ISIS defeated. And other than the Kurds one of the only groups who care enough to fight them face to face and who have the experience, the weapons and the gumption is Hezbollah.

So I watch the daily skirmishes. I get moment by moment updates and I count the casualties. I also watch the map very carefully to make certain that areas and rings and swaths are or are not being connected.

This fight is happening even without US boots. And it may be over before you know it.

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Hezbollah Fighting ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Monday October 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There are only a few groups in the Middle East who have the psychological wherewithal to confront ISIS.

They are the groups that fight for their land and their lives and know that they cannot run from ISIS. The Kurds are one group and Hezbollah is another.

Yesterday, ISIS and Hezbollah had a huge battle on the Syrian Lebanon border in the Bekka valley. Yesterday, also, Hezbollah had another major battle with the al Qaeda affiliate group called al Nusra.

Hezbollah sustained two losses and several injuries. ISIS and al Nusra fared much worse, losing 16 in one battle and 8 in another.

It sounds strange but in this case, we need to root for Hezbollah.

Hezbollah will defend Lebanon and Syria from al Qaeda and ISIS because they know that if either one or both of those even-more-extremist-than-they-are groups gains a stronghold, Shiites will be massacred. Hezbollah has nowhere to escape and their only option in the short and in the long term is to push back as hard as they possibly can.

Here I am, a major critic of Hezbollah and there is no doubt in my mind that Hezbollah will not abandon their ranks and will not run away from the fight and will not be deceived into believing that ISIS and al Qaeda are just a passing fad.

Ditto for the Kurds.

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Israel and the Fight Against Ebola - A US Double Standard
By Micah Halpern

Sunday October 5, 2014

I've Benn Thinking:

Israel has just decided to send 3 mobile medical units to Liberia and Sierra Leone to help the fight against Ebola.

The request was officially sent from US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers to Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prossor.

Originally Israel rejected the request.

At first look, denying the request seemed strange and out of place.
Israel is usually the first country to jump in and help out other countries in need. And it appeared as if any disciplined Western medical team could institute the proper protocol to minimize risks to their team and their home country.

So why did Israel say no? And then say yes?

The request officially went to the Israeli Defense Ministry. The Foreign Ministry weighed in and suggested that Israel go. The Foreign Ministry thought that it would counterbalance the negative PR Israel was still getting from the summer conflict with Gaza, Operation Preventive Edge.

It seems as if the Defense Ministry determined that Israel could not take the risk. Or, maybe not.

The IDF has a good number of ready prepped MASH units. They were the proper address. They had the training.

Once again, Israel is faced with a huge double standard.

Liberia and Sierra Leone have not been shut down by the FAA. US airlines are still free to fly there and have been for months with no restrictions since the outbreak of this deadly virus now turned epidemic and potentially even pandemic. And yet, during the summer, Israel's Ben Gurion Airport was shut down to travelers to and from the United States causing over a billion dollars of lost tourist revenue.

There is no irony here - simply a double standard.

This is another example showing how wrong Washington has been when it comes to making certain foreign affairs decisions.

But in the end, Israel is sending teams to help. The teams are from the Foreign Ministry. Officially they are mobile medical clinics not MASH operations.

Why? Because Israel does the right thing. Israel helps people in need.

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Egypt Will Invite Israel PA to Talks
By Micah Halpern

Friday October 3, 2014

I've Been thinking:

If things go according to schedule Palestinians and Israelis are soon to resume peace negotiations and Egypt will act as mediator.

But it is not that simple. Egypt does not want negotiations. Neither does Israel. Not now.

Why doesn't Egypt want negotiations to resume now? Because Egypt has carved out a new position for itself within the Arab world. The Egyptians have successfully moved themselves into a position of leadership and Egypt does not want to jeopardize that new/old position.

Why doesn't Israel want negotiations to resume now? Because negotiating with the Palestinians now means negotiating not only with Abbas and his Fatah party, but with Hamas, too.

Egypt sees eye to eye with Israel about Hamas. They have said that the speech delivered by Abbas at the UN General Assembly was not simply wrong, it was a mistake.

But Egypt will do what it needs to do - it will do the right thing. After the Jewish holidays and after the Muslim pilgrimage known as the Haj and feast of the Eid, Egypt will sponsor new talks. They will send out invitations inviting the Israelis and the Palestinians to meet in wither Jerusalem, Ramallah or Cairo.

They will go through the motions, but their heart will not be in it.


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A Big Lie About Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 2 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Saeb Erekat, the outspoken Palestinian negotiator and spokesmen, drew a parallel between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of ISIS.

The ad hominem attack is far from the truth - but never the less, it must be addressed.

Erekat begins by drawing the parallel between words and names. He reminds people that Netanyahu is the head of the Jewish state, while ISIS is creating an Islamic state.

Erekat goes on to say that Netanyahu allows his Jews to kill innocent people, massacre children, burn churches, destroy mosques and he permit settlers to perpetrate terrible attacks against Palestinians at will.

There is no way to compare ISIS with Israel. Yet Erekat does just that.

Israel is a democracy with checks and balances. Leaders and citizens are held accountable for their actions and for their misdeeds. There is an Independent judiciary in Israel and independent investigations and police and prosecution.

Israel is a country of law and justice.

Erekat did not just get his facts wrong - he is deliberately trying to transform a democratic country of peace loving defenders into a pre-modern society of barbarians.

Shame on you Saeb Erekat. And shame on anyone who actually believes your lies.

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Protests Against Israel in US Ports
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday October 1, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Port of Oakland is the 5th largest port in the United States.

On Saturday September 27, for the second time, protesters prevented an Israeli cargo ship from Zim Cargo from unloading its cargo at the port. The group of protesters was small - only about 200 people. They were organized under the banner of "Block the Boat for Gaza Online." Officially, they were upset by Israel's 50 day operation against Gaza this summer.

The first time this happened was in August and now this second time during the last days of September it has happened again. Twice in two months. Each time, the Zim ships eventually pulled out of Oakland and unload their cargo in Los Angeles.

Protesters prevented the ship from unloading by blocking the ship and the entrance to that section of the port so that the longshoremen could not and would not access the Zim ship.

The ILWU union (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) speaking for the longshoremen said that they did not take a stand on the politics. They also said that their workers and their vehicles were blocked and that they were threatened so they decided not to unload the ship or even break the line.

Here is the real problem: If this situation becomes more common, Zim will simply dock in LA or Long Beach. Zim is one of the biggest cargo companies in the world. It is a multi-billion dollar company.
Ironically, what the protesters do not realize is that they are not hurting Israel, they are hurting their local workers. When Zim takes it business elsewhere, the port will have to cut workers.

In the end, this kind of boycott will not be successful.


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US Air Strikes Hit Grain Silos - Not Reported
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The US led coalition against ISIS struck targets in Manbij the other day.

But instead of hitting an ISIS camp, the coalition planes hit a series of grain silos. And instead of killing ISIS or al Nusra al Qaeda terrorists, the missiles killed locals who were processing food and flour for people in need.

Reports of the attack came from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory is a British group which, form the beginning, has been in Syria documenting, reporting and broadcasting on the casualties of the conflict.

We use the Observatory numbers and in general, they are accurate.
They are anti-Assad government but they report on massacres perpetrated by all involved parties. There is no reason to doubt their report - especially because they explained that the fighter
pilots probably mistook the silos for a training camp.

One should know that in air attacks there is a possibility for civilian deaths. It is unfortunate and civilized countries try their best to eliminate civilian losses.

But here is the double standard: the world lambasted Israel and the Israelis went far beyond necessary in warning civilians about missiles. Here in Manbij the United States gave no warning at all.

Interestingly, there was almost no coverage of the attack and of civilian losses at the hands of the coalition. No outrage. No critique.

I am not criticizing the United States. I am pointing out the holier than thou approach when it came to Israel and now, with the coalition, it seems there is no response. No coverage. No preachy comments. Just business as usual.


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Abbas at the UN
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The biggest problem with the speech given by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before the United Nations General Assembly is that Abbas was perpetuating a terrible lie.

The president of the Palestinian Authority declared that Israel had perpetrated a genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza. He said it took place before the eyes and ears of the world.

That is not what happened in Gaza -- not at all what happened. And Abbas knows it.

Yes, Palestinians died. But there was no systematic plan to murder or destroy Palestinians or the Palestinian people.

The plan was to defend Israel by destroying the terror tunnels emanating from Gaza into Israel and to degrade the ability of Hamas to launch rockets into Israeli civilian population centers. And, by the way, a byproduct of the action taken by Israel was to bolster and secure the leadership of Abbas.

Calling Israeli defensive actions an act of genocide is perverse. It is diplomatically irresponsible. It is blatantly untrue. It is an affront, an insult and an abuse of the Holocaust.

To call what happened to Palestinians the greatest catastrophe in the modern era is simply wrong. Abbas knows what happened and he knows about the Holocaust. For those of you who don't know, Abbas wrote his PhD on Israel's use of Holocaust.

The statements made by Abbas at the GA were met with applause. The United States responded by calling them incitement and not productive.

But words mean something. It is hard to call the person you hope to establish a long term working relationship with a genocidal murderer. And it is hard to make peace with someone who labels you a genocidal murderer.

Abbas was interested in building a united world front against Israel. It all begins with lies and conspiracies - de rigueur in Arab Middle East politics and diplomacy. I hope that some world leaders and some nations can see the truth through the lies and deception.

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Turkey & Egypt Verbal Conflict
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

In typical fashion, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a stinging attack during his recent UN address. His target was Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al Sisi.

The Turkish leader accused al Sisi of destroying democracy in Egypt by ousting the first elected president last summer.

Of course, the Turkish leader neglected to say that the previous Egyptian government systematically dismantled the new democracy and replaced it with Islamic law. He also did not mention that the then-elected leaders of Egypt were members of the anti-democratic Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt wasted no time and shot back at Turkey accusing Erdogan of sponsoring terror. Here is the official response of the Egyptian foreign ministry.

"There is no doubt that the fabrication of such lies and fabrications are not something strange that comes from the Turkish President, who is keen to provoke chaos to sow divisions in the Middle East region through its support for groups and terrorist organizations."

Egypt and Turkey will continue to spar. Erdogan and his party are Islamic. Al Sisi defines himself as a leader committed to combating Islamic political parties and their advancement I the Middle East. Confli