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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. Conflict is inevitable.

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Rosh HaShanah Happy New Year
By Micah Halpern

Shannah Tova

I will not be posting Thursday Friday and Saturday.
Wishing everyone, Jews and non Jews a happy new year.

See you Again on Sunday.

Micah Halpern



Fighting ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The US led coalition against ISIS requires constant activity and vigilance. Much effort will be required keeping the coalition together and keeping up the pressure on ISIS.

This is a military battle. It is also a battle of PR and social media. ISIS thus far has successfully frightened the masses. Almost everyone fears their brutality and their massacres. The question is when or whether ISIS will start to realize the power of the West and the coalition.

The first major airstrike was significant. It hit 50 targets with multiple ordinances from various launching positions.

But is seems that ISIS knew the US was coming. According to various on site reports, especially from the human rights organizations in Syria, 23 to 25 ISIS and al Nusra fighters were killed. It seems all those locations that we saw get blown up on tape were empty.

According to reports, those people who were killed were mostly manning the check posts that prevent people from travelling from one location to another without paying protection money aka a toll which they call Zakat, or charity for the poor - which in this case is for the greater good of ISIS.

Interestingly, after the strike, the Syrian government, which up until the strike warned the US saying that a coalition would been as an act of war, supported the coalition bombing of the terrorists. Now Syria stands with those who fight the terrorists.

As an important aside it seems that the United States sent messages, using the United Nations General Assembly in New York City as their conduit, to the Syrian ambassador that the airstrike was to take place. And it appears that the Iraqi ambassador served as the intermediary.

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ISIS Says KIll Civilians
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS called on followers to attack civilians of their enemies wherever they live.

ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al Adani released a 42 minute video in which he called on all followers to fight the coalition that is being formed against ISIS. The video explained that there are groups organizing against ISIS and ISIS needs to strike back. He asked that
ISIS followers join together in the upcoming ground war against the coalition and explained that those ISIS followers who are living among ISIS enemies all over the world should attack the civilians.

There is no way to misinterpret this message. It is a rallying call for volunteers to come to the Islamic State and to support it in any way possible.

This message comes on the heels of last week's Australian plot that, thankfully, was discovered and stopped. ISIS supporters were planning on kidnapping and decapitating someone - just anyone. Those plotting the attack received their indoctrination and their training on line and swore allegiance to ISIS. Kidnapping and decapitating was supposed to be dagger to the heart of the West.

Members of the Western coalition and the many Arab leaders joining forces with them will be confronting ISIS - all at the very same moment ISIS intended to strike in the heart of the West. In Australia ISIS was going to send a message that would shake the West and the coalition to their very core.

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Hezbollah Drones
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

We know that Hezbollah has drones. We know it because Israel has shot down some of the drones as they entered Israeli airspace and when they attempted to fly over the Mediterranean Sea near Haifa.

And in a major moment of embarrassment a drone, probably sent forth by Hezbollah, was shot down in the southern Negev having gone undetected for some time. There was some thought that the drone was Iranian - but it was probably from Hezbollah.

These drones, known as UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles), were reconnaissance gathering drones. They were not armed.

But yesterday was different. Yesterday Hezbollah used one of their drones and attacked al Qaeda in Syria killing 20 to 25 al Qaeda members who were engaged in battle. Many more were injured.

This is the first time we have seen Hezbollah using armed drones in conflict. These drones could prove very effective for Hezbollah against ISIS and al Qaeda.

The use of drones changes many operational points. Most importantly, it gives Hezbollah the ability to watch, see and to stop ISIS and al Qaeda without endangering their own fighters.

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Stonings in Jersualem
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Stonings are on the rise in Jerusalem. It is not what you think.
When you speak of "stoning" in Jerusalem you are referring to kids and young adults throwing stones at cars, at buses and at the light rail.

In this case it refers to Arab youth throwing the stones.
Over the past few weeks there has been a precipitous rise in these stoning which cause huge damage and frighten, injure and even kill anyone caught in the path of the flying discs.

This morning an Egged bus filled with school children on a trip was stoned. Some of the children were physically injured, some went into shock. The windows of the bus were destroyed and the bus was caked with black paint and riddled with dents.

This most recent bus attack was a frontal assault.

Unfortunately, there are seldom arrests after these attacks. The rock throwers assemble nonchalantly and then quickly scatter.

Acts of this kind are corrosive to the healthy psyche of a society and the police must devise a way of stopping them. Left unchecked, these rocks will become more damaging than rockets from Gaza.

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Kurds Flee ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Saturday September 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Thousands of Kurds are fleeing for their lives and escaping into Turkey.

ISIS has begun a campaign and Kurdish leaders have announced that all women and children should flee to save their lives.

This is the ISIS response to the coalition.

The coalition wants to support locals in order to confront ISIS. But the only group even closely prepared to do this, despite being woefully under-supplied is the Kurdish militia. It is the Kurds who pushed back ISIS from the Mosul dam. And the Kurds have, with the help of US air support, been scoring some important victories.

ISIS is not taking this sitting down. They went after the softest of all targets. When the fighters were away, ISIS went into Kurdish villages and towns that border Turkey in the Northern part of Syria.
They began capturing the cities. To save themselves Kurds in the area simply fled.

There will be a series of other attacks and reprisals. The brutality is just beginning. The Kurds will strike back at ISIS - and they, too, will be extremely brutal.

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Rebuilding Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia opened the bidding yesterday. They pledged $500 million to help rebuild Gaza. That is about 1/6-1/8 of the entire estimated cost which has been put at $3-$4 billion.

The pledges will come. And as per normal, most pledges will only be partially filled.

But to what use will those pledged funds be going?

The real practical issues of rebuilding Gaza have not yet been resolved. We know that the Palestinian Authority will be supervising the rebuilding and we do know that Hamas will be sidelined. But so far, there is no organized method to plan and rebuild.

Just finding cement is a problem. Rebuilding Gaza will require approximately 10,000 tons of cement per day. Up until now, 30 tons per day are brought in and Israel just increased that three-fold making it about 100 tons per day. They will need those 10,000 tons per day for at least 6 months.

The PA has said that they do not want to buy cement from Israel. There really is no other choice. Importing that much cement from Cyprus or from parts of Europe into Gaza will prove to be financially prohibitive. So despite Palestinian reservations, a private Israeli company will provide the cement necessary to rebuild Gaza.

That will most likely be the case with other construction supplies as well.

There is no irony or surprise here. Israel and the Palestinians are inextricably linked inextricably one to the other. Palestinian growth, Palestinian development and the Palestinian economy need to feed off of Israel. And major sectors of the Israeli economy feed off services provided to Palestinians.

Conflict, destruction, rebuilding and even terror are part of their ongoing relationship. I do not see that changing - even with a peace agreement or the declaration of an independent Palestinian state.


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Israel Can't Sell Their Gas
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Remember when Israel discovered a mammoth natural gas reserve off their coast in the Mediterranean Sea? It was nothing short of a miracle!

In 2018 when the natural gas field, Leviathan, opens for business it will turn Israel into a real player in the natural gas market.

The problem is that Israel is having problems securing contracts and clients to buy their natural gas. Turkey was their best potential client, but that outlet dried up because of this summer's conflict Operation Preventive Edge in Gaza.

Then Cyprus pulled out because of negotiation issues.

Austria fell apart because of an old and continuing conflict over taxes.

That leaves only the Palestinian Authority and Jordan as clients and the possibility of supplying the Egyptian side of British Gas and their liquefied natural gas facility in Egypt.

What this really means is that the gas will be way undersold and that Israel will only be a regional supplier and not an international supplier. That situation is potentially cataclysmic for Israel as it tries to break into the market.

Once Israel is relegated to being a regional force, it will be hard to become a world player.

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Turkey is Ticking off People
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Turkey is really beginning to tick people off. By people I mean world leaders and diplomats from both the West and from Arab countries.

Turkish leader Erdogan just visited Qatar. On the plane, on his way back home, he held a press conference and announced that all exiled Muslim Brotherhood leaders were welcome in Turkey.

A bit of background -- The Gulf states have been very frustrated with Qatar. Qatar has been supporting the Brotherhood and Hamas. So the Gulf states exerted extreme amounts of pressure on Qatar to stop.

Instead of stopping, Qatar decided to expel the leaders of the Brotherhood and Hamas who had created their international nerve center out of Doha. Qatar gave them two months to leave. All this happened last week.

Now Turkey is declaring itself the new center for this terror.

Turkey has a lot going on a lot of different fronts. They tacitly joined the coalition against ISIS and refuses to allow the coalition to fly over their airspace or use their runways. They are also creating a buffer zone in Syria and hemorrhaging youth who are rushing out of Turkey to join the ranks of ISIS.

Those are some of the reasons why Turkey is really upsetting people.

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Hezbollah Against ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hezbollah has made it very clear that they are fighting ISIS - and that Syria cannot lose the battle to ISIS.

The deputy head of the Hezbollah executive council, Sheik Nabil Qawouq, explained that Hezbollah will not leave Syria, they will remain in Syria to fight ISIS --- "this is a battlefield where we will defeat and crush them."

The point is that if Hezbollah is not there to battle ISIS, then the Islamic State will roll right over Syria and then into Lebanon.
ISIS has taken some serve blows in Syria. It looks like Assad/ Hezbollah and those fighting with them are slowly but surely securing more and more area.

There is little doubt that the powerful forces that are fighting on the ground checking ISIS in Syria are Hezbollah. But the irony of ironies is that Hezbollah is acting in their own self interest. And part of that self interest is also keeping the border with Israel safer.

A secure Israeli border is a stable reality that Hezbollah count on. Hezbollah must keep ISIS at bay for many reasons - and one of those reasons is to maintain stability on the Israeli border.

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N African Group Embraces ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday a major shift took place in the structure of power in the Middle East.

In Algeria the group called al Qaeda of North Africa, known as AQIM which is the acronym for Al Qaeda of Islamic Mahgreb, split away from al Qaeda and joined ISIS. They now call themselves The Caliphate Soldier of Algeria.

The group now professes allegiance to the ISIS declared Caliph Al Baghdadi.

This is another in a long line of examples demonstrating how popular ISIS is becoming and showing us that people and groups are bailing on al Qaeda. Clearly ISIS is very popular among the rebels.

This move highlights the success of ISIS. And it reminds us that al Qaeda on the ropes. More of these defections will come in the near future. ISIS is now the focal point of the West and hence a very attractive place to hang your hat in the extremist sector of the Middle East.

One incentive not to be overlooked is the reality that ISIS is paying their fighters very well and will continue to fill the coffers on a daily basis.

It is not only the West that is feeling the pressure of ISIS, al Qaeda is feeling that pressure, as well.

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PA Says ISIS Was Created Because of Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The entire Arab and Muslim world is trying to figure out how to engage ISIS, or Daesh, as it is called in Arabic. Some groups, like al Qaeda, are in competition with ISIS. Other groups are trying to confront ISIS. This was the case on Saturday when there was a huge protests against ISIS by Arabs in Israel.

But PA leadership seems upset that ISIS has caused the world media to shift attention away from the plight of the Palestinians. Several years ago the Palestinian leadership was also upset by the refocus on Syria. So now the PA leadership is trying to gain back that focus and even use ISIS as a tool to put the Palestinian cause front and center.

Saeb Erekat a senior Palestinian leader and chief peace negotiator said on Fatah TV that Israel and the settler are the reason for ISIS and Islamic extremism. He added, saying that the "terror acts" of Israel and the settlers empower and create groups like ISIS.

Erekat is creating a false narrative "solve the Palestinian problem and the ISIS problem will be solved." All of the problems confronted in the Middle East derive first and foremost from Israel oppressing the Palestinians.

This has always been the central talking point among leaders in the PA. But today it is a real shocker. There is no logic to it but their modus operandi is always to first blame Israel for everything.

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ISIS Gets Over $1Mill/day from Oil
By Micah Halpern

Saturday September 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

How is ISIS getting their money and paying for their ever increasing numbers of recruits and fighters. The CIA has now increased their assessment of ISIS as having as many as 31,500 fighters, up from 10,000 at the beginning of the summer.

So, how does ISIS get their money? Aside from stealing $1.2 billion from the banks when they entered Mousol, ISIS has other means of raising money.

ISIS taxes with a "zakat" which is, supposedly, alms for the poor - but in their case, the tax goes to salaries. Zakat is one of the pillars of Islam and is best translated as charity or, in Hebrew, tzedaka. ISIS goes to every store and demands the tax. They set up road blocks on the highways and call them toll stations. They demand the zakat at gunpoint.

ISIS also has oil. They have 4-5 oil fields in Iraq and Syria. Each field has 40-70 wells. The fields and wells are operated by locals who worked for the oil companies.

ISIS is pumping 25,000 barrels per day (bpd). They are selling locally. They are selling at severely below market value, at cut-rates that are 50%-75% below price - at $25-$60 a barrel. That brings in a staggering $625,000 to $1.5 million per day.

That is per day. This is one of the reasons ISIS is recruiting so successfully. They pay very well. And that is the magnet that draws recruits from all over the world.

There is no question that at this stage ISIS has much, much, more money and better funding than Al Qaeda.

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Ted Cruz Walks Off Stage After Defending Israel
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Senator Ted Cruz was booed off stage for supporting Israel. Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, was speaking at the inaugural event of a new organization called "In Defense of Christians."

Cruz, a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination, was addressing the group and explained that, in 1948, Jews from around the Arab world escaped persecution by escaping to Israel. He said that "Christians have no greater ally than Israel." The crowd started to heckle him by booing and shouting.

Cruz folded and put away his prepared speech.

And then he said: "I will say this: I'm saddened to see that some here, not everyone, are so consumed with hate." At that, the crowd got even more aggravated.

Cruz continued: "I will say this: If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you and God bless you."

Watching the various videos of this event was very disturbing. The hecklers were clearly Arabs. The host asked for respect from the attendees in a clearly accented voice, he reminded the audience that "this is America."

How could the crowd publicly heckle and boo a sitting US senator who did nothing more than articulate his support for Israel and Jews. And this from an organization that was professes to fight religious persecution.

It is as if to say that Jews in the Middle East are not and were not oppressed - in Iraq, in Iran, in Syria, in Egypt, in Libya, in Morocco, in Algeria, in Ethiopia. The point Senator Cruz was making is that Jews sought and found refuge in Israel. That Israel understands religious persecution.

And all this took place in the US Capital, in Washington DC.

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9/11 13 Years Later
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is the 13th anniversary of 9 /11. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

More than memory, 9 / 11 transformed the United States. It was a watershed event. Seldom can we look at a single historical event and say this event changed us and changed the world.

The unreal became real. The United States became a target on its homeland. It was a harsh awakening, a difficult process of maturation. 9 /11 is when the United States lost its naivete.

The United States was a sleeping giant and the terror of 9 /11startled the sleeping giant awake.

The United States became not just a player in the game of world terror, it became a leader in the fight against terror. Until 9 /11 the United States knew that terror was awful, but assumed that it would never knock at their door, assumed that terror was a reality that "others had to deal with." It was a reality in Israel - not in the United States.

9 /11 taught the United States that America could be and was a target. Everything the United States stands for came under attack, everything - especially freedom, democracy and success.

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PA Admits Donors Afraid of Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The deputy prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammed Mustafa, explained that donor countries are reluctant to give aid to any government where Hamas is involved. Mustafa said that the countries see Hamas as destructive and that any rebuilding undertaken by Hamas would be done in order to launch another attack against Israel.

Mustafa explained that the donors want Abbas and his PA to take control of Gaza.

"Some donor countries are concerned because of the atmosphere on the ground ... because the reconstruction is not possible without enabling the (Palestinian) government to take the lead in all aspect of life in Gaza."

Donor nations do not want to be complicit in sponsoring another Hamas led conflict with Israel in Gaza.

And Egypt announced that they will host a donor conference on October 12 to help raise and allocate money to rehabilitated Gaza. And certainly, one of the chief questions under discussion at the conference will be who directs, supervises and monitors the money and the building that will be funneled into Gaza.

Egypt has a vested interest in knowing that the money does not go to building and repairing new tunnels. Tunnels from Gaza into Egypt have been responsible for hundreds of Egyptian deaths at the hands of Gaza terrorists. Egypt will make certain that the money and the work in Gaza will not be abused.

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CIA To Help Jordan Fight ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The United States is deeply concerned that Jordan is in the sights of ISIS. So the United States has charged a former CIA official with extensive links to Jordan to head up a special task force. The King of Saudi Arabia also announced that he predicts Jordan is next.

There is reason for worry. ISIS has made it clear that they are on the move. They have a vision and they are setting out to accomplish it.

The US wants to develop real responses to the potential ISIS threats against Jordan. They need to focus and to figure out what Jordan can do and what the United States must do.

Jordan cannot fall to ISIS - not simply because of Jordan's role and friendship with the US, but because Jordan borders Israel. If ISIS breaks into Jordan through the border with Iraq it will be a game changer. Israel will not tolerate ISIS that close.

If ISIS breaks into Jordan Israel will strike ISIS immediately. It is simply too dangerous for the very existence of Israel. Israel's border with Jordan is not like their border with Syria in the Golan Heights. In the Golan, Hezbollah is defending the region and will do everything to prevent ISIS from taking over.

Jordan does not have the same capabilities as Hezbollah. Yes, Jordan has a professional army and they have trained officers. But the Jordanians have no real experience and they are not prepared for a real battle against an enemy like ISIS.

Everyone is worried about Jordan. And the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan itself are responding to the threat. There is real reason for this worry.

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Hamas is Rebuilding Tunnels
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

In Israel yesterday the press reported that an intelligence source said that Hamas is rebuilding their tunnels.

That would make it less than two weeks after the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza went into effect. Later in the day a report was published quoting not a source but an actual Hamas leader saying that indeed Hamas has started rebuilding the tunnels.

He said that weapons and other important supplies, including building supplies, are being smuggled in.

We know that he is telling the truth, and there is no reason to doubt him, the supplies must be small because the tunnels they are using from Egypt are small.

When the Israeli press reports on Hamas, it can reasonable be called speculative. But when the Hamas official describes the actual tunnels and the materials that they are smuggling, that can be seen as confirmation.

There is no question that Hamas is rebuilding. And there is no doubt that they want to strike at Israel again and very soon. And the biggest no doubt is that Hamas understands that this will put into question both the international aid they have been receiving and have been promised and the unity government with Abbas and the PA.

Bottom line is that Hamas does not care. The Hamas objective is mono-dimensional. Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Period, end.

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ISIS Among Israeli Arabs
By Micah Halpern

Sunday September 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

ISIS has become a hot topic of debate, argument, discussion, in many places around the world. Even in Israel. ISIS has caused fissures even among the Arab citizens of Israel.

In their Shabbat (weekend) edition, YNET ran a piece in which several Israeli Arabs discussed ISIS. Some of them embrace ISIS, others reject them. Some like the direction ISIS has taken, others think they go too far. Some advocated for volunteering to fight alongside ISIS, others violently attacked preachers and imams who advocated ISIS.
The article has pictures and even video. Most of the material comes from facebook pages.

Here are some of the interchanges:

"ISIS is on the right path." said one imam as worshippers shouted at him: "You are defending a terror organization. We will not pray at the mosque as long as you hold such murderous thoughts of terror. You must realize that our religion does not teach us to murder people - Muslims, Christians, Jews, or Druze."

Another example turned physical after a member of a mosque declared: "the Islamic State is the only one that can establish an Islamic state, and it is good they are punishing people. I hope they make it to Israel." Responders said "You are terrorist scum, and you have nothing to say to us. Get out of here; we do not want to see your ilk."

It is one thing to have ISIS followers in Iraq or Syria. It is conceivable that there are disenfranchised youngsters from Europe eager to join ISIS - but from Israel, that is very scary.

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Is Israel Prepared for Hezbollah?
By Micah Halpern

September 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Some military experts are suggesting that Israel's next conflict will be with Hezbollah. I am not certain that I agree, but agree or disagree, I know that the real issue to consider is whether Israel is properly prepared for a next conflict.

Hezbollah is far better trained than Hamas and has much more experience and many more rockets and guided missiles than Hamas has.

Hezbollah, according to intel sources, has the ability to launch 1000 rockets per day into Israel. Some experts say that Hezbollah has accumulated 100,000 rockets of various styles and ranges.

Assuming that intel is correct, and I assume that it is, it will be extremely difficult for Israel to defend itself against Hezbollah. As of today Israel only has nine Iron Dome batteries. Considering that Israel began Operation Preventive Edge with only seven, nine is a 30% increase and vast improvement - but is it enough?.

In addition, Hezbollah has 5,000 commanders with hard earned operational experience fighting ISIS, al Qaeda and al Nusra in Syria. They fought in Syria as a real army, not as a ragtag group of terrorists or guerrillas.

One cannot discount the possibility that Syria will lend their fighters and weapons to Hezbollah in a conflict against Israel. Assad would simply be retuning the favor because Hezbollah was such a stalwart force fighting to keep him in place.

Again, I do not think that Hezbollah is running to confront Israel. Actually, right now their plate is pretty full with ISIS and with helping Assad. None the less, it is essential for Israel to be prepared the eventuality.

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Debating ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Friday September 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The tragic murder of Steven Joel Sotloff has given us greater insight into the world that ISIS inhabits.

Satloff's mother made an appeal to the head of ISIS after the brutal murder of James Foley. She appealed to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. In addressing the mastermind behind the beheading, Mrs. Sotloff used Muslim terms and emphasized Muslim values. She referred to Baghdadi in the most respectful of ways, even using his self appointed title -- Caliph.

At the time, I was struck by the nature of her plea and thought that whoever had advised her knew Arabic society and had determined that this was the only possible chance a mother had to save her son.

Now, in the aftermath of both horrific murders, we know that one of the family's spokespeople, Barak Barfi, actually challenged Baghdadi to a debate about Islam and Islamic ideals especially about mercy and peace.

Here is what Barfi laid out in his challenge:

"I have a message to Abu Bakr,"

"You said Ramadan is a month of mercy but where is your mercy? You speak of Islam and the Holy Koran but I know the Koranic verses."

"Abu Bakr, I am ready to debate you"

"I come in peace, I don't have a sword in my hand, I am ready for your answer."

Barfi understood that Baghdadi would not entertain his request for debate. Barfi is really speaking to the rest of the Arabic world, not to Baghdadi. He is saying these barbaric acts are hardly the acts of a true Muslim.

Barfi is calling Baghdadi a heretic, a man who takes parts of Islam and exploits it for his own purpose.


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Al Qaeda Attacks ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Ayman Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, released a 50 minute tape yesterday. The purpose of the tape was to announce that a new al Qaeda front is opening in the Indian subcontinent.

But the real reason for the tape was for Zawahiri to give a slap in the face to ISIS / ISIL / IS, the Islamic State for all the havoc it has caused and all the claims it has made.

Al Qaeda is taking issue with ISIS. The major point of contention is over the fact that that ISIS is creating discord in the name of Jihad. They are violating basic Islamic teachings in order to fight their battle. Zawahiri claims that ISIS does not care about other Muslims or their property or their money. And even more, Zawahiri says that the discord created by ISIS is in and of itself a violation of Islam.

He said: "If you said that you are doing jihad to defend the sanctities of the Muslims, then you must not transgress against them or their money or honor, and not even transgress your mujahedeen brothers by word and action."

Zawahiri continued: "Discord is a curse and torment, and disgrace for the believers and glory for the disbelievers," he said. "If you say that by your jihad you do not want but the pleasure of Allah, then you must not race for governance and leadership at the first opportunity."

ISIS leader Baghdadi is being called an opportunist and a fraud.
That is a very strong challenge to posit.

ISIS is becoming more popular than al Qaeda. We may witness some very ugly rhetoric fly back and forth and maybe even some real fighting - brutal conflict similar to what took place between al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria.

Be prepared.

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Hamas Oppressing PA
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday September 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A recent poll shows that Hamas has increased in popularity over the past few weeks. They are, at this moment, more popular than Abbas and the PA.

So PA representatives have begun unveiling horrific descriptions of brutal abuse at the hands of Hamas. Hamas has threatened and physically abused and even murdered PA people in Gaza

"Hamas acted in the same barbaric way in 2009 and 2012 without ever giving any reasons," one witness described the situation. "Nobody can forget the Fatah blood they spilled after their 2007 coup d'etat."

Others describe how Hamas humiliated and even publicly murdered PA employees over the past few weeks.

There are 100,000 PA employees in Gaza. They all continued to draw a salary during the conflict with Israel and that, too, was a huge cause of conflict between Hamas and the PA. Now they are being terrorized.

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Rouhani Tells Clerics Be Open To Modern World
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday September 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made an appeal to the leading clerics of Iran who had gathered together at a conference in Teheran.

The appeal was do not "close the gates to the world."

Rouhani was referring to internet and to the sciences.

Rouhani told the religious leaders that Iran needs to teach technology and science and that the youth of Iran need to engage with them.

Iranian clerics have been against the internet and against 3G connectivity and against 3G service out of the fear that the evil elements of the internet will have a horrific impact and negative influence on Iranian youth and on the future of Iran.

The religious leaders are concerned about the moral decay of a society that uses the internet. Rouhani urged them to be more open to new technology and new ideas. Without these new technologies Iran will not be able to compete or to defend itself.

Rouhani promised that he would liberalize many aspects of Iran including the internet. That is not as easy as he originally suggested it would be. Progress may just be on the Iranian horizon.

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16 Yr Old Girl Caught Going to Fight in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday September 1, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday the French Minister of the Interior announced the arrest of a 16 year old girl who was running away to fight in Syria.

The girl's parents had no idea, they were shocked. Her recruiter, a 20 year old man, was arrested with the 16 year old as they boarded a plane in Nice en route to Turkey on Saturday night.

Europe has been worried that significant numbers of their youth might join the ISIS or al Qaeda fighters in Syria and Iraq, worried that after being trained these fighters might return to fight from their native soil.

In this case we have a young girl who has been dubbed Jihad Jane.

The fact that she is a young girl is very disturbing. For those who have been following the ISIS butchering of the Kazidis, you know that about 600 girls were spared a brutal death - and were instead relocated and either given or sold for $1000 to become the slaves of ISIS fighters in Syria. If the girls convert to Islam, these young victims can potentially become wives of ISIS fighters.

ISIS is paying every fighter $400 a month. They then add another $100 per months for every child the soldier has.

ISIS is extremely sexist. I have difficulty understanding what a 16 year French girl would be doing in this conflict.

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The Abbas Dilemma
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 31, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is facing a huge dilemma.

On the one hand, Abbas signed a unity agreement with Hamas. On the other hand, the agreement between the PA and Israel says that talks will resume within the next 30 days. And the problem is that Israel will not talk with Abbas as long as he is connected with Hamas.

Abbas has to choose between Hama and Israel. Now remember, Abbas really wants to destroy Hamas and the feeling is mutual - Hamas really wants to destroy Abbas and the PA.

All the funds for rebuilding Gaza are going through Abbas and his people. He will be building a real infrastructure in terms of actual buildings on the ground and the people who will be doing the work will be employed by the PA, not by Hamas. That will promote loyalty to Abbas and the PA on the streets of Gaza.

And now another problem arises. Abbas just promised to pay Hamas from his own coffers and transfer the money to Gaza banks. That means that he is now empowering Hamas.

Netanyahu said it on Saturday night. Abbas cannot have it both ways. Abbas must make a choice. Either Israel or Hamas. Not both.

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Head of Hamas Shouts V
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas in Gaza, took a tour of certain parts of Gaza.

Haniyeh flashed the V sign everywhere he went.

From our Western POV it is hard to look at all the destruction in Gaza and interpret it as, in any manner whatsoever, success. And yet, Hamas does just that.

Hamas sees and evaluates success very differently than we in the West do. From Hamas' POV they emerged victorious because there are still Hamas leaders that were not assassinated and Hamas fighters that were not killed. Hamas sees a victory in the fact that they are still able to fire rockets into Israel.

Hamas sees a victory when there is still one man standing, still able to speak and shout and fight.

The West does not see loss and victory in total terms. The West assesses greater and lesser, better or worse. For the West, assessment is a series of evaluations in shades of gray.

For Hamas it is total, all or nothing, black and white. As long as
Hamas can still rebuild and continue to fight, they have emerged successful. And they are triumphant.

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Abbas Laces Into Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas laced into Hamas in a publicly broadcast interview.

Abbas said that the current ceasefire is identical to the very first ceasefire agreement proposed by Egypt - which Hamas refused to accept. He then suggested that all the civilian deaths that took place were as a result of that refusal. So Hamas is responsible for all those deaths.

Abbas further said that he was personally assured by the Khalad Mashal, the leader of Hamas, that Hamas had nothing to do with the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaar. And then, just a few days later, another Hamas leader publicly claimed responsibility and involvement for the kidnappings and murders.

One of the points Abbas was making ws how important it is that the rebuilding of Gaza be done under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas. He, Mahmoud Abbas, will supervise the project.

Judging from his tone during the broadcast, it seems that what most irked Abbas is that Hamas stated that they can and will determine whether there is quiet with Israel or whether they will attack again and go to war.

Abbas said this is not the unity agreement that he signed with Hamas. The Palestinian president asserted that only the PA can make that declaration.

We have to watch this tension closely. It looks like Abbas is making a move. It looks like he is preparing to assert his influence and flex his power and maybe - maybe even take back Gaza from Hamas.

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Boycotting Israel Will Not Work
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There has been an uptick in anti-Israel sentiment in the Western world - in Europe and in the United States. The reality is that it is old fashioned anti-Semitism with a thin veneer, a coating, of anti-Israel rhetoric.

The most organized group promoting this ugliness is the BDS movement. BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. They movement spouts lies and speaks half-truths and promotes the boycotting Israeli products. Their invective is filled with hate under the guise of promoting justice for Palestinians.

Regardless of what the BDS movement or any other movement has to say, boycotts have virtually no impact on Israel.

Here is why:

Israel's economy is insulated against these kinds of boycotts because of the nature of what Israel produces and what it exports. The only real exception is agricultural exports and they compose only 2% of total Israeli exports. And even that can be protected.

95% of Israel's exports are B2B, business to business, which means that they are not actually sold to consumers. Many of those businesses are subsidiaries of multinationals firms. They produce small components of larger pieces and the multi-national companies are only interested in the price of the product and no one knows what is inside those products. The same is true for the pharmaceutical industry. Some are products wholly developed and produced in Israel and some are products in which Israel contributes elements to the finished product.

And the companies that are doing business with Israel have felt no impact from the BDS movement at all.

It is industries in the West Bank, along with the agricultural sector, that have felt the pinch. But that is due to the EU boycott and their enforcement. But Israeli products, even from West Bank industries, are finding different markets willing and even excited about buying their products.

I know about the BDS movement in terms of the economic effect. The real impact though is on young people on campus - especially those students who may actually fall victim to the bile and ugly rhetoric.
That is where my worry lies.

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What Hamas Wants From Ceasefire
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A long term cease fire has been reached between Gaza and Israel.

The exact details have not been made public. But from leaks it seems that Rafa, the crossing between Gaza and Egypt, will be opened. And Israel will let humanitarian and reconstruction materials into Gaza. And finally, in 30 days, peace talks between Israel and the PA will resume.

There were huge celebrations in Gaza after the cease fire was announced. Gazans flashed the V sign as a symbol of victory.

I ask you - how could this be a victory for Hamas and Gaza? From what we know thus far from the agreement, Hamas achieved almost none of their demands.

The answer is that Hamas needed to show Gazans that there was a victory so they went out to set the example and led the celebrations - despite having won nothing.

And that leads to the next question. How long will the ceasefire last?

That depends on Hamas' perception. If Hamas still feels strong enough, they will break the ceasefire because they see that they have more to gain. However, if Hamas has been bruised and beaten and their weapons are depleted, if Hamas does not have anything left to fight with, then the ceasefire will hold - until they rebuild their caches and restock their arsenal.

It sounds complicated but it is not. Hamas cannot stop. Hamas is sworn to Israel's destruction. The ceasefire is simply a time-out, a time to replenish and a time to reload.

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ISIS is in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has been insisting that there is no connection between ISIS and them. They say that there is no ISIS at all in Gaza.

Hamas is lying. It looks like there is a definite ISIS presence in Gaza.

I watched a video with ISIS members shooting rockets into Israel.

YNET reported that there has been a real uptick in internet activity from Gaza on websites that are ISIS affiliates.

Egypt, which has been sensitive to the growth of extremist Islamic groups, has asserted that ISIS has successfully recruited young men of Gaza to join their movement.

And there was an ISIS rally that took place in Gaza in June.

All this lead us to conclude that ISIS, the real thing, is getting off the ground in Gaza.

This is beyond dangerous.

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Hamas is Like ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Since the beginning of the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, Hamas has been extremely adroit at messaging.

The Hamas message has been on point at every juncture. Hamas has been successful at framing the discussion and deflecting almost all responsibility. Their message has been clear and simple: Israel is killing innocent civilians.

Try as they might to cast Hamas in the light of a terrorist group, Israel has not successfully redirected the coverage.

But recently, the office of the Israeli prime minister began drawing the parallel between ISIS and Hamas. After the execution of Jim Foley, they intensified the parallels.

Hamas took exception to the comparison.

And last week there was a major synapse.

Last week Hamas executed dozens of Gazans accused of collaborating with Israel. The still pictures were plastered all across the web and on the front pages of newspapers. The Hamas executioners were wearing black and their faces were covered with black hoods.

And the parallel stuck.

The prisoners had their hands tied behind their backs and they were kneeling. Everyone seeing the photos drew the ISIS/Hamas link.

Hamas claimed it was not so. They issued a new directive that all future executions not be done in public and not be photographed. But here is the problem. Like ISIS, Hamas wants people to see the executions because they want to sew the seeds of fear - in their own people. The more fear, the greater the power Hamas wields over the 1.8 million Gazans.

Hamas and ISIS are not identical. But they are very, very similar.

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Poll: Gazans Want Ceasefire -- But
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I am not surprised.

A new survey was released on Saturday by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion.

1000 people in Gaza participated in the door to door survey. The main questions they were asked were about a ceasefire with Israel.

The overwhelming majority of those polled agreed that they want a long term ceasefire with Israel. 87.6% responded positively to that question. At the same time, 93.2% said that they would not support a ceasefire that involved disarming.

The essential point here is clear.

The people of Gaza want quiet. And those same people also want the ability to transform the quiet and to strike Israel at will.

Analysts are saying that disarming is too great a price to pay for the Gazans. But the real issue here is the issue of power. If the people of Gaza have rockets, they still have power. If they give up their rockets, Gaza loses a tangible and visible sense of power.

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The Israel Response Variable
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There are several variables that will move Israel to more aggressive action against Hamas. Those variables result in actions that include ground strikes and more intensive air strikes.

For Israel, the most important variable is the death of children - like the killing of four year old Daniel Turgeman.

Another variable is a constant barrage of rockets.
And finally, the increased intensity of attacks upon Israel by Hamas, demonstrating no desire to a return to a status quo quiet.

It seems that this is the new status.

Up until now Israel has been extremely lucky and there have been very few civilian deaths from the Gaza rockets. The death of a child is a game changer.

Israel has already re-called 10,000 reservists. They are now considering a series of ground strikes utilizing their elite strike forces. These attacks will be dramatically different from the previous ground operation. They will use more air support and more precise targeting of people and places - relying heavily on new intel.

The attacks will hone in on Hamas and Islamic Jihad command and control centers.

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Israel Kills Hamas Leaders
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has successfully targeted several Hamas leaders. Targeting is a euphemism for assassinate.

Two of the Hamas leaders were central field commanders, responsible for the operational planning and execution of Hamas' attacks against Israel. Their names are Raed al Attar and Mohammed Abu Shamala.
These men were not just responsible for the shooting of rockets from Gaza into Israel, they also coordinated, planned and trained hundreds of terror raids into Israel. Together they were responsible for hundreds of Israeli casualties.

A third person assassinated by Israel is Mohammed Barhoum. He was in charge of Hamas logistics. Over the past 10 years Barhoum's main role was facilitating and building the tunnels of Gaza.

Up until now Israel has been unable to locate and target Hamas military leaders. Something changed. My guess is that Israel was able to crack the Hamas communication network.

But does killing the leaders have an impact? Yes.

It send the rest of Hamas' followers into disarray. Cutting off the head of the beast means that it will take time for new leadership - with charisma, experience and the creativity to launch bold new operations, to emerge.

This is what the United States did with al Qaeda and the Taliban and what it should be doing with ISIS.

This successful strike by Israel may not totally destroy Hamas, but it will have a huge impact on the ability of Hamas to plan attacks against and to strike Israel.

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Hamas Shoots Record Number of Rockets
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is a new and very sad and dubious record.

Last night 168 rockets were launched from Gaza into target Israel. The previous record was 150. Hamas is making an important point. And Israel responded in kind.

Hamas' point is that Israel did not defeat them and they still have the capability to strike Israel. With no intel to validate the observation, it seems clear that Hamas still has plenty of firepower and plenty of underground silos to launch them from.

Hamas hosted a Rueters camera crew and still photographer earlier this week. The journalists were taken on a tour of a tunnel system. The purpose of that tour was identical to Hamas launching these rockets.

Hamas is declaring that Israel is lying. Hamas is proving that they can still strike at the heart of Israel.

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Status Quo Agreement w/ Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The ceasefire between Hamas in Gaza and Israel was broken. It was also timed out. No surprise.

Now, again, Hamas is launching rockets and Israel is countering with airstrikes. Israelis were told to stay in their bomb shelters.
Hamas is claiming that Israel dragged their feet in this stage of the negotiations. They were probably correct.

At this point there is no doubt that, from Israel's perspective, Israel would be giving way too many concessions to Hamas in a long term status accord. So it is in Israel's interests to just create a new status quo and live by it.

Hamas was not budging. Israel was giving in to more and more demands. At a certain point Israel simply said enough.

That is where the talks are now. In many ways this kind of status quo is better than an agreement that is neither applicable nor enforceable. In the new status quo Israel will have to use its own power of deterrence to make certain that Hamas does not step out of line.

At the beginning it will be very important that Israel clearly send that message and set down the cost of violating the status quo to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. If Israel does not respond quickly and strongly, Hamas will not understand the high price of firing at Israel and disturbing the peace and quiet of the Israeli citizens that live near Gaza and in all parts of Israel.

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Hamas Agents Plot to Overthrow Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Intelligence, known as the Shin Bet, arrested 93 Hamas members in the West Bank. Israel also confiscated hundreds of thousands of dollars and numerous weapons and ammo.

The arrested are charged with plotting a third intifada. But the intifada was actually simply a terrorist's tool. The objective was to sow the seeds of great antagonism and cause huge resentment by way of an intifada that would cause Israel to clamp down on Palestinians living in the West Bank and force the Palestinian Authority to break down and, finally, implode.

Think of it as a game of dominos.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority would either have to clamp down on the intifada - or let it happen. Either way, either decision that they made, the Palestinian Authority would come crumbling down and Hamas would take over.

Interestingly, Turkey was also included in this Hamas move. The Hamas organizer has been in Turkey and much of the money and many of the players came to the region via Turkey.

There's more. On Tuesday Abbas went to Qatar to meet with the head of Hamas, Khaled Mashal. Abbas went to meet Hamas knowing of this plan.

For months I have said that the objective of Hamas is to oust the PA and Abbas. That is why Israel so diligently kept Abbas in the loop.

The irony is that Israel Is actually protecting Abbas and the PA against Hamas. And PA security forces are helping Israel and briefing the Shin Bet.

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New Old Anti Semitism in Europe
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

People are blaming the rise of anti-Semitic violence in Europe on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

They are wrong.

The idea that Israel's conflict with Hamas is connected to Europe is a disconnect with reality.

The hatred has been presented as anti Israel, but it is clear that the real tone of hatred in Europe is, in fact, anti-Semitic - not anti Israel. When we review the protests, the posters and the shouts and slogans we are reminded of Europe in the 1930's.

European protesters in 2014 are shouting "Gas the Jews" and "Hitler was right." Their placards read "Child Murderers." The protesters publicly declare that Israel is murdering Palestinian children as a policy.

This is a clear reenactment of the blood libel.

This is not about being anti Israel. There is no evidence for these canards. It is an exact replay of medieval Jew hatred. Only it's 2014.

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With Hamas - No Agreement Works
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The good news and the productive tone that came out of the Cairo talks on Thursday and Friday has disappeared.

It looks like there is no way for any ceasefire to emerge. Hamas has totally rejected the Egyptian proposal.

The main reason for their rejection is that Hamas gained nothing from the Egyptian brokered deal. There is no real success that Hamas can point to as an accomplishment from the entire operation.

But this is not a sign of total despair. The probable outcome of the breakdown of the talks will be the creation of a status quo without an agreement.

In the absence of a signed agreement, Israel will need to monitor and make certain that quiet reigns in the south. That means that things return to what they were before operation Preventive Edge and if Hamas once again begins to launch rockets at Israel, Israel must immediately respond and re-institute a system of deterrence by quickly and forcefully retaliating.

The system of deterrence forcing Hamas not to attack Israel will be based on Hamas' fear of retaliation by Israel.

If that system is in place a de facto ceasefire will work - and quiet will be returned to the south of Israel, at least, for the short term.

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Hezbollah Lashes Out at ISIS
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hassan Nasrallah is the head of Hezbollah.

Nasrallah lashed out at ISIS in part two of a rare six hour interview.

Nasrallah called ISIS an "uncontrollable monster conducting horrible massacres," and then he said "They have no reservations: Not ideological, not moral, not religious and not human."
Nasrallah said that ISIS is a "monster that has come to devour the region's people."

Hezbollah challenged ISIS in Syria. Had Hezbollah not stopped ISIS in Syria, ISIS would now be in Beirut.

Nasrallah asks:"If someone steps up to fight this monster ... should they be thanked or condemned?"

That was not the most biting of Nasrallah's critique. His most biting critique of ISIS came in the form of an explanation of their true character. "The danger in ISIS is that they don't differentiate between Shiite, Sunni, Christian, Druze, Yazid or Arab. The monster is growing and everyone should be concerned."

Nasrallah is saying that ISIS will gain access to places where one group claims that others are non-believers and heretics, what is known in Islam as "takfiri." He said "Wherever there is support of takfiri there is a basis (for support) for ISIS. This is in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Gulf states. Any country that thinks it can use this group for its advantage will find out it has no mercy when their turn comes."

And as you look at the map it looks clear that ISIS is on the way.

Never did I think that I would see eye-to-eye with Hassan Nasrallah on anything. On the subject of ISIS, I do.

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Tensions Btw Israel & US Climb
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I have been writing and speaking about increased tensions between the United States and Israel for weeks now.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran a very important piece illustrating some of those tensions. They wrote that Israel tried to fast track the restocking of their arsenal by going through the Pentagon for Hell-Fire air-to-surface missiles and the White House shut them down.

Of course, the administration denies that anything has changed. But it has.

Just listen to how Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson at the State Department, dealt with the issue.

1st she said: "Let me make it very clear - there has been no change in policy. Period."
2nd she said: ... "no other country is as supportive"
3rd she said: ... "it is normal in crisis that each agency pay close attention"
4th she said: there has been "no broad change in our policy"
5th she said "We made it clear publicly that we thought Israel could do more to protect civilians."

It seems that there was a change, but not a broad change and there was a reason for it.

As she continued Harf intimated that Israel was able to strike and even hurt civilians because of US support and weapons and, she said, that was what the United States was concerned about. Her exact phraseology was: "a number of their capabilities because of our support" but nonetheless, the US "continued to provide offensive capabilities as well."

This entire exchange in the State Department briefing room confirms the WSJ report, not the administration's denial.

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Arabs Are Blaming Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Thursday August 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinians have leaked the Egyptian brokered ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

The issues raised in the agreement seem to be reasonable and should satisfy the needs of all the involved parties - Israel, the Palestinian Authority/Hamas and Egypt.

From the leaked document It seems that one of the byproducts of the ceasefire will be the strengthening of Mahmoud Abbas and his PA. The strengthening of Abbas means the weakening of Hamas and that can only be good.

There is no doubt that weakening Hamas is an objective not only of Israel, but also of Egypt. It should not surprise you that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority want the same thing.
So, too, do many of the Palestinians living under Hamas in Gaza.

Many Gazans want Hamas held accountable for their deeds in the recent conflict with Israel. The Washington Post published a powerful story yesterday about Gazans who blame Hamas for their mess.

Hamas can claim victory, but not everyone has to believe them.


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Will Israel Empower Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Naftali Bennett is the leader of a party that is a partner in the Netanyahu coalition. Bennett has been very critical of the prime minister and the concessions Israel has made under the leadership of Netanyahu.

Most recently, Bennett was anguished over the terms Israel agreed to in order to continue a ceasefire with Hamas. As opposed to an even handed swap exchanging quiet for quiet, Israel i.e. Netanyahu, agreed to relax part of the blockade against Hamas in Gaza and to permit money to be transferred through a third party to pay Hamas salaries.

Bennett dubbed the decision "Diplomatic Protection" ... "Pay us now and we'll shoot you later. Don't pay us, we'll shoot you now."

"You can't fight Hamas with one hand, and fund it with the other. The claim the money won't go to terrorism when you give it to Hamas is false, to say the least, and this is exactly why Hamas is insisting on getting this funding."

Bennett is correct. But short of re-entering Gaza and destroying Hamas, what is the alternative.

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Does Hezbollah Have Tunnels Too
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Here's another big question: Has Hezbollah, operating along the northern border of Israel, dug the same types of smuggling tunnels under the Lebanese border into Israel that Hamas dug in Gaza, to the south of Israel.

In other words: Is Hezbollah using the same modus operandi as Hamas.

Yair Golan, the head of Israel's northern command, says the answer is "no". While speaking to Israel's leaders of the north, Golan asserted, with 100% conviction, that Israel has not suspected or discovered tunnels burrowed under the border with Lebanon that would be used to kidnap Israelis.

What Golan did not say is that, like Hamas, Hezbollah has built a gargantuan labyrinth of tunnels inside southern Lebanon. And like the tunnels built by Hamas, the Hezbollah tunnels were built with the assistance of Iranian engineers, are situated deep underground and are outfitted with all the essentials necessary to use them as command and control centers. They have beds, communication networks, editing bays, air conditions, electricity, food.

The Hezbollah tunnels are so deep underground that they cannot be penetrated or destroyed by Israeli air force aerial attacks. They can only be discovered and destroyed by forces on the ground going from place to place.

The Israeli army has been training to confront Hezbollah using the same tools they utilized fighting Hamas in Gaza.

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How Can You Compare
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 11,2014

I've Been Thinking:

Comparisons between Israel and Hamas are not just deeply disturbing, they are simply wrong. They need to be answered and corrected.

First, all rockets are not the same.

Hamas shoots rockets that do not fly straight. That is not a problem for Hamas because their objective is not to hit a specified target, their entire objective is to wreak havoc, cause panic and engage in acts of terror. Furthermore, Hamas removed the explosive heads on their long range rockets so that the rockets fly further. The further the rockets fly into Israel, the more the rockets terrorize Israelis. Hamas celebrates these rockets and the results.

Israel is using laser guided missiles and sometimes, even those rockets miss their targets. When they do miss, Israel expresses regret, Israel does not celebrate.

Second, Israel is a democratic state defending itself against Hamas which is a terrorist organization. The two can never be compared.

Third, a defensive operation - as waged by Israel, can never be confused with aggressive terrorist strikes - as perpetrated by Hamas.

Fourth, all victims are not the same.

In a case in which fighters hide among residents, the 4th Geneva Convention places responsibility and culpability on the hiding fighters. That is also the rule when fighters are not wearing uniforms and are instead wearing civilian clothing to best avoid identification and mingle among local residents.

Fifth, justification is not based on losses and innocent casualties. Because Israel has been lucky and because Israel has created an effective defense called Iron Dome and because Hamas and Islamic Jihad have an ineffective rocket strategy, Israel is not to be penalized for having low casualty numbers.

Low casualty numbers does not diminish the moral rightness of your defense. Israel would not be more in the right if more Israeli civilians were killed. And because Palestinians have had more civilian casualties than the Israelis, that does not make Hamas and Islamic Jihad more correct in their actions and tactics.

These are just a few necessary corrections. The list goes on.


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No Word for Ceasefire in Arabic
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Americans often misunderstand politics and foreign affair only because we do not understand the language and culture of the people and places that we are engaging with.

The Gaza ceasefire is a perfect example of that.

In our culture, a ceasefire means a total stoppage of shooting. It means quiet. It means, as some have put it, that silence will be met with silence.

But in Arabic there are two words being used for ceasefire.

The first word being used is "hudna". Hudna is a long term quiet established because you can defeat your enemy. Hudna is a 10 year agreement that can be broken at any time. And a hudna is often renewed.

The second word being used is "tahadiyeh". A tahadiyeh is a lull.
A lull is akin to a cease fire - but not exactly a ceasefire as we know it. Tahadiyeh means less fire. Shooting less, yet still shooting, is a tahadiyeh.

While The United States and the West would consider it a violation of a ceasefire to keep shooting, a lull is something very different. And Hamas and Islamic Jihad can easily sign on to or agree to a lull and still shoot. (Although Islamic Jihad has said that Hamas does not speak for them, when it suits them, they work together.)

The United States is trying to carve out a hudna. That is totally unrealistic. Those involved in the region, studying the region, trying to advise the region, should know better.

Given the ideology behind Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a tahadiyeh is the best that should be hoped for.

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Political Landscape of Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Unraveling the Gaza political landscape is difficult.

First, we speak only of Hamas and that is misleading. Hamas is certainly the dominant force in Gaza, but Hamas is by no means the only force and, for that matter, Hamas does not even have a monopoly on setting the tone in Gaza.

Islamic Jihad is the second largest group working out of Gaza and, in many ways, it is Islamic Jihad that sets the tone.

And of course, there can be no conversation about politics inside Gaza without mentioning Iran.

It is Iran that empowers Islamic Jihad. They provide money, weapons and support. Once upon a time Iran provided all those things to Hamas, but the Iranians withdrew their support for Hamas after Hamas threw their public support behind the rebels in Syria fighting Assad.

Iran demands a set of stipulations in exchange for their support. And this is where we see the enormous influence and power that Iran holds over Gaza.

Iran has said, demanded, that the Islamic Jihad not accept any ceasefire and demanded that they continue to strike at Israel regardless of the cost. That means that Iran and Islamic Jihad wantonly and regularly with deliberate forethought attack Israel knowing that Gazan residents will die.

Another demand put forth by Iran is that Shiite institutions be established in Gaza. Hamas and Islamic Jihad reject this outright. And in the past there have even been attempts to break into the Sunni world of Gaza.

Iran is trying to reclaim the history of Gaza and to establish some historical links to it. If they are successful and Gaza is turned into a holy place the situation in Gaza will turn into an even more religiously charged conflict. After all, Hisham, the great grandfather of Mohammed was from Gaza. But Hisham was a pagan.

Iranian religious leaders are now saying that Hisham was killed on his way back to Arabia - killed by Jews.

He is buried in Gaza.

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They Do Not Understand
By Micah Halpern

Friday August 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Two colossal whoppers have come out over the past few days, both by people who are supposed to know better, supposed to understand what is happening in the Middle East.

The first is courtesy of former President Jimmy Carter. Carter suggests recognizing Hamas. His view was expressed in an OPED on the prestigious website Foreign Policy.

Carter writes: "Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor - one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people - can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons."

The second is courtesy of US National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Rice is suggesting that the ceasefire in Gaza be the beginning of further peace deals.

According to Rice: "It is very important that both sides remain committed to it and use this opportunity to begin the negotiations that we had been working so energetically through US Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama to get off the ground so that the underlines causes of the conflict in Gaza can be addressed at the negotiation table."

Does Rice not realize that Hamas is not a part of the deal? That Gaza is not the West Bank? And that the discussions that US Secretary of State Kerry has been so involved in do not involve Hamas at all?

These two statements are, to say the very least, disturbing.

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Parallel w/ Pancho Villa
By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Thursday August 7, 2014

I am reminded of an important historical parallel.

In 1916 Mexican rebels under the leadership of Pancho Villa terrorized the south western United States. They would cross over the border to murder and run back into Mexico for safety.

The purpose of these attacks was to capture weapons and equipment from the US to help in their fight. Some historians say that it was because Pancho Villa was insulted by President Woodrow Wilson who withdrew his support for Villa and chose instead to support Venustiano Carranzan.

Between March 9 and July 31 of1916 Pancho Villa and his rebels crossed the border into the US and murdered dozens of Americans. The entire city of Columbus, New Mexico was burnt to the ground and 18 Americans were murdered.

Similar events were perpetrated in Glenn Springs, Texas in Ygnacio, Texas and in Fort Hancock, Texas.

The marauding continued until President Wilson sent General John J. Pershing and 5000 US soldiers into Mexico to search for, chase down and attack Pancho Villa and his gang of rebels. In the end they did not capture Pancho Villa - but working together with Mexican authorities, the United States did the US succeed in capturing and executing some of Villa’s commanders.

The parallel, of course, is Hamas and Israel in 2014.


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Hamas Claims Victory
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday August 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas is claiming that they have emerged victorious from the conflict with Israel.

Hamas communications people are claiming that the result of the current conflict with Israel, all the destruction and all the damage to Gaza is actually a great victory. It shows that Hamas was not defeated but still stands and Israel has lost its advantage and its weapon of intimidation.

Hamas is saying that now it is clear that Hamas cannot be intimidated and or destroyed.

Hamas concludes that now they will rebuild Gaza with the help of those who understand.

Of course the line that Hamas is pitching has no bearing on reality.

Hamas is very close to dead. And it seems that most of the Arab world is not on their same path. Many of those close to Hamas - geographically or even physically as well as other Arabs living in Gaza have articulated their displeasure with Hamas.

The list is very long, it stretches from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. We are seeing television broadcasts throughout the Arab world questioning Hamas, wondering why it took so long to stop shooting and to accept a ceasefire. Arab leaders have said that all the lives that have been lost since Hamas rejected the ceasefire are on their heads.

That is powerful criticism.

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Lone Wolf and Hamas Terror
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday August 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It's time to talk about the lone wolf.

As a rule, lone wolves are not part of a group. They do not broadcast their intentions. No one knows their plan, no one except for the lone wolf terrorist.

Lone wolves are every bit as dangerous as members of terrorist organizations. They plan their attacks in their heads. They go over it hundreds of times until they perpetrate their attacks.

Leaders of terrorist movements have begun taking advantage of lone wolves, they are egging them on.

And that explains what happened in Jerusalem yesterday when a tractor driver at a construction site used his tractor to murder 29 year old Avrohom Wallis, a father of 6 children. The terrorist then turned his tractor on a bus, ramming it and ramming it until the bus was upended.

His motivation for the attack came just a few days earlier. Hamas Spokesman Fauzi Barhum demanded that Palestinians attack, attack, attack: He goaded them on with these words: "Do you not have cars, motorcycles, knives, clubs, diggers and trucks? If you do and do not hit Jews or settlers, and do not kill dozen of Zionists - then you are not Palestinian."

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Another Cease-Fire
By Micah Halpern

Monday August 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A humanitarian ceasefire has been has been announced between Israel and Hamas, again.

This ceasefire is scheduled to take place on Monday, starting at 10am and ending at 5pm.

It will not last more than a few hours. It cannot.

It is my understanding that Iran has given specific orders to Islamic Jihad not to abide by cease fires. And once Islamic Jihad breaks the cease fire, the rest of Hamas can certainly break it.

Israel has obviously responded that if Hamas breaks the ceasefire, they will respond.

There is a fundamental principle at play here.
A cease fire between Israel and Hamas is not a prelude to peace with the Palestinians. Hamas is dedicated to Israel's destruction.

A ceasefire is just a ceasefire, it puts a stop to the shooting, it is not a springboard into peace talks

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Israel Demands US Support
By Micah Halpern

Sunday August 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

On Friday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.

It was a tense conversation.

The bottom line is this: Netanyahu told to the United States not to second guess him when it comes to Hamas and he told the US administration that they should have trusted him all along when dealing with Hamas. Netanyahu said that he expects that the United States will fully support Israel in all future actions against Hamas.

The response by the United States is that they support Israel.

The problem is that the support always comes with caveats and suggestions. In one sentence the United States will say "We support Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks" or "No country would tolerate tunnels dug under their land that can be used to launch terror attacks." But then comes a "but." An often used example is "But we are concerned about civilian deaths."

Even the assertion that the tunnels "can be used" which is a direct quote from President Obama from Friday is a qualification. It is not that the tunnels "can be used," the tunnels ARE used - used to launch terror attacks against Israel. That is raison d'etre, it is their one and only purpose.

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Tensions Are High in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Saturday August 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Tensions are very high in Israel - tensions between Arabs and Jews.
There has been way more than usual spontaneous violence, rock throwing and indiscriminate beatings.

Nerves are very raw.

Last night, for example, as families across Israel were sitting down to eat the Sabbath evening meal, four cars with Israeli flags on them were torched in the upscale Jerusalem neighborhood called the German Colony.

The capture of IDF officer 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin put Israeli Jews on edge in a way reminiscent of the kidnappings of the three Israeli teenagers Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali. Only now there is the added tension of Operation Preventive Edge and the persistent presence of rockets raining down on Israel.

All this will pass and one day, things will again return to a sense of normal.

But until that normalcy arrives tensions will continue to mount and nerves will become even more frayed.

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Tunnel War
By Micah Halpern

I've Been Thinking:

Friday, August 1, 2014

It is worthwhile thinking about the history of tunnel warfare.

Until now there has never been a weapon able to combat or defeat tunnels when tunnels are used as an attack tool. Tunnels have the element of surprise. Tunnels are almost impossible to detect. Tunnels allow for regress and secret escape.

Israel is fighting to destroy tunnels that are designed as weapons. These are not wine cellars - they are military weapons.

The history of tunnels can be found as far back as the Bible. II Samuel 5:8 describes David as saying that those who succeed and defeat the Jebus, the original name of Jerusalem, will enter through the water tunnel. And so it happened.

The Romans could not defend against tunnels. So much so, that the Romans themselves built a labyrinth of aqua ducts under Rome to help themselves in their time of defense. During the Jewish revolt against Rome, Bar Kochba used tunnels. The Romans tried to smoke them out.

Tunnels were used by the North Vietnamese, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Afghans. They were used by the Germans and the Russians. They were used in WWI and WWII. They were used in the ancient world and in the medieval word and they are used in the modern world.

Tunnels as a weapon of war have not changed much over time - they connect internal units and allow for escape to the outside.

The only way to combat tunnels is to destroy them. That is Israel's goal. And that is why Hamas has booby trapped their tunnels

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The World Doesn't Understand
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 31, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It pains me to say this, but the world in general has little patience for Israel in their current battle with Hamas. The United Nations and even the United States just want it to stop. They say too many civilian are dying. They say too many UN targets are being hit.

The entire operation seems so lopsided to them. As the world sees it, Israel is so much more sophisticated than Hamas. And Israel has already destroyed so many tunnels. So it is time for Israel to stop and pullout.

What the world does not see, does not understand and does not care about is that the Israeli operation is justified. That Israel has the right to defend itself against the rockets if Hamas. What matters to the world is only that Israel stops.

But what is missing in the call to stop, whether it be echoed by the president of the United States, the secretary of state of the United States, the secretary general of the United Nations or a host of other world leaders is the understanding that stopping the operation before the tunnels are destroyed and while the Hamas military infrastructure is still intact will defeat the purpose of the operation.

Hamas had, at most, 10,000 - 20,000 trained fighters. Those numbers have been depleted, we do not know by how many. Hamas has hundreds and perhaps even thousands of tunnels in Gaza, especially when you count the many tunnels with multiple exits.

The tunnels of Gaza must be destroyed before Israel stops her operation or they will be used to attack Israel again the day after Israel stops. That is not a prediction. It is a fact.

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Report on Religious Oppresssion
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday the US State Department published its Report on International Religious Freedom. The gist will not surprise you, it is the details that are appalling.

Since 1998, when Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act, the State Department has been required by law to submit a report on the state of religious freedom in the world.

There is no question that in many parts of the world people are persecuted because of who they are. They are murdered because of the tribe they are in and the religious community they are members of.

I have written about the oppression of Christians in Egypt and the oppression of Shiites in Iraq. The report tells their story.

In the Syrian city of Homs there were 160,000 Christians just three years ago. Today there are fewer than 1,000. In Mosul a city taken over by ISIS, the second largest city in Iraq, there are now 20 Christian families. Three weeks ago there were 20,000 Christians. ISIS gave them an alternative - leave, convert or die.

This madness must be stopped.

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Israel Has Another Stage in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

At a press conference yesterday Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon announced that there will be a tactical change in Israel's approach over the next few days.

He said:

"If the leaders of Hamas believe that they will be able to keep up a constant barrage of missiles, rockets and terrorist attacks - they are making a big mistake. If terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip think that they'll be able to break the State of Israel and our citizens - in the next few days they'll understand how wrong they are. They're firing at us and we will hit them hard."

The statement by Yaalon predicts that Israel will not merely continue to strike at Hamas as they have been doing, but that Israel is preparing to "hit them hard."

That means that, up until now, Israel has restrained itself. It means that in the final stages of Operation Preventive Edge Israel will go the distance to wipe out Hamas' infrastructure, including the tunnels, and to truly hurt Hamas.

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US - Israel Tensions Rise
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Tensions between the US and Israel are now becoming public.

Israelis feels that the United States is not dealing straight with them. Israel feels that the US was simply pressuring them, not Hamas, to accept the terms of the Kerry ceasefire. And Israel feels that the US was pushing Hamas' terms for the ceasefire.

Israel is so upset that they leaked the entire proposed deal to the Haaretz newspaper so that everyone can read the details and confirm for themselves that, indeed, the United States had practically abandoned Israel on this issue. Readers of the proposed document for a ceasefire are left asking what the United States was even thinking in putting those ideas on paper as an official proposal.

As you can imagine, the leaking of the document really ticked off the United States. The US responded by hemming and hawing and saying that the document was meant for comments - not as a final agreement.

The entire episode has shown that there is a real disconnect between the United States and Israel. And it underscores the fact that there is very little good faith between the two countries at this juncture.

Israel thinks that the United States is more interested in a ceasefire than in returning calm to the region. For the United States, getting everyone to stop shooting is a priority. The United States has misplaced priorities.

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Ugly Anti Semitism in Europe
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

We have been witnessing a huge spike in anti-Semitism in Europe. Much has to do with Israeli Operation Preventive Edge. Preventive Edge is not the cause of the anti-Semitism, it is the release valve for the hatred. The hatred was been simmering, just under the surface, waiting to erupt.

According to reports in Belgium this week, some shops are not serving Jews. The most dramatic example is a cafe which posted two signs one in Turkish and one in French. The Jewish Forward reports the signs as saying "Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Jews are not under any circumstances." The French version of the sign replaced "Jews" with "Zionists."

In addition, outside that same cafe, two flags were hung. The Palestinian flag and the Israeli flag - with a huge red X through it and two kafiyahs, Palestinian scarves, hanging on it.

Sadly, when I wrote about this hatred last week, some people responded saying that those who were exhibiting this ugly hatred were not Europeans but Muslim immigrants --- well, to those people I say, that makes them Europeans.

It is the role of the host nation to educate their immigrants as to what is and what is not acceptable in their country.

I was glad to see the foreign ministers of several European nations stand up this week and, in unison, renounce the rise of anti-Semitism.

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Hamas Being Rcvd By Iran Hezbollah and Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

One of the very bad consequences of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, a consequence that no one else seems to be speaking about, is that this conflict may very well be uniting some very bad, even evil, forces in the Islamic world.

Syria had successfully drove Hamas away from Hezbollah and Iran and Syria. But over the past few days Hamas representatives have had conversations with Hezbollah and Iran. That is bad.

Until now, Hamas has been isolated. Not just politically isolated but also isolated in terms of resources, money and weapons. Only Qatar has been supporting Hamas.

That fissure was caused by Hamas siding with the Sunnis as they were trying to oust Assad in Syria. Iran and Hezbollah took exception to that decision and it was a very ugly divorce.

If there is a rapprochement now - political, economic, weaponry - it will open a whole font of support for Hamas at a time when they are reaching the very end of their stockpiles of weapons and other resources.

Unfortunately this is happening just as Israel is gearing up for a strike that should end Hamas' weapons cache and ability to strike at Israel. If Hamas rekindles their relationship with Iran, Hezbollah and Syria their weapon flow is very likely to be revived.

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Where's the Outrage?
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Where is the outrage?

That was the question a friend posed to me the other day. He was asking why civilized leaders of the world were silent when Hamas attacked and publicly declared that they were targeting civilian transportation and civilian aviation - attacking Israel's largest airport, Ben Gurion.

There has been no official comment by world leaders following the declaration by Hamas. It is as if it is OK for Hamas to target a civilian airport. It is as if the world expected Hamas to target civilian aviation.

But it is not OK. And it is not OK that Hamas has not even been chastised, let alone censured or condemned, for threatening to attack Ben Gurion Airport.

World leaders should be up in arms, they should demand that Hamas be isolated. Instead we have another, blatant, example of the double standard. Israel is condemned for hurting civilians after warning them. Hamas is permitted to attack an airport.

The world is afraid to condemn Hamas, afraid to condemn that which is wrong. Hamas is a terrorist organization - and the world is scared of terror, and that terror is paralyzing.

That scares me.

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Rioters Attack Israeli Soccer Team in Austria
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Since the beginning of Operation Preventive Edge, there has been a dramatic increase in attacks against Jews around the world.

In France, two synagogues were fire bombed. People have been assaulted. Pro-Palestinian protests have turned into violent mobs of anti-Semitic riots.

In Austria yesterday a sporting event turned very ugly. Maccabi Haifa soccer team played an exhibition match against Lille from France in Austria. In the 84th minute a group of rioters rushed the field and started beating up the Israeli team which, in turn, started kicking and hitting back. Security was slow to respond and in the end calm was restored but the game was called.

Across Europe there has been an increase in violence and rhetoric against Jews and Israel.

The rhetoric is often couched as anti-Zionism and not anti-Semitism.
In reality, there is no difference between the two - anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Violent riots may start off using terms that are anti-Israel but soon the vitriol turns to hatred of the Jew.

The anti-Zionist cliche is simply a socially acceptable veneer for anti-Semitism.

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Laugh - UN Returns Rockets to Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Even painful and costly conflicts are not without humor. Sometimes, when we find the humor, it serves as both critique and catharsis.
Laughing helps.

Israel told the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza that Hamas was hiding rockets in their schools. This has happened several times.

The first time it happened the United Nations school run by UNRWA called up Hamas and asked them to come and please take the weapons out. Hamas did just that. The school was not targeted by Israel. But the rockets were taken to be used by Hamas.

Yesterday, the same thing happened again.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird was livid when he heard of these events. How can the UN give weapons to Hamas? Here is what Baird said:
"I was appalled to hear reports, one as recent as today, of stockpiles of rockets in a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza."

"Even more alarming were reports that in the first case, officials with the United Nations returned these weapons to Hamas, a listed terrorist organization, once Israeli officials discovered their location."

And in conclusion, Baird said, "Canada unequivocally calls on the United Nations to launch an immediate independent investigation to determine the facts surrounding these reports. Canada also calls on the United Nations to ensure that in the second case, no rockets are returned to Hamas. Anything less than an independent investigation would be absolutely unacceptable."

Laugh. It's our only response. Laugh.

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Israel is Not Using Disproportionate Force
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

There has been a lot of talk about Israel's "disproportionate" reaction to Hamas.

But proportionate and disproportionate force are not literary or mathematical terms. They are legal terms and mean something very different than what one might think.

The terms are found in the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 and mean "a defensive operation." In other words, it is by definition a category of self-defense.

The Geneva Convention lays out 3 basic requirements.
# 1: Use the amount of force necessary to remove the threat but not more than that.
# 2: Avoid civilian casualties as much as possible.
# 3: Use as much force as necessary to make certain that the threat does not return.

When these limits have been exceeded, you have perpetrated disproportionate force.

Add to that the Rome Statute which confirms that, under these conditions, in a defensive operation civilian casualties are regrettable but they are not a war crime.

It seems clear that Israel is fulfilling all the requirements of a defensive and proportionate response.

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Israel Respects Human Life
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is a society that respects human life.

The value of human life is primary, it is second to none. And it is for that reason that Israel began the operation in Gaza - to protect the lives of Israeli citizens.

That's Israel. Hamas is different.

Hamas is using their citizens as human shields and it is for that reason that it is innocents who are being killed. Hamas does not care about the deaths of their people. If they did, they would not use human shields and they would certainly have accepted the ceasefires.

Israel has a very low threshold for the deaths of innocent civilians and even for the deaths of soldiers. Israelis have an even lower threshold for kidnapping.

Hamas operates differently.

In order of goal prioritization, Hamas wants to kidnap soldiers, kill as many civilians as possible and kill as many soldiers as possible.

Up until Sunday Israel was very successful at preventing Hamas from achieving any of their goals. But it was always clear that as soon as Israel initiated a ground operation in Gaza, the risks would increase dramatically.

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ISIS Take Over Oil in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past week our attention has shifted to Gaza and Israel. But there are still major issues that need to be monitored.
Syria had been relatively quiet.

ISIS, now IS, took its battle to Iraq and forces loyal to Assad are mopping up major swaths of regions that had been under the control of IS.

Then yesterday, from out of nowhere, IS attacked and captured a major oil field in Dir el Zour. It is the most significant oil production area in Syria and it fell to the Islamic State.

In the process over 100 of Assad's soldiers were killed and 200 taken captive. While at the same time only 20 IS fighters were killed.
This is a huge victory for IS, Baghdadi and his movement - not from the economic point of view but because of how the capturing those oil fields will stifle Assad's economy.

IS does not have the wherewithal to extract the oil and the markets and ability to sell the oil. But they prevented Assad from having it.

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Hamas Does Not Listen
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 18, 2914

I've Been Thinking:

It should be abundantly clear that Hamas does not listen to any outsiders. Not Egypt, not Turkey, not Qatar.

And it should be absolutely clear that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has absolutely no influence over Hamas either.

That was the case before the unity government and it is the case now with the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

It should all be crystal clear.

In many ways Abbas is happy that Hamas is being pounded by Israel. Destroying Hamas's leadership and organizational infrastructure allows Abbas to lead with fewer restrictions and hindrances in the West Bank.

There is a small chance that if Hamas is weakened a scenario will emerge in which Gaza will toe the line with Abbas and again join the PA. It is only a small chance and it is very unlikely, but it is possible. Should it happen, it would require enormous PA police resources in order to bring Gaza under its wing and to keep Hamas under control.

It would also mean dissolving the Hamas / Palestinian Authority unity government.

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Hamas Can't Have a Ceasefire Yet
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

People are asking me to explain why does Hamas not want a ceasefire, not even for a few days.

The answer is simple.

Hamas does want a ceasefire, but Hamas cannot accept a cease fire.

One reason Hamas cannot accept a cease is because of Egypt - and spitting in the eye of the Egyptians is a very attractive byproduct of not accepting the Egyptian sponsored plea for the ceasefire.

Hamas wants Egypt to squirm. Hamas wants the Egyptians to open their borders and if they do, then Hamas will consider agreeing to a ceasefire.

But the main reason Hamas cannot participate in a ceasefire is that they have nothing to show for all the rockets they have launched into Israel. Hamas cannot point to a single success. And given the tremendous damage inflicted by Israel on Gaza, they need to show their people some symbols of victory.

In the eyes of Hamas victory means huge numbers of Israel casualties and gross amounts of damage.

That is what Hamas needs. And that is a Catch-22 Middle East style.

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US Allocates More for Iron Dome
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee just approved a spending bill that will allocate $621.6 million to Israel for missile defense.

Of that, $351 million is directly allocated to the Iron Dome.

In this time of military aid cutbacks and the reduction of defense budgets, this is a huge success. Dick Durban, the chair of the subcommittee, said "it works." He was referring to the Iron Dome. The Iron Dome saves lives.

The Iron Dome cost billions of dollars to develop but costs only $70 million to assemble. Each missile costs about $20,000 to $30,000.

Right now Israel has 8 Iron Dome batteries. There is no doubt that Israel needs more batteries because, just as the senator said, "it works."

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Hamas and their Drone
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 15, 2013

I've Been Thinking:

Israel shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle called a UAV. Actually, UAV is the technical term, in simpler terms we would say that Israel shot down a Hamas drone.

The drone was shot down using US made Patriot anti-missile technology. Patriots, while once very popular, have not been used in Israel since 1990.

Hamas claims that they have several drones - some for reconnaissance, some to assist in real time attacks and some that can launch weapons.

To prove their point Hamas released three pictures taken by a drone. The problem with the pictures is that it is not clear if the photos were taken recently or even for that matter, if they were taken over Israel.

Hamas also claims that they possess Abibil 1 drones made in Iran and that their engineers have developed newer and better ones.

While Hamas does have some extremely modern and up-to-date weapons in their arsenal, in many ways they are not sophisticated in their attacks against Israel.

What the UAV drone does prove, however, is that they do have weapons, including some long range rockers, that were produced by Russia, Iran and China.

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Gaza Cuts Off its Own Electricty
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has some long range rockets. They received these rockets from Iran and Syria. Some are Russian made, some Chinese made and some produced in Iran.

These rockets are extremely dangerous for Israel - they have a range that puts 80% of Israel in the target zone.

But Hamas has many more short range rockets than long range.

Yesterday, one of Hamas' short range rockets never made it out of Gaza, Instead, it landed on a major electric power line in Northern Gaza and cut off the power to 70,000 Gazans living in Khan Younis and Deri el Balah.

The electric line now needs to be fixed. But it is the Israelis who need to go in and fix it because Gaza gets its electricity from Israel. But it is very dangerous task to undertake right now.

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the electric company not to endanger the lives of their workers in order to fix the line. He said wait until the situation quiets down. In other words, why jeopardize the lives of Israeli electric workers to fix what Hamas broke.

Hamas destroyed their own electric line while attempting to murder and terrorize Israelis. That should not guarantee them a repair call.

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Hamas Cannot Shoot Straight
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A rocket shot from Gaza landed in Hebron and destroyed a home. Two other rockets landed in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

Hebron is a city mostly controlled by Hamas. So yes, in their attempt to strike at Israel, Hamas is shooting rockets and hitting their own people.

Hamas responded by saying that they know the geography and they will not hit Arabs. They know the difference. The problem is that the weapons they are using do not know the difference and are not very sophisticated.

Hamas is using point and shoot weapons. They can only adjust the angle after seeing where their rocket lands. But Hamas does not have the ability to correct their shots and try again because the launchers need to be hidden immediately afterwards. And the rockets they are using are not uniformly filled with the same amount of fuel, so they travel different distances and speeds.

The hardest part for Hamas is hitting into the mountains. Gaza is located on the coastal plain and gauging where their rockets will land is almost impossible. They need to not only calculate distance, they need to consider elevation. That is why their rockets hit Hebron and Bethlehem.

It is obvious that Hamas cannot accurately shoot rockets, and it should be just as obvious that that is not their objective. The objective of Hamas is to disrupt the lives of Israelis and to cause as much fear as possible. If they were to hit a target it would be luck, not skill.

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The Differnce is In the Iron Dome
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 12, 2014
I've Been Thinking:

The Iron Dome has become the hero of Israel, much like the Patriot was during the gulf war.

We must realize, however, that there are risks involved when relying on the Iron Dome so much.

The Iron Dome is, after all, simply a computer. And as we all know, computers crash and fail and don't always do what we want as fast as we want.

The Iron Dome is an extremely important part of Israel's homeland defense. But there are only 8 batteries. Until yesterday, there were only 7. That means that the defense system is over worked and that the teams manning them are extremely stressed.

Imagine the pressure that is put on the operating teams running these Iron Dome batteries. (And to help you understand, let me point out that most of the teams use port-a-johns that do not have running water or showers and their parents pitch in by bringing them quality food to eat.)

The essential point was made by Israeli PM Netanyahu at a press conference on Friday.

The prime minister said that the real difference between "us" and "them" is that over the past few years Israel has spent billions creating innovative defense weapons to defend civilians, while "they use civilians to defend their weapons."

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US Offer to Broker Ceasfire - Crazy
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Thursday.

Obama offered to broker or negotiate a cease fire between Israel and Hamas. Then, in the course of their conversation, they touched on other issues including the US teen who was beaten and arrested in Israel, as well as Iran.

If you are thinking how magnanimous, how gracious, how hopeful it is that the president of the United States is offering to broker a cease fire, let me stop you right there. It is time for a reality check.
The United States does not have relations with Hamas. And by stepping forward to broker a deal, Obama elevates Hamas to the level of the United States and of Israel.

If the US engages with Hamas even for this positive objective it is tantamount to inviting Hamas to join the table of world leaders.

The fact that the White House would even suggest assuming the role of negotiator between Israel and Hamas shows how little they understand both the conflict and the region.

It is the opposite of hopeful, it is devastating.

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Operation Preventive Edge Cost
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Operation Preventive Edge, like all military operations, is costly.

The biggest cost is the human cost. The high risks inherent in military operations often lead to the deaths of soldiers and of civilians.

There is also the financial cost.

In 2012, Operation Pillar of Defense cost Israel NIS 2 billion. That amounts to about $585 million. It comes out to about NIS 25 million per day of the operation. Pillar of Defense lasted only 8 days and was far less costly than Operation Cast Lead which took place in 2008-2009.

Operation Preventive Edge is probably costing Israel about 40 million shekel, or 10 million dollars, a day. It is worth it.
Bringing quiet back to the area is worth the cost.

We need to remember, however, that undertaking a military operation of this scope and magnitude is what is referred to as a recurring cost. This operation is not a solution. Operation Cast Lead ended in 2009 and Operation Pillar of Defense took place in 2012.

Expect that Israel will enter into another military operation in 2 or 3 years. The next operation might very well be called Operation Back to Gaza.

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Hamas Has Outwitted the Iron Dome
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has successfully outwitted Israel's Iron Dome by lowering its efficiency.

The Iron Dome is designed to intercept incoming low range rockets. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Resistance Committees have overloaded the Iron Dome - much like hackers will overload a web site.

The Iron Dome can track only one or two rockets at a time, so, by launching multiple rockets at the same target from nearly the same area, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have rendered it nearly unworkable. Hamas has successfully, simultaneously, launched ten rockets seriously limiting the response capability of the Iron Dome.

Hamas has also been launching long range rockets. In order to defend its targets within Israel the Iron Dome is now required to spread its batteries out over wider and wider areas. The more thinly spread the Iron Dome is, the less efficient it will be. The tactics now employed by Hamas make it nearly impossible for the Iron Dome to work as envisioned.

Hamas has pulled apart the Dome and overloaded it at the same time.

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Israel Begins Operation in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:


The Israeli cabinet has agreed to respond to the increased rocket fire from Gaza. Yesterday over 80 rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel. 30 of those rockets were shot within a 30 minute period.

The cabinet agreed to steadily increase their engagement in Gaza until they achieve their goal.

The Israeli air force has begun to identify and attack targets. The main objective of this operation is to eliminate the leadership of Hamas.

The operation is called Tzok Eytan, in translation the operation is called "Preventive Edge." A "tzok" is a precipice and "eytan" means strong. It is a literary term which means having the strength not to go over the edge.

The operation's name says it all. The objective of the operation is to carry out a controlled mission - not to go impulsively or impetuously over the edge and into Gaza.

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Immeasurable Harm Done to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The brutal murder of a 16 year of Palestinian boy named Mohammed Abu Kheidr by six Jewish Israelis was beyond despicable.

The murder of this young boy has done immeasurable harm to Israel. In some ways, it has lowered Israel to the level of Hamas.

It is essential that Israeli and Jewish leaders around the world renounce the act as the horrific murder of an innocent child. All leaders - left and right - must make certain that their ideas are clearly stated and articulated and that they cannot be misinterpreted. They must make it clear - the murder of a child is wrong and can never be justified.

Each and every person who holds a position of authority in the Jewish and Israeli world must speak out. Educators, rabbis, politicians and parents must all clearly articulate where they stand on the murder of a child and stop those who would plot to murder innocent children.

Decrying this senseless, brutal act is what will separate Israeli and Jewish leadership and the Israeli and Jewish masses from Palestinians leadership and from Palestinian masses.

The Israeli and Jewish mass media condemned the murder as did the masses and the highest echelons of Israeli political leadership.
Israeli police solved the case in a matter of hours. The messages were uniform - they condemned the murder as senseless and wrong and evil.

The Palestinian leader condemned the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens, but the Palestinian mass media glorified the murder. The official media outlets made fun of the kidnapped teens and did not condemn it at all. Other than the president, no other Palestinian leader was quoted in their media condemning the kidnapping and murder of Israelis. On the contrary, we have numerous recordings of Palestinian leadership supporting kidnappings.

There are many differences between Israelis and Palestinians. These senseless murders, these acts of terror, serve to highlight some of the most glaring of those differences.

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When Will Israel Strike?
By Micah Halpern

Sunday July 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Gaza continues to launch rockets into Israel. It is a psychological weapon more than anything else.

Hamas and Hamas affiliates and friends in Gaza is being very methodical about the launches. It is in their best interests to make certain that Israel does not retaliate with a heavy hand - either by air strikes or a ground offensive. Thus far, Israel has only lightly responded to the rocket fire.

Gaza, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Resistance Committees are all responsible for the manufacturing, importing and shooting of these rockets into Israel.

They are trying to calculate how many they can shoot and still not draw Israel into a massive response. So far they have calculated correctly. Eight or nine rockets a day seems to come in under the threshold, fifteen maybe too many. But there is a cumulative effect. After a total of "X" rockets are launched int Israel, the Israelis will respond very seriously to the rocket fire.

At first, Israel will probably respond by air. If that is not effective they will launch a ground strike.

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Jews Smuggled Out of Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday July 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

This heartwarming story was recently cleared for publication.

A Syrian Jewish family of nine has been reunited with family in Israel. In the midst of an ugly war, Israel was able to rescue a family and bring them across the border to safety.

It happened in May and the mission was conducted in several stages, bringing out family members is small groups so as not to arouse suspicion and increase the chances of danger. Israelis and non-Israelis were involved in this underground railroad to freedom.

Once upon a time Syria had a rich and vibrant Jewish community complete with remarkable historical sites. Much of that changed with this terrible civil war that has enveloped the country. Until recently, the old synagogue in Damascus called Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue was intact. But a few months ago the battle between Assad's forces and the rebels destroyed the synagogue which was built on the spot where tradition holds that Elijah (Eliyahu Hanavi) and his fiery chariot ascended to heaven as Elisha watched.

The nine members of this Syrian Jewish family are now at home in Israel - reunited with family and old friends and making new friends gathered in Israel from all corners of the world.

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Murdering Children is Wrong
By Micah Halpern

Friday July 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Over the past 24 hours more than 50 rockets have been shot into Israel from Gaza. The Israeli response has been to target the rocket launching site.

The world needs to understand the Israeli response: Israel is responding directly to the launching of these rocket into Israel, this is not a response to the brutal murder of three Israeli children by Hamas.

Israel has not yet decided on a policy and a response to the kidnapping and the terrible murder of these three angelic characters.

Israel will not pursue vengeance. Israel will pursue the kidnappers and they will find them. But it will be out of a sense of justice and a sense of principle - not a quest for revenge.

When the uncle of Naftali Frenkel, one of the murdered boys, responded to the murder of a Palestinian teenager he said that he hopes that it was not revenge or nationalistic. He said that murdering a teenager is wrong, just wrong, whether they be Jewish or Arab. He said that all blood is equal, all the same.

Both sides, Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, are trying to play the victim. Victims are given a wide berth by the Western community and each side is vying for indulgence when they respond to the events of these past few weeks and days.

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Iran Has the Upper Hand
By Micah Halpern

Thursday July 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

As talks resume between Iran and the 5 +1 powers in Vienna, Iran has begun to strut.

All the parties understand that the July 20th deadline for the agreement is but a few days away. There is a possibility that an extension may be in order, but only if there is real progress and the chance that an extra week or two, or four, would result in a signed agreement.

Iran has the upper hand and the leverage. They see how the US really, really wants the agreement and they know full well that the threats and rhetoric emerging from the West are empty.

Here is how the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif put it at his press conference in Geneva:

"We have never bowed down to imposition and we will not accept it in this round of talks either."

Iran feels strong and they have a sense that the United States will capitulate. Given the facts on the ground, there is no reason for them to feel otherwise.

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Israelis in Shock
By Micah Halpern

Monday July 1, 2014

Column:

The kidnapping and brutal murder of three teenage boys in Israel by Hamas terrorists has been a devastating experience for Israel and for many Jews around the world. Talk of the boys, well wishes and prayers, worry and concern united all Israelis across the often divisive political, religious, economic and ideological spectrum that is Israel. The mothers of the boys became symbols of strength in the face of unspeakable adversity. Now that the mutilated bodies of three teenage boys have been found, a new chapter emerges.

As devastating as it was, however, the kidnapping has allowed Israel a great advantage in the battle with Hamas. Israel can now take actions, almost without limitations, against Hamas, the enemy that publicly and vociferously swears to destroy them - the people and the state. And Israel will try to destroy Hamas.

Kidnapping civilians, especially school children, is way beyond the pale. It is a violation that can be viewed in only one way -- it is an act of terror.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Western world did not question Israel's activities against Hamas in their crusade to find the boys. They understood that Israel was taking advantage of the situation and slowly rooting out the infrastructure of Hamas and they understood why.

Israel is not traditionally the recipient of world support for their activities and actions in the region in general and, more specifically, against the Palestinian Authority. And remember, only weeks before the kidnapping the PA and Hamas signed an agreement to form a unity government. So why were things different this time around?

Primarily, because kidnapping boys is taboo. Following that, because despite the veneer of harmony and unity, Hamas is still and always will be a radical Islamic group. Western leaders are seeing and feeling the encroaching dangers of radical Islam in more and more ways and they are powerless to confront it. They see it most strongly in al Qaeda, in Iraq and in Syria. And so far Israel, which bears the brunt of the danger, has exercised great restraint. Even now, in their concerted effort to hunt down and destroy Hamas, they have kept the violence down and even their arrests have been extremely specific and targeted.

It will take time, but everyone responsible for the murders will be found. The process must be slow in order to be methodical. It is an intelligence operation. Israel is getting at Hamas and its organizational structure not just in and around Hebron, where the bodies were found, but in Bethlehem and Ramallah, as well.

Israel has seized hundreds if not thousands of computers from Hamas.
And in those computers resides the infrastructure of the organization. The unity government brought Hamas out into the open in the West Bank. And that meant that they dropped their guard concerning the secrecy of their organization. It is all in their computers. And now those hard drives and contacts are being used to track down senior and less senior members of the terrorist organization. The web of groups is being dismantled. And with that will come the continued capture and arrest of Hamas members.

In response, Hamas has once again pledged 'to rain down hell on Israel,' according to their spokesman Sami Abu Zurhi. But the Israeli government is not the only government that Hamas wants to bring down and destroy.

Hamas has an objective. Hamas has already set its machinery in motion to topple its new unity partner, the PA, and conquer the hearts and minds of the youth of the West Bank. They want to take over the West Bank and oust the Palestinian Authority.

Israel is not destroying Hamas to support Abbas. Not at all ... although that is a byproduct of Israel's actions. They are striking down Hamas to better secure Israel. Abbas has known all along that Hamas was behind the kidnappings, but publicly, he was asking for proof. TV stations within the Palestinian Authority did not cover the news that the boys' were bodies were discovered. Palestinians watched that on Al Jazeera.

The vision Hamas has of one day usurping control of the West Bank from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority slips further and further away with every passing day as they continue to be squeezed by Israel.

Israel will stop only when their objective has been achieved.

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White House Blows It: Doesn't Say Murderers
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday July 1, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Decades from now people will remember where they were when they heard the news that the bodies of the three teenage Israeli boys who had been kidnapped by Hamas terrorists 18 days earlier where found - brutally murdered in the hills north of Hebron.

The callousness of the language used by the White House in offering official condolences shocked me. Put aside for a moment the fact that one of the boys, Naftali Frenkel, was a US citizen. This is how Josh Earnest, Chief White House Spokesman, spoke about the news in an official statement:

"We obviously condemn in the strongest possible terms violence that takes the lives of innocent civilians."

What a perversion!

The boys were brutally murdered by terrorists and the White House refers to it as violence. They were teenagers, innocent boys, and the White House calls them civilians.

And then the president and the state department continue by calling for all parties to show restraint.

The White House should issue an apology!

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Hamas Lashes Out at Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has taken aim at PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Mousa Marzook, the deputy head of Hamas, posted a diatribe against Abbas on his Facebook page. The final words of the letter shout "you have abandoned the West Bank."

The reason for the letter is to tell the Palestinian people that, from Hamas' point of view, Abbas has totally given in to Israel. To tell them that there has been no substantive PA response to Israel. That as a leader Abbas is a weakling. And, most importantly, that Palestinians cannot expect anything more from Abbas.

Marzook wrote: "You gave respect to your enemy when three settlers were kidnapped. Haven't you noticed that more than 566 Palestinians have been taken from you and five have been killed since then? You've abandoned the West Bank."

According to Marzook, the obvious counter to Abbas' non-response, would be the response of Hamas which is to shoot rockets and deliver consistent blows to Israel. So while Israel attacks Palestinians in the West Bank and roots out the infrastructure of Hamas in the West Bank, Hamas from Gaza hammers away at Israel on a daily basis.

Marzook need not even ask the obvious question, the Palestinians know where he is taking this diatribe --- decide now, who is the better leader, which is the better party?

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Israel Pleads w US on Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Today a high level delegation of Israeli security, intelligence and nuclear experts arrived in DC for an emergency meeting that they themselves called. The group includes Israel's Intelligence Minister, Minister of Security Affairs, Director Strategic Affairs and Deputy Director of Strategic Affairs in the Foreign Ministry, a high ranking Mossad agent and a member of the military directorate.

They came to the United States to demand -- or rather, to plead, that the US and the West not capitulate to Iran. Israel is worried that the United States wants a deal so badly that they will give in on several essential issues.

One of the main issues on Israel's agenda is uranium enrichment. Israel wants to make certain that Iran cannot enrich their uranium and if they do, to keep it below 3.5%.

The other major issue is that the agreement itself should be centered on disarmament - not on observations and monitoring. The point Israel is making is that Iran has proven very effective at getting around the observers and monitoring.

It was a good sign that DC agreed to meet with the Israelis for this last minute meeting. The deadline for an agreement with Iran is July 20.

But it is unlikely that the United States will alter its POV. As Israel fears, the United States wants an agreement and they are willing to give in on and to give up on almost everything to accomplish that goal.

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Jews Thrown Out of Summit
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Jewish delegation was thrown out of the 23rd African Union Summit taking place in Equatorial Guinea.

The Summit was supposed to open with a moment dedicated to the three teenaged Israeli boys kidnapped by Hamas. But that never happened.

As the Summit was supposed to kick off, the Arab League refused to enter the hall. The Jewish delegation was already seated. In the end, the Jewish delegation, referred to as the Israeli delegation by the Arab League, was ejected. Only then did the Arab League enter the hall.

The Jewish group was composed of 14 members of the President's Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations. It also included a sitting US congresswoman.

The Jewish group was invited to the African Union Summit by its host, the president of Equatorial Guinea, who was deeply offended by the Arab League snub of his guests. He called the group to apologize and to invite them to dinner but they had already departed the country.

And as this was all happening Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, was sitting in the hall. He did nothing to help or to stop the Jewish delegation from being evicted. He did not even intervene. Neither did the Prime Minister of Spain.

These powerful men could have, at the least, accompanied the Jewish delegation as they walked out of the Summit hall.

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FM Lieberman in Paris
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been in Paris.

In Paris Lieberman met with US Secretary of State John Kerry and with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Talks went well. But, and this is no secret, Lieberman has a reputation. He is very direct and not very diplomatic - especially when it comes to compromise and settlements. Considering that he is the chief diplomat of Israel, those are not traits one would ideally want to flaunt.

In his talks with Kerry, Lieberman said that there is no need for a Palestinian peace deal right now. A regional peace plan, he explained, would be much more effective.

In his talks with Fabius of France, Lieberman said that there is a warped and incorrect comparison floating around and it needs correcting. He said that one cannot compare the action of the kidnappers to the actions of the IDF.

Lieberman explained: There is no parallel and no commonalities upon which to compare.

The terrorists kidnapped children.

The IDF is trying to find them. One is accountable to a democratically elected state pursuing justice and peace and trying to defend a nation in a very ugly neighbor from armies and terrorists.

The other is a terrorist group that kills indiscriminately. Its objective is to target civilians and cause as much fear as possible.

The fact that the terrorists claim to be justified by righting an injustice does not make it any less terror. Terrorism is defined by the methods not the reasons and rationale.

Lieberman was on point. No gaffes. No inflammatory rhetoric. This time, he spoke plainly and clearly and made his points rather eloquently. Agree with him or not, he spoke like a true diplomat and statesman.

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Abbas:Incentivize Terror
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

We have known about the practice for years, but we never knew the figures.

Everyone knew that the Palestinian Authority paid prisoners who were convicted and sitting in Israeli cells. But until the other day when
Naftali Bennett gave the figures, we never knew how much. They are mind boggling.

The PA spends NIS 44 million per month paying prisoners. The message that sends is deeply problematic -- and contrary to the public message Abbas is articulating.

Abbas condemns acts of terror but rewards the terrorists monetarily.

A prisoner convicted and sentenced to 0-10 years in an Israeli jail will receive NIS 4,000/ month. 10-15 years gets NIS 6,000/month. 25-30 years gets NIS 10,000/month and a prisoner sentenced to over 30 years gets NIS 12,000/ month. In addition, each prisoner receives NIS 400 twice a year for incidentals.

Compare that to the average Palestinian police salary of NIS 2,700/ month.

It seems clear that there is a monetary incentive for Palestinians to commit acts of terror - and the greater the terror the greater the reward.

The money paid to the terrorist comes from aid donated to the Palestinian Authority as does almost all the money in the PA budget. So, in the end, it is US money that is paying Palestinian terrorists.
Worse yet, US aid is stimulating terror.

That needs to change. Congress needs to be made aware of this. Naftali Bennett has the right idea.

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Search for Kidnapped Boys Ending 1st Stage
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

According to an Israeli army report, the IDF will "exhaust" its search for the three kidnapped teens in the Hebron area over the next few days.

That begs the essential question. What happens next?

The hope is that the boys will be found ... but what happens if they are still not found.

Several options emerge.

The first is to "expand in." Change the search parameters and intensify the search in certain specific areas within Hebron if you are certain that that is where they are being held.

The second is to "expand out." Focus on where else the kidnappers could be hiding their hostage. That means searching every Arab village to the north, south, east and west of Hebron. All of them.
And then expand the search toward Gaza.

"Exhaust"-ing the search does not mean that the search is concluded.
It means that the first stage of the search is concluded. The search will go on.

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Israel Hits Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The rocket that was shot from Syria into Israel is a violation of the cease fire between the countries, and the death of a thirteen year old Israeli is tragic - but the incident must be viewed as an isolated event.

Never the less, Israel responded by launching nine sets of Spike ground to ground missiles into Syria. The Spike missiles are extremely accurate weapons and all the missiles hit their targets in the Syrian Golan. The targets were Syrian army positions, including the command post of the 90th Division headquartered in the Golan.
Israel needed to respond. Syria launched the rocket on purpose. It was not an errant missile gone astray from a battle with al Qaeda. And it killed a 13 year old boy. Israel decided that it was worth the risk of escalating tensions in an area that has been quiet and under control and shot back.

As always, Israel has to weigh response and retaliation against defense and deterrence. Overreacting might incite war. Inaction might stimulate more rockets and more bombs lobbing into Israel.

It is a gamble that Israel is willing to take. For Israel, every life is valuable and valued. And Israel has determined, militarily and politically, that a precision strike at the force which launched the rocket was the right decision.

We will soon know if their calculation was correct.

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World Cup - A Protest Against Iran
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

World Cup fever is electrifying. All over the world fans are watching the games. National allegiances and national pride are always primary reasons to cheer for you team.

Yesterday Iran lost to Argentina 1-0 in the World Cup competition.

Before the match, outside the stadium, a group of people came to demonstrate, demanding that Iran be held accountable for the 1994 terrorist bombing in Buenos Aries at the AMIA Jewish Community Center, killing 85 people. It was the worst terror attack in the history of Argentina. The names of the victims were recited and there was a minute of silence.

An investigation concluded that Iran was responsible for the attack, but it went no further than that.

Interestingly, Israel's Channel 2 News interviewed several Iranians as they entered the stadium and they gave very positive responses to Israel and the news. One Iranian even said, "we love Israel." Another said, "Israel is good."

These Iranians might be arrested when they return home. Iran leadership does not take kindly to public disagreements, especially in the media. Remember the six Iranian dancers who were arrested for singing about happiness and posting it on Youtube? They have been released but they had to make a public apology.

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Saudi King Visits Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The 89 year old King of Saudi Arabia flew to Cairo on Friday night to visit Egypt's new president.

While it is only a short, quick flight across the Red Sea given his advanced age, the Saudi head does not often fly. The trip is a show of support for al Sisi. And since the ousting of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood from leadership in July of last summer, the Saudis have been extremely supportive of al Sisi and the new Egypt.

The Saudis see the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to the entire region. The Brotherhood is a form of radical Islam. They are the progenitors of Hamas. Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have experience with these groups and their understanding of Islam and they want to root out the threats they impose.

In addition, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are hoping to re-establish an Arabic leadership which will direct the Middle East that lures people away from Iran and the other influences that have filled the gap since the fall of Mubarak.

This is a very important trip.

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Hamas Says "Will Rain Hell on Israel"
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas has pledged "to rain down hell on Israel," according to their spokesman Sami Abu Zurhi.

Hamas is responding to Israel's response to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers a week ago yesterday.

Now, seven days after the kidnapping, Israel is searching for the boys and they are using that search to destroy Hamas in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority / Hamas unity government has been in place for only a few weeks and Hamas has already set its machinery in motion to topple the PA and conquer the hearts and minds of the youth of the West Bank.

But now Israel is getting at the organizational structure of Hamas - and not just in Hebron but in Bethlehem and Ramallah, as well.
Israel has seized hundreds of computers from Hamas. They are rooting out Hamas from all those areas.

For everyday that Hamas holds the boys, their own vision of one day usurping control of the West Bank from Fatah and the PA slips further and further away.

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Israel Clamps Down on Hamas Prisoners
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel has decided to apply pressure on Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons.

The Israeli Prison Authority has announced a policy that will curtail privileges for all Hamas prisoners who are security prisoners.
Security prisoners are those prisoners convicted of terror activities and they are held in separate sections of the prisons. Security prisoners do not interact with the rest of the prison population.

These Hamas prisoners will not be permitted visitors. They will lose their television privileges. They will not be permitted to purchase additional items from the prison cafeteria.

To those who believe that Israel cannot limit these privileges, that
Israel is not permitted to put a halt to the privileges Hamas prisoners receive - you are wrong. Watching television in prison is a privilege, not a right. And not to have the privilege of watching television during the World Cup is, for Hamas prisoners, a greater punishment than one can imagine.

Israel is squeezing Hamas from all angles by shutting down Hebron, isolating Hamas internationally, applying diplomatic pressure and curtailing activities for Hamas security prisoners.

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Israel is Now Attacking Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

As devastating as it is, the kidnapping of three Israeli teens has allowed Israel a great advantage in the battle with Hamas - Israel can now take actions, almost without limitations, against Hamas.

Kidnapping civilians is way beyond the pale. It is a violation that can be viewed only as an act of terror by the Western World. Europe and most Western counties in the United Nations do not question
Israel's activities against Hamas in their crusade to find the boys.
Israel is taking advantage of the situation and is slowly rooting out the infrastructure of Hamas.

It will take time to find the three kidnapped boys. Israel is working tirelessly to find the kidnappers and they will, eventually, find them. Hopefully, when Israel does find the terrorists they will be able to return three missing sons to their families.

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Iran is in Iraq Fighting Al Qaeda
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

At least 2000 elite Iranian soldiers, member of the al Quds Brigade, are fighting in Iraq. The soldiers are there along with their commanders and other senior advisers.

Interestingly, the al Quds Brigade arrived in Iraq on Thursday and the European press began their covering on Friday and Saturday. The Wall Street Journal reported the story today.

Now that the Iranians are inside Iraq, the United States is saying that there may be some potential synergy because them and the Iranians since they both want to oust the al Qaeda Islamic Army of Levant from Iraq.

So now, as the nuclear talks between the United States and Iran break down, the situation in Iraq might just be the bridge that connects the US and Iran and forges a cooperative effort.

But understand, this kind of cooperation is not without very big risks. Very big risks, indeed.

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Kidnapping is A Trauma Felt Around the World
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The kidnapping of three Israeli teenage students has resulted in traumatic and emotional pain. Trauma felt around the Jewish world.

The search for the boys has become the most essential national political issue in Israel. The cabinet, the parliament, the army, police, intelligence and diplomatic branches are all working, almost exclusively, on getting the boys back.

Those coordinating the search believe that the boys are still in the Hebron area. They are interrogating more and more people and gaining more and more information.

The fragments of the story of the abductions are slowly coming together. Soon the entire puzzle will be pieced together. It is clear that Hamas is responsible. Israel's prime minister said so.
The United States secretary of state said so.

When all the pieces are in place, a plan will be put into place. And questions will arise. Should Israel negotiate and trade for the boys or should they try to free them through military means. The risks are very costly in both circumstances. In one case it means releasing terrorists who might murder again and an incentive for more kidnappings. In the other case it means the possible sacrifice of soldiers and the kidnapped boys in a rescue attempt.

These are difficult questions. There are no simple answers. There are no easy answers.

Prayers can only help.

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3 Boys Kidnapped by Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Thursday night kidnapping by terrorists of three Israeli teenage boys has stunned Israel and Jews around the world.

Synagogues throughout the world recited prayers for the three boys, hoping that they are still alive and that they will be returned safely to their families.

There are only several possible scenarios. The worst is that they are already dead. The best scenario is that the terrorists are interested in exchanging the boys for prisoners in Israeli jails. Other scenarios are variations on these two.

Now the intelligence teams have to piece together the story. How it happened, the timeline and who did it. With this information will also come the motivation of the terrorists. After this information is pieced together it will be easier for Israel to determine what to do.

Right now Israel needs to focus on what happened. That is the best way to find the boys.

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Iraqi Rebels Behead
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Things are getting even worse in Iraq.

To get some sense of how bad it is, look at these figures reported by The London Telegraph.

The Telegraph reported that 800 rebels from the Islamic Front of Iraq and Levant (or Syria, known by its initials ISIL or ISIS) chased out 25,000 police and 30,000 soldiers from Mosul in Northern Iraq. (I did not add an extra zero.)

That is remarkable. The rebels are al Qaeda affiliates in Iraq and Syria. They are even more brutal than you could imagine. They behead people regularly in public and institute Shariyah (Islamic) law. The fear of beheading was enough to make 55,000 people - trained soldiers and police, run away.

And when the Iraqi police and soldiers ran away, they left their (American made) tanks and weapons right where they were for the rebels to simply swoop up.

Talk about re-gifting!

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Oil Prices Go Up B/C of Conflict
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Oil is one of those commodities that fluctuates in price based on world events. Stability and security in the Middle East play a central role in the price of crude oil.

So when there is crisis and rampant conflict in areas close to major oil fields, the market responds. And that response is felt at gas pumps and in the wallets of people wherever they may live.

Iraq right now is a case in point.

Over the past few days the West has been taken by surprise as al Qaeda affiliated rebels have taken over cities in Iraq, some of them located in major oil region. Areas like Mosul and Kirkut have fallen to al Qaeda.

Capitalizing on the confusion of the moment, Kurds in Tikrit, Iraq have seized the opportunity to kidnap and grab Turks.

The only response available for the market is to increase the price of oil.

There is more to the story. If Western forces enter Iraq in an effort to bring stability or if Iraqi forces attempt to take back the cities - it will happen again. The price of oil and hence gasoline will increase again.

Either way, we the people lose. And just in time for summer vacations.

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Israel Retaliates in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel retaliated for rocket fire from Gaza by launching an air strike. The strike killed Mohamed Ahmed Alarur.

Alarur was the head of a network that launched rockets into Israel.
He was responsible for the attacks perpetrated on Passover night.
His objective was to terrorize Israelis as they all sat around the Passover seder table.

Since January, 140 rockets have been shot into Israel from Gaza. This week's renewal of rocket attacks forced Israel to act.

United States State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki responded to the situation by saying that "Abbas' ability to prevent attacks from the Gaza Strip is limited at this stage."

Abbas condemned the rocket attack into Israel and called on Hamas to respect the ceasefire. But the State Department spokesperson is correct - there is only so much Abbas can do.

That is why Israel launched their airstrike. Scrambling fighter jets to kill one person seems like overkill. Actually, that is the reason only one person died. Israel launched a surgical strike targeting a single person - the leader responsible for the rocket fire, namely, Mohamed Ahmed Alarur.

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Afghan Drugs Threaten Reconstruction
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Afghanistan increased its poppy, opium, heroin and morphine production this year. It is now a $3 billion industry that increased by a billion dollars since last year.

This illicit market is placing the entire reconstruction of Afghanistan in serious crisis.

The United States has given about $7 billion towards Afghani reconstruction. The money was given under the condition that the poppy trade would shut down.

John Sopko, the United States SpecialInspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, told a US House subcommittee that the drugs are helping the Taliban and creating corruption.

If drugs become their central export it will be clear that Afghanistan will move further down the road and become a narco state, a state that is funded through and revolves around drugs.

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Australia Changes View on Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

In an extremely rare move, a move which can only be described as bold and trailblazing, Australia announced that it will no longer refer to annexed East Jerusalem as "occupied."

While this decision was hardly covered at all in the Western press, the Palestinian and Jordanian press focused on it heavily. The Palestinians called the Australian diplomatic representative and asked for an explanation. The Jordanians called the Australian embassy and "expressed their concern."

This decision was officially made by the attorney general of Australia who told the senate of the new terminology.

Australia took the Palestinians by surprise. But it was a bigger surprise than it should have been. The Australians have, of late, been more and more aware of the issues confronting Palestinians and Israelis and more understanding of Israeli claims.

And in January, when Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop visited Israel, she paid her respects at the grave of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. At the time Bishop made it clear that Australia no longer calls settlements illegal and they do not refer to the West Bank as occupied. All this is, by the way, in stark contrast to current United States policy.

The changes have come about as a result of the change of government in Australia - the ousting of the Labour party and the emergence of the Liberal National coalition.

Kudos to Australia, I hope they can take the heat.

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Sisi Says No To Islamists
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Abdel Fattah al Sisi was sworn in as the new president of Egypt yesterday. Al Sisi was elected in an election that was witnessed by international observers and he is Egypt's new democratic leader.

Soon after being sworn in the new president of Egypt made it very clear that there will be no reconciliation with Islamists. Al Sisi announced that anyone who adopted violence, anyone who committed crimes will be punished and that there is no place for that behavior in Egypt.

Al Sisi has a long road ahead. One of his important jobs is to reinstitute law and order. Egyptians need to feel safe and that safety will bring the return of tourists to their country.

On another front, al Sisi will work behind closed doors with Israel to help secure the region. This cannot be made too obvious, but part of al Sisi's plan for Egypt is to reestablish it as a leader and mediator among the Arab world. That cannot happen if the relationship between Egypt and Israel is too obvious.

There is a lot riding on al Sisi. But there is no doubt that given the current situation, he is the only chance Egypt has of reemerging as a productive entity in the region.

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Abbas Says No And the World Applauds
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is a clash of leadership and Abbas is winning. Actually, winning is an understatement. Abbas is trouncing Bibi Netanyahu and the State of Israel.

In analyzing the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, one might think that Abbas would never stand a chance against Israel's great communicator. And yet, over the past few years, Abbas has played the pr game so successfully that at almost every opportunity he has garnered resounding world support for the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas has accomplished his goal by saying "no". He said "no" to every single peace talk related issue - and Israel has said "yes" every time. And with all his "no"s, Israel has failed and Abbas has emerged victorious.

The unity government is the last - and best, example.

The entire Western world leadership warned Abbas not to go ahead and form a unity government with Hamas. Abbas defied the United States and the entire Western world. And what happened? Abbas and Hamas were embraced by US Secretary of State Kerry and the rest of the Western world. And now Israel is the only power adhering to the plan and maintaining that Hamas is a terror group.

What happened? How did this happen? Abbas not only has no charisma, he has no power to deliver. He is out of sync with the masses of Palestinians and yet he has managed to wrap Western world leadership around his little finger.

Abbas says "no" and the Western world applauds.

Political correctness has gone too far.

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Syrian Elections Cement Assad's Place
By Micah Halpern

Saturday June 7, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

This week there were presidential elections in Syria. The results are in.

Syrian Parliament Speaker Jihad Lahan announced the final results.
He along with the Supreme Constitutional Court of Syria said that the turnout was 73.42%. That was pretty good considering that there is a civil war waging in Syria and that many people were threatened and told to stay home and boycott the elections.

Assad received 88.7% of the vote. The other two candidates combined garnered 5.5% of the vote and the rest were disqualified ballots.

There are important issues that emerge from this vote. Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah put it best. He said that there is no doubt that Assad is the popular candidate by all standards and this election cements his position.

It is very hard to think otherwise with the kind of turnout and the kind of victory Assad received. There were only sporadic areas of the country where polls were closed down by the rebels. If you looked at international media coverage, however, you would have assumed that half the country could not or would not come out to vote.

Through this election Bashar Assad has fortified his position and made it undeniably clear to all that he is there to stay - at least for the near future.

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US Misled Israel About Unity Government
By Micah Halpern

Friday June 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel and the United States saw eye to eye on the question of Hamas involvement in a Palestinian unity government. There can be no doubt about that. And it was obvious that Israel would not respect or deal with a Palestinian government that included Hamas.

But while the United States agreed with Israel, that agreement is not an issue principle.

The decision by the United States to recognize a government in which Hamas plays an integral role is a major turnabout of US policy and it breaks a longstanding agreement between the US and Israel. The agreement was twofold. The US would not recognize the Hamas government and the US would not pressure Israel to, in any way, deal with the Hamas.

The United States and Israel even spoke about and confirmed for each other that the technocratic government was simply a ruse.

All that is now gone.

And the worst part is that the United States does not even realize that it did anything wrong or dangerous. The United States does not even realize that it has put in jeopardy an issue that is vital to its own security. And the United States does not realize that it is now perceived as not being there to protect Israel's security interests.

It is only a matter of time before other nations and communities take advantage of what is a very public and very large diplomatic and security gap between the United States and Israel.

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Muslims Burn Christian Shops in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Thursday June 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Mobs burned Christian shops just outside of Luxor in Egypt the other day.

They threw gasoline on the shops and lit them aflame. It all happened just as a young Christian man, Kerolos Ghattas, was about to go on trial. Ghattas is charged with blaspheming Allah and Islam.

There are about 9 million Coptic Christians in Egypt, they make up about 10% of the population. They live in fear. Their institutions are being burnt and plundered.

Ghattas has a popular blog and he has said some very critical things about Islam.

Despite the new elections and al Sisi winning nearly 97% of the vote, very little will change vis a vis the Christians of Egypt. They will continue on as they have been, an unprotected minority in a very hostile environment.

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The Rolling Stones in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday June 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Rolling Stones arrived in Israel on Monday night and tonight, Wednesday night, they are performing in Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv.

This is a huge event for Israel. It is the first time the Stones have performed there.

The legendary group opened their tour in Oslo and from there went on to Lisbon, then Zurich and now Tel Aviv. It is all part of their On Fire 14 European tour. The Band arrived on their own Rolling Stones airplane adorned with a huge set of lips and a tongue that sticks out.

The event will start at 9:15pm even though it was scheduled for 8:45. This will give people time after the Holiday of Shavuot, Pentecost, to attend the once in a lifetime event.

The Rolling Stones concert will last for two hours. Under normal circumstances the park closes at 11pm, but for this extraordinary event, an exception will be made.

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DC Accepts Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday June 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The PA/Hamas unity government was sworn in yesterday. And almost immediately afterward, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki recognized the new government.

I am told that the Israeli cabinet and diplomats were caught off guard.

The United States might have rushed to embrace the new Palestinian government, but there will be serious blowback in DC - especially from powers on the hill.

Why was Israel surprised?

Months ago I predicted that if the agreement went through, the United States would accept it. And by Saturday it was clear that the new Palestinian prime minister was already officially invited to Washington to meet with Obama in the White House.

Israel has always had a misapprehension of the White House's desires and priorities. To think that the administration would not back a unity government was a big misjudgment. And to think that embracing a Palestinian unity government is an attack against Israel is even a bigger mistake.

The White House is wrong. It is illegal in the United States to recognize Hamas. But to think that they would not have done so was sheer folly.

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Elections In Syria
By Micah Halpern

Monday June 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It sounds outrageous, but on Tuesday Syria will go to the polls to elect a president. That's right - the Syrians have been embroiled in a civil war since March 2011 and now is the time they have chosen to vote for a president?

It is part of the deal that all sides, including the United States and other Western nations and the warring parties in Syria, agreed upon. They wanted the people to have a say, they wanted them to vote. Of course, at the time, the brilliant minds that compose the international community could never have foreseen that Assad would be a sure bet for a landslide victory.

When Syrians go to the polls there will be three candidates to choose from. When the process started, there were twenty-four viable candidates including two women and a Christian. Now Assad is the main candidate and the other two other names on the ballot, Hassan Abdullah al Nouri and Maher Abdul Hafiz Hajjar, are simply tokens or symbolic candidates.

This is the first time that a presidential election in Syria will not be simply a referendum. In the past there were no other options.
Then, in the early part of 2014, the Syrian parliament passed a law to create a real, multi-candidate election program. Even though all three names are on the ballot, there is little to no doubt about who the winner will be, despite the fact that the police and the army are prohibited from voting.

Western leaders thought this election would pressure Assad. In the end, it empowers Assad.

The entire idea of having elections to solve a problem in the Middle East in the middle of a civil war is irresponsible thinking on the part of those trying to build stability. Did they really hope to oust Assad? Really now, how could they even in their wildest, most hopeful, imagination expect that outcome?

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Abbas/Hamas Unity Causes Conflict W Israel
By Micah Halpern

Sunday June 1, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Abbas has announced that the PA will declare their unity with Hamas on Monday. In response, Israel has said that they will boycott the new government. The boycott will include withholding import taxes that Israel collects for the PA at Israeli ports.

The Palestinians are now threatening Israel. Look at Abbas comments from Sunday when he met with French pro-Palestinian leaders:

"The announcement of the government will be on Monday."

"The Israelis informed us today that they are going to boycott us immediately after we form the government."

"They are going to withhold our money."

"This is our money, not aid from Israel, and we will not stay silent. They want to punish us because we have an agreement with Hamas, which is part of our people."

"We say (the government) is going to recognize Israel, denounce violence and recognize the international agreements."

"This is a technocrat government. It has nothing to do with Fatah, Hamas or any factions."

Abbas also said that "we are going to react to any Israeli action."

This scenario has been played out before. In the end, after a few weeks, Israel will free the Palestinians taxes and transfer the money just as they have always done. Israel is showing its displeasure and is using the withholding of taxes as a strangle move. It is a gesture of strength.

After their recent successes with the Pope and UN agencies, Abbas and Hamas feel emboldened enough to make their next move. Israel's move is only temporary. The Palestinian move will probably be more long term.

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White House Embraces Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 31, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It looks like the United States, specifically the White House, has officially embraced the Hamas / Palestinian Authority Unity Government. This is a major turnaround. And it is a serious violation of US law.

The Israeli daily Maariv reported on and then quoted the high level Palestinian official and head of the Fatah reconciliation team, Azam Al Ahmad, saying that since the unity agreement the new Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has been invited to the White House for an official visit. "The visit will take place in June, during which Hamdallah will meet with the American president and visit the US Congress."

Azam Ahmad also said that "The US administration has renounced its previous disapproval of the national unity government and will now support the new government."

This is truly earth shattering. It will require some very fancy footwork on the part of Washington diplomats and whoever else wants to recognize the new Palestinian government.

According to US law, a law which was passed by Congress, Hamas may not receive support or US money. As a result of the unity government, any aid and/or any money that goes to the PA cannot be separated from Hamas - and so it is impossible to recognize the newly formed unity government.

Even the presidential waiver cannot apply here. It is a clear and absolute rule. Congress passed this law expecting this specific scenario.

There is no way around this law. The only answer would be to change the law.

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Iran Hacks the West
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A cyber intel firm from Dallas, Texas called iSIGHT Partners just dropped a huge bomb.

They have shown that, over the past few years, Iran has successfully hacked into leaders around the world - including a four-star United States general, leaders from Arab countries, from England and even from Israel.

The hack was slow and very methodical. They created fictitious Facebook, twitter, Linkedin and other accounts and they created imaginary people. They befriended friends and made their way slowly to their targets. They probably targeted 2,000 people in order to get to the several dozen people they really wanted to hack.

They created a media outlet called NewsOnAir.org. All the journalists posting on the site had false identities.

Once the hackers found their targets they planted spyware and other software. This would enable the hackers to follow and to get passwords and access to highly secure sites. They invested huge amounts of time to cultivate contacts and then to get introduced to their targets.

This hack was wildly successful.

There is no way of knowing how much material was compromised and who was compromised when. iSIGHT has said that the operation has been going on since 2011.

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Conflict Over Jerusalem
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Jerusalem Day marks the liberation of Jerusalem, it marks the reunification of the city in the 1967, Six Day War.

It is a great day of celebration for Jews around the world - especially in Israel and even more so in Jerusalem. When Israeli
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to mark the day he repeated the often declared statement that Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided, capital of Israel.

That Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided, capital of Israel is a near absolute point of unity and agreement in Israel. And yet, the Palestinians responded to the Netanyahu speech by reminding him that East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.

This small exchange illustrates some of the enormous tension and explains in part the gargantuan rift that exists between both Palestinians and Israelis.

There are ways to bridge the gap regarding Jerusalem. The division is predominately an issue of rhetoric. But in order for there to be any change in the stagnant status quo there needs to be a real desire to find a solution - even about terms.

At this moment I am not very hopeful.

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Extra Day for Elections in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 28, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Egypt's two day election was extended for a third day. The Presidential Election Commission announced that the ballots would remain open for a third day due to low turnout.

The low turnout should have been predicted.

The reasons are obvious:

# 1: The outcome is clear, so why should people come out to vote.

# 2: People are politically burned out. They have had enough of presidential politics. They want to move on.

# 3: The heat has been blistering.

# 4: There have been, not unexpectedly, boycotts by groups that do not recognize the elections.

In order to secure a better turnout on the third day, one member of the Commission considered applying an old law still on the books. If implemented, Egyptians that do not vote would be fined 50 Egyptian Pounds. That is about $79 US.

Democracy is new to Egypt. Most new democracies are excited about the voting process. Al Sisi and his advisers believe that when more people vote, he will be given a larger and clearer mandate to govern. He is wrong.

Unfortunately, as democracy matures fewer people vote. All that is required is that there be a legal, fair and honest election.

Egypt will soon learn an important lesson about democracy. Most people really do not care. Those who do care are those who come out to vote.

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Elections Shake Up EU
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The BBC called it an "earthquake that rocks EU elections." They were referring to the Euroskeptics who grabbed power by the handful in the elections that concluded over the weekend.

The Euoskeptics want to disband the EU and they are now a formidable contingent in the EU parliament.

Center parties lost serious ground to the rightists. The voting public is responding to the changes in European societies. They are hoping that the rightists will stem the influx of Muslims into Europe. They are xenophobic.

The right is also filled with anti-Semitism.

To get some sense of the numbers:
In France, the National Front garnered 25% of the votes. French President Hollande's Socialist Party came in third place with only 14% of the votes.

In Greece, the Golden Dawn which is similar to the National Front, received 10% of the ballots.

In England, the Euroskeptics won with 27% while the Conservatives only got 24% and the Labour Party received 25% of the vote.

The European Jewish community is deeply concerned about these changes in the EU Parliament.

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Iran Executes Billionaire
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iran executed a billionaire for perpetrating a $2.6 billion fraud.
Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, also known as Amir Mansour Aria, was hung in prison in a secret execution. Even his lawyer was not informed that the execution was to take place.

Khosravi was involved in the biggest bank scam in the history of the Islamic Republic. Thirty nine people were convicted. Four were executed, two were given life sentences and the rest were given twenty-five years.

Considering how controlled the Iranian economy is, the case raises questions as to how it was possible to perpetrate such a huge fraud and over so long a period of time.

The fraud began in 2007 with forged documents that enabled bank loans. The loans were used to purchase thirty-five companies. The state owned steel company was bought. A mineral water company was bought. A soccer team and a meat importing company were bought. In such a highly controlled economy, it is highly likely that there were also government payoffs.

The banks played a huge role in the fraud and many of the players were former banks executives. Some of those involved were able to escape Iran. One character escaped to Canada. I expect that, over the next few weeks, he will spill the beans about the government involvement in this colossal fraud.

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Pope's Visits Middle East
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Pope's trip to the Middle East is extremely important. Although it is a short visit and there were times when the trip itself was in doubt, the Pope's appearance in the region serves an important vehicle in helping to bridge differences.

The three day trip began on Saturday and ends on Monday.

Obviously, all sides will do their best to put their best foot forward when entertaining the Pope. By definition, that means explaining your case and explaining why the peace process is at a standstill.

The blame game will be played. The Palestinians and the Israelis will blame one another. What the sides do not understand is that Pope Francis is not about blame. This Pope is all about solutions to injustice.

The Pope will listen, but he will not judge. He wants the parties, Israelis and Palestinians, to sit together, begin to resolve their issues and stop all the injustice.

During the visit Pope Francis will visit most of the requisite places and offer the required masses and deliver the expected speeches and meet with the appropriate people. He is hoping that his very presence will help, that his dialogue and discussion with the parties will enable them to move closer to the table and an agreement.

Pope Francis is an optimist. I hope his optimism is infectious.

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Ukraine Election on Sunday
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

This Sunday is Election Day in Ukraine. There are still tensions and even skirmishes in Eastern Ukraine.

On Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he will respect and recognize whoever is elected. And then he added that he hoped the new government would stop the military action against ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine.

21 candidates are running in this election. It is taking place throughout Ukraine, including eastern Ukraine. The voting is supposed to take place in areas that just had elections. All the areas that had elections voted to create independent regions from Ukraine - and yet, the central government in Kiev wants everyone to vote on Sunday.

The exception is Crimea. They will not participate in these elections. They were officially annexed by Russia.

Election rules in Ukraine require that the winner must gain over 50% of the vote. In the event that it does not happen, there will be a runoff of the top candidates.

Expect a run-off.

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Golan is in Flux
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Golan Heights have been hot these past weeks. It all relates back to Syria.

On the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliated groups have made progress in capturing important towns, crossroads and vantage points. They are now positioned just yards from the Israeli border.

I expect that Bashar Assad will make a major play to redeem the Golan from the rebels. The reason Assad needs to take back the Golan is clear. Damascus is just 40 miles away. If the rebels control this southern flank they have easy accesses to Assad's center of power.
At the other end of the country, in the north, the battles are far away from Assad as he sits in Damascus.

Saudi Arabia had been supporting the rebels, but they have now stopped supporting those rebel forces connected to al Qaeda out of fear that the extremist Islamic approach will not work. So now the Saudis are supporting only sub groups of rebels who are, or will eventually, fight al Qaeda.

On the Israeli side Druze residents of the Golan Heights have made an appeal to the UN to permit them to vote in the June 2nd election in Syria. Almost every single Druze person I have heard says they will vote for Assad. They want to cross over and vote or get the ballots brought across the border and into Israel by the United Nations.

Druze families straddle the border. Some are in Syria and some in Israel. Some Israeli Druze even attend university in Syria. For decades people have crossed back and forth over the border under the supervision of the UN. In the fall Israeli Druze farmers bring their entire apple crop over the border into Syria for sale in Damascus.

Since this eruption in the Golan Heights, courtesy of al Qaeda, Israel has closed the UN border crossing into Syria.

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Racism in Europe
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 22, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Outlawing racism is difficult to do. It requires crossing over into the sacred realm of free speech.

Switzerland, like most western European countries, has laws against racism and against Nazism. Now the Swiss Federal Tribunal, the highest court in the land, has issued a ruling on the question of racism. It is the Swiss attempt at severing the Gordian Knot.

The title of the decision is "The Hitler Salute in Public is Not Always Punishable." The court wrote that using the salute depends on the intention and so it is not blankly forbidden. It all has to do with the intent of the person performing the salute.

According to the ruling, it is forbidden only if the intention was to spread racism. It is permitted if the salute was simply conveying the personal ideas of the person saluting.

This creates a very difficult standard to prove.

Once this new legal standard is firmly in place it will be almost impossible to prosecute anyone ever again on the charge of racism in Switzerland.

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Al Sisi Speaks About Israel
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

An extensive taped interview with al Sisi, the shoe-in for president of Egypt in the election scheduled for May 26 &27, was broadcast on three Egyptian satellite stations the other day.

Al Sisi explained his point of view on the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel. He went into detail about the role of Egyptian forces in the Sinai. According to the Camp David Peace Accords, Egypt may not have a military presence in the Sinai Desert. But because of widespread terror networks now operating in the Sinai, Israel and Egypt have agreed that the Egyptian military should operate there.

Al Sisi explained that the informal change to the Accords is in everyone's best interest. It is clearly in the best interests of both Egypt and Israel to stem the terror there. Al Sisi then went on the say that if they need to implement an official change to the treaty that is what they will do.

Actually, there is no need to officially amend the treaty. Both sides agree and both sides are communicating well and sharing information.

Al Sisi is correct. It is in their mutual self interest to cooperate and fight terror in the Sinai.

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Every Must Know Abu Khattala
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Everyone in the Western world should know the name Ahmed Abu Khattala. It is a name that should be as well known as that of Osama bin Laden or of his successor Ayman Zawahiri.

Abu Khattala was the leader of the attack in Benghazi that murdered four US State Department employees including the Ambassador.

The White House has applied a full court press to find Abu Khattala.
He has so far successfully eluded them. He very recently, literally, slipped through the fingers of the United States and foiled a plan to assassinate him. Abu Khattala was tipped off in advance of the plan.
Quite obviously, capturing this terrorist is an important goal of the White House. The killing of Abu Khattala would be a very significant feather in the cap of President Obama. It is also an extremely important US policy objective.

The United States and the West should not be targeting terrorists for revenge --- but for justice. They must pursue terrorists to show that the US can and will eventually find and punish the people responsible for these heinous acts. The reason it is even more important that Abu Khattala be caught - and caught quickly, is because he is still actively plotting attacks against the United States.

It is not just about the past, it is also about preventing future terror attacks.

Remember the name Ahmed Abu Khattala. Remember what he did.

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Syrians Fight to Take Back Golan from Al Qaeda
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Syrian army has launched an offensive to retake the Syrian Golan Heights.

Last week al Qaeda affiliates successfully moved into the major villages on the Syrian Golan. This was a redo of exactly the events of last June. The Golan has critical importance and is essential in terms of keeping the border with Israel and Jordan secure.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Abdel Rahman described the Syrian assault:

"The army's counter-offensive, against rebels and the (jihadist) Al-Nusra Front, has been extremely fierce. On Friday the army fired 100 rockets and carried out 15 air strikes. On Saturday, the air raids and shelling have been continuous, and the army also fired a surface-to-surface missile against Sahem village."

There is no doubt that many more Syrian foot soldiers will be brought to the region to mop up the operation.

Last year, Syria used Hezbollah as the fighting force to oust al Qaeda.

Keeping the Golan quiet is critical so as to make certain that the Syrian conflict does not cross over into Israel or drag Israel into retaliation strikes.

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Pope's Trip to The Middle East
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The Pope's trip to the Middle East will take place in just a few days, from May 24 through May 26. This trip will be both fast paced and full of political turf issues.

Accompanying the Pope will be two of his colleagues from Argentina. A Muslim leader, Omar Aboud, head of the Institute for Religious
Dialogue will join the Pope's entourage as will Rabbi Abraham Skorka, chief rabbi of Argentina and a co-author with the Pope. The two are officially part of the delegation from Rome. Rabbi Skorka will join the trip on the second day because of the Jewish Sabbath, Omar Aboud will be there the entire trip.

The trip begins with a half day in Jordan where the major focus will be a visit to the Jordan River and the traditional site of the baptism. The delegation then helicopters to Bethlehem to visit the traditional birth site of Jesus. Also on the Bethlehem itinerary is a visit to Dheisheh, a UN refugee camp established after Israel was created in 1949 for 3400 Palestinians.

Here's where a logistical complications set in. Bethlehem is only a one minute drive to Jerusalem city limits and about ten minutes from there to the Prime Minister's residence, the Knesset and Yad Veshem.
And yet, official protocol requires heads of state to land at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport be taken directly to the Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

So the Pope must get back into his helicopter and fly to Tel Aviv just in order to come back to Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem he will ascend the Temple Mount, or Haram al Sharif, where he will meet the Grand Mufti. At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher Pope Francis will meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the world's Orthodox Christians. The site is the traditional site of Jesus' burial.

Along the route representatives of many other churches will also be presenting the Pope with gifts, including the leader of Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Church, which is Lebanon's largest Christian community.

Although tensions are very high the Pope has refused his bullet proof vehicles. He will travel in a simple Ford. Pope Francis wants to remain as close to his flock as possible.

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US Buying Kurdish Oil
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel and the United States are importing crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan. This might just turn into a huge diplomatic time bomb.

According to Iraqi law, all oil must be sold through Bagdad. But more and more clients are going to the Kurds and getting oil from them. The oil is piped across the border to the Turkish port of Dortyol and uploaded onto tankers that then make their way to their destinations.

According to ship tracking companies who track the whereabouts of tankers, the first ship left for the United States two weeks ago.
Since January four ships filled with Kurdish oil have gone from Turkey to Israel. Add on another two ships that arrived in Israel
last summer.

The Iraqis are livid and are threatening all kinds of reprisal, including law suits.

But the United States has, finally, figured out that those in control of oil in Iraq are not their friends. The Russians and the Iraqis are ultimately in control of the oil production.

And it became clear to the US, like it became clear to Israel and several other countries, that good prices and reliable timetables for delivery were something they could count on from the Independent Kurdish Region in Iraq.

When it comes to energy, reliability trumps everything but price.

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Clinton - No Deal Better than Bad Deal w Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday Hillary Clinton addressed a policy conference of the AJC (American Jewish Committee) in Washington, DC. It is clear from her presentation that Mrs. Clinton is setting her sights on the White House.

On the subject of the Iranian discussions and the issue of their becoming a nuclear power Clinton echoed an important point made by many world leaders. Her comment may not have been original, but it was certainly presidential.

"No deal is better than a bad deal" she said. Even Israeli Prime
Minister Netanyahu has used exactly those same words.

The basic premise is that Iran will certainly take advantage of the deal. And that means that the parties have to be "tough" and "clear eyed" regarding Iran and the deal. It is not simply good enough to assume that when a document is signed within the assigned deadline that everything will be fine.

Actually, quite the opposite!

The agreement must allow for protections and policing and solutions to the inevitable violations. It must work for both sides. And it must put at ease the skeptics who think that Iran is simply playing the West and specifically the country many are claiming Mrs. Clinton hopes to govern.

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Israelis To Nigeria to Help Find Girls
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 14, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Israel is sending a team of experts to Nigeria to help search for the kidnapped schoolgirls. The Israeli team will be composed of intelligence people, hostage negotiators and tactical experts.

The role the Israeli team plays in Nigeria will be to help piece together information as it comes in order to figure out where the girls are being held and how to free them. It is an area in which Israel has vast experience.

Israel has, unfortunately, been confronted with similar hostage situations many times before. Most often, they have handled the situations without fanfare or any public knowledge. Last year, for example, Israel advised Kenya after hostages were taken by terrorists in a mall. It is said that in Columbia it was the Israelis who helped find and free Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate who had been kidnapped and held prisoner for six years by FARC.

The Israelis will probably use drones and satellite images in addition to human intel in order to start piecing together a set of possible hiding places. They will comb through numerous telephone and other communications that have been accumulated for them.

Then they can create a plan.
We wish them all much success.

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Al Qaeda Battling in Syrian Golan
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Al Qaeda is once again making a play to capture the Syrian Golan Heights.

Over the past few days al Qaeda has successfully kicked Syrian forces out of the strategically located towns of Quneiytra and Qunaytira.
They have captured the hill of Tel al Ahmar which controls the road in that area and connects these significant towns.

Most importantly, al Qaeda has captured towns that sit right on the border with Israel.

As I watched the fighting I saw how al Qaeda rebels literally took up position at the Israeli border fence. But they were not shooting into Israel. They were shooting at Syrian forces on their side of the border parallel to the fence.

For obvious reasons Israel is on high alert at that border right now. The UN crossing between Syria and Israel at Quneiytra has been closed for fear that al Qaeda will take advantage of the passageway.

I watched the battle on a video posted by the al Qaeda affiliate called Jumat Beit Al Maqdas al Islami which, in translation, means the Organization for the Islamic Temple. They say that they were assisted in the battle by Araya al-Jihad, the Jihad Squad, and by Harchat Mujahedeen a-Shaham Syrian, the Jihad Worriers Movement.

Many of the rebel fighters wore black al Qaeda flags when fighting.

All of the rebel soldiers shouted Allah is Great before they rushed forward and started shooting at the Syrians.

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Kevin Spacey For Pres in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 12, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

House of Cards, the original series from Netflix that stars Kevin Spacey is very popular in the Arabic world, especially in Egypt.

Because of the upcoming presidential election in Egypt, scheduled to take place on May 26 & 27, Egyptian social media is ablaze with messages and puns about the show and the election. The show, for those who do not watch, is about a congressman who is campaigning for president.

Social media in Egypt playing aword play and having fun. Al Sisi who is considered to be a shoe-in for the post. Al Sisi is responsible for the ouster of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and has been the leader and defense minister since the ousting. And his name Al Sisi sounds like Spacey.

The postings show a campaign picture of the Spacey character with arms crossed and the words "al Spacey for President" and "Long live Egypt." One of the most popular Egyptian twitter #hashtags is "Al-Spacey instead of Al-Sisi."

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Shot Jewish Ukrainian Mayor Gives Interview
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 11, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Two weeks after being shot, he Jewish mayor of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, gave an interview from his hospital bed in Haifa where he was brought for treatment and recuperation.

Gennady Kernes was shot in the back while on his daily early morning run. After the unsuccessful assassination attempt, Kernes was rushed into surgery. Following the surgery he was taken to the airport and flown to Israel where he was brought to a private hospital in Haifa.

Kernes is recovering well and is able to sit up in bed and is even beginning to eat on his own.

He has no idea of who tried to murder him.

Kernes was a supporter of the pro-Russia regime of Viktor Yanukovych, the previous President who fled to Russia. But he said "I'm in favor of Kharkiv remaining part of Ukraine and therefore in favor of seeing her flourish."

He expects to return to his country and to resume his position soon.

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Rice Comes to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 10, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice is visiting Israel. Rice and her team are meeting with the highest level of Israeli leaders.
Washington today is like a revolving door. Out goes Kerry and in comes Rice.

The White House issued a statement about the meetings saying: "The delegations held thorough consultations on all aspects of the challenge posed by Iran, and pledged to continue the unprecedented coordination between the United States and Israel."

National security adviser is one, of if not the, most influential adviser to the US president.

The talks with Rice focused on Iran. Bu the quote did not do service to the security adviser's real agenda. The purpose of this trip is to try rein in Israel on the Iranian issue. The objective was to put the brakes on any potential Israeli strike on Iran.

The results are not quite clear.

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New Israeli Super Radar
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 9, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

For those who do not know, today, most of our defense is in the hands of techno geeks. There are more and more techo soldiers and fewer and fewer hard core fighters.

And the technology is more and more impressive every day.

Israel just announced that a new radar system called MF-STAR will be operational in the next few days. This radar, which will be outfitted on Israeli naval ships, is exponentially better than any other radar anywhere in the world.

MF-STAR can monitor multiple targets and it be able to determine threats from friends even when ships are travelling together in a bunch. It has a range of thousands of miles and can lock onto missiles at any altitude at sea, on land and in the air.

Up until now one of the biggest threats facing Israel has been a very low flying missile called the Yakont (which is actually the Russian made S-800 missile) that has already, successfully, hit Israeli targets by slipping under their defense shield. Amongst its other, many, attributes MF-STAR will prevent this from happening again.

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Saudi Court Convict Blogger-1000 Lashes & 10 years
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 8, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A Saudi appeals court sentenced a blogger named Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes and ordered him to pay 1 million Saudi riyads. (about $80,000).

The appeals court overruled a lower court that had sentence the blogger to 3 years and 600 lashes.

The blogger was the founder and manager of a web chat room that discussed Islam. He was found guilty of cyber crimes and defaming the Prophet. One Muslim leader said "These are red lines that nobody should cross."

1000 lashes is a near death sentence.

But considering the maximum penalty, there is at least a small chance that Badawi will survive. The maximum and usual penalty for such crimes is death. Considering the crimes, the response of many people in the Middle East was surprise over such a light sentence.

Given the bizarre nature of this situation, I suppose one has to find something to be happy about.

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Hamas will Destroy the PA & Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 7, 2014

I'm Predicting:

The unity agreement between Hamas and the PA is beginning to take shape.

Six Fatah security officers who had been taken prisoner in Gaza were released. There are dozens more still in prison and there is no word on their status.

As I observe both organizations and analyze their current situation it seems clear that the more powerful party is indeed Hamas and Hamas will cause the downfall of Abbas and Fatah. If there is an election, and if Hamas assumes any role, they will use it to destroy the PA.

As soon as Hamas is permitted in the West Bank as part of the PA, they will cannibalize the Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.

Until now Hamas operations in Abbas territory on the West Bank have been severely curtailed and are even illegal. But now, under cover of a unity agreement, these activities will be totally permitted. West Bank youth are flocking to Hamas.

Israel has until now been involved in helping protect Abbas, his government and his power base. Post unity agreement, Israel is pulling back.

One of the objectives of Hamas will be to topple Abbas. I predict it will take two months form the time Hamas and Fatah begin governing jointly for Abbas to fall.

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Happy Birthday Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 6, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Happy Birthday Israel!!!

It is nothing short of a miracle. 66 years ago my parents and grandparents could never have imagined that Israel would today be the great state that it is.

Today the number of Israeli citizens totals 8.18 million citizens. The number of Jewish citizens living in Israel today is 6.13 million.

In 1948 there were 800,000 inhabitants of which 600,000 were Jews.
The increase has been 10 fold. Today Israel has the largest Jewish community in the world.

The State of Israel was born into war and came out of the ashes. Today Israel is a leader among nations.

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Iran & China Boost Friendship
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 5, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iran and China are creating better and better relations, especially in terms of defense.

The Iranian defense minister is visiting Beijing and has met with his Chinese counterpart. During their joint press conference it was announced that they will continue to further their bilateral relations. The Chinese defense minister said the relationship "remained positive and steady, featuring frequent high-level exchanges and deepened political mutual trust."

And according to the Chinese news agency Xinhau, the Chinese minister also said that China is "confident that the friendly relations between the two countries as well as the armed forces will be reinforced" due to "increased mutual visits and personnel training cooperation between the armed forces."

In addition, Iran has announced that they will be tripling their trade diplomats in Europe increasing their number from 11 to 30.
They will send trade envoys to Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Serbia.

This points to a huge desire by Iran to boost their trade with Europe and to expand their business investments.

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Iran Bans WhatsApp
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 4, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian President Rouhani just banned WhatsApp. He announced the ban on Saturday. Just as a reminder, Rouhani is the liberal more open leader of Iran.

The reason Rouhani gave for banning WhatsApp is because it was bought for $19 billion "by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist."

I know that it sounds crazy. Iranians are very active on social media. The government is trying very hard to control the activity and make certain that they can monitor it. On the one hand applications like WhatsApp and Facebook and twitter are very problematic for them. On the other hand, Iranian leadership uses these systems to try to influence the outside world.

It has been an ongoing battle. Iranian leadership has blocked Google. But most young Iranians know how to get around the block. So then the government blocks that hole and young people device a new way.

Youth uses their computer as a way of communicating. Of course they also use computer websites to plot revolutions and to learn and teach about freedom and democracy. That is what Iranian leadership fears most.

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Rebels Cut Route of Chem Weapons in Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 3, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Anti-Assad Syrian rebels have cut the road and are preventing the evacuation of chemical weapons in Damascus.

The conflict is preventing the international community from loading and moving the last set of the 13000 tons of weapons. Rebels are trying to attack the eastern area of Damascus. That is where Domair Airbase is located. When you follow the road going east for another 25 miles you hit Sayqal Airbase which is where the last vestige of chemical weapons was stored.

The final deadline for the removal of this last batch of chemical weapons was not met. The deadline was April 27. Assad and his forces cannot be blamed. It is now clear why the deadline was missed. Once the weapons are put on trucks and moved, they can easily be hijacked.

The rebels want those weapons and they are advancing in their efforts to grab them. If the rebels do get them, no one knows what they will do with them.

Some say that the rebels do not have the capabilities needed to weaponize the ingredients. If that is true the rebel pirates would then move the weapons on - giving or selling them to another source. Others have asserted that these rebels do indeed have the knowhow and that they have even already used chemical weapons.

It is not exactly clear what the specific motivation of the rebel forces is beyond trying to free the eastern side of Damascus from the grasp of Assad.

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Military Parades in the MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 2, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I watch military parades in the Middle East very carefully.
Countries are always displaying their weapons. I want to see those weapons and figure out if anything is new and what they might be used for.

Of course, sometimes a country tries to fake their weaponry asserting that they have one type when in actuality what they really have is a similar but downgraded weapon. But that is part of the game.

Saudi Arabia recently displayed a slew of Dongfeng 3 missiles. They already have a few of the newer and more sophisticated Dongfeng 21.
Dongfeng, by the way, means east wind. The Dongfeng 3 has a range of 3,000 miles and can carry a nuclear warhead. That makes them older but very potent and worth watching.

Israel is only partially concerned about the acquisition of these new old missiles from China. Israel knows that they share an enemy with the Saudis and, in all likelihood, these missile were purchased with Iran in mind as a target.

So Israel sleeps a little more easily knowing that these newly acquired Dongfeng missiles will be aimed in the right direction - at a common foe.

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E Ukraine to Vote May 11
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 1, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A referendum in the Oblast (region) of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine has been scheduled for May 11th.

The wording of the referendum is somewhat ambiguous. There is no mention of either Ukraine or Russia. There is only one question. It is a yes or a no vote.

Here is the question:
"Do you support the creation of the Donetsk People's Republic?"

Donetsk is the third most populated city in Ukraine. It is filled with factories and is the most industrial region in the entire country.

But according to the law of the Donetsk region, a referendum requires that all the citizens be officially invited to vote 1 week before. That means that by Monday all invitations must be issued.

That might prove problematic. Today is May Day. It is a national holiday and the entire region will celebrate with a long weekend before the Monday deadline. It is doubtful the invites will get out in time.

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What Hamas Says About Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 30, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas leader Mohammed Al Zahar told Reuters that Abbas is not telling the truth about Hamas and their recognition of Israel. Al Zahar said it is simply not true.

In an extensive interview with the news service the Hamas leader was very forthright and very clearly explained Abbas' motives.

Al Zahar said that Abbas is "very weak" and that "he is seeking a guarantee that US financial support will continue."

He continued by saying that the idea that the government would be composed of academics and technocrats was also a big Abbas lie cultivated in order to assure Western powers of something that will not happen.

"Abbas is not telling them the truth. He says 'this is my government'. But it is not his government. It is a government of national unity. He is marketing it in this way to minimize the pressure."

It seems that Hamas understands the ways the motives and the manipulations of Abbas. It also seems that the United States and the West do not understand either Abbas or his tactics.

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China Cancels Big Bang Theory
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

We have known for a long time that China wants to control the internet within their borders.

The reasoning goes like this: If you can control the flow of information you can control the truth and limit access to resources and alternative views. You can prevent real communication and organization. And you can control the culture that people are exposed to.

The internet represents freedom. And China is flexing its muscles.

Chinese youth watch TV through the internet and the most popular shows on Chinese television are US shows. The shows are viewed on sites like Shohu TV, Youku and iQiyi. Yesterday China yanked several US shows off the internet. The government forced them to pull, The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice.

One can probably find an ideological reason for pulling the shows - except for The Big Bang Theory. It is a harmless comedy about socially awkward academics guys who share an apartment. Why yank
The Big Bang Theory?

My only answer is the great success and popularity of the show. So far the series has been viewed 1.3 billion times in China. Do the calculation - almost one view for every person in China. And that means the people are not watching the tepid boring communist shows.

The Big Bang was cut because too many people were watching it. And now Chinese viewers are up in arms and have taken to the internet to plead their case.

We shall see what happens.

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Presidential Election in Egypt
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 28 , 2014

I've Been Thinking:

A presidential election in Egypt is scheduled for May 26 & 27. The most serious candidate running for office is al Sisi, the force behind the ousting of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood last July.

Since the ousting Egypt, has been run by an interim government and has been setting the stage for new elections ten months later.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called on their supporters to boycott the elections. We are told that from his prison cell, ousted president Morsi is saying that the elections are illegal and that people must boycott them.

On Sunday al Sisi explained to the country how important these elections are and he called on all Egyptians to unite and come out and vote in "unprecedented numbers for the sake of Egypt."

There is no doubt that al Sisi will win the May election. The question is whether he can unite Egypt and guide his country back into a position of power and productivity.

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The Real Situation
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 27, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The response to the breakdown of peace talks between the PA and the Israelis has been telling. But when it comes to the Middle East, you do not take anything at face value.

The sanctions that Israel has imposed will soon be lifted.
Palestinian tax money that has been collected at Israeli ports and withheld by Israel will soon make its way to Palestinian national accounts. And the goods that normally cross into the PA and Gaza will continue again as they did. It may take a week or a few days longer, but it will happen.

The international community will insist on it and Israel knows that they must deliver it. It was a gesture. And Israel will not withhold electricity or power even if they do not receive payment because of a Palestinian cash shortage.

The Palestinian Authority has run headlong into the embrace of Hamas and in so doing they have insulted Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and almost every other Arab country except Qatar. All these countries have isolated Hamas because of links to the Muslim Brotherhood. The
Brotherhood has sworn to overthrow each of them and Hamas represents the Brotherhood.

The PA cannot live in that situation. They gain almost nothing from association with Hamas. Besides, they will agree on almost nothing. They will never be able to share power and authority.

Hamas thinks that this agreement will enable them access to PA money. But money from abroad will not flow (except from Qatar and the taxes that Israel will soon return) as long as there is a union between them.

All around, this is a very bad decision and it will be self-corrected very shortly. Then the real problem re-emerges.
The stalemate between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is malignant and it will remain the status quo.

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Obama Lemonade
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 26, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

As the folksy expression goes, when you have lemons make lemonade. And President Barack Obama has just made himself a big tall glass.

The Israelis and the Palestinians are frustrated. A huge chasm divides them. Peace talks have broken down. And US President Obama is quoted as saying that "there may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives."

Duh!

In other words, the Israelis and the Palestinians need time away from one another in order to see how good the peace deal really is. And that separation is actually a good thing and a part of the plan.

Hearing his speak, one would think that the United States actually thought it was a good idea for the talks to break down so that when they get back together, the parties will see how valuable and important the resolution is to them and to each other.

Despite the cool and refreshing illusion that lemonade conjures, the reality is that the drink itself is extremely tart, acidic and difficult to swallow.

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Anti-Semitism: Russia vs Ukraine
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 25, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

I cannot determine with 100% certainty those responsible for the new wave of anti-Semitism spreading through Ukraine and Crimea. But my sense is that both Russians and Ukrainians are responsible, each in the own way, for variant forms of the despicable racism.

The first major act of anti-Semitism took place in Donetsk, a province in Ukraine, on the eve of Passover when leaflets were passed out asking Jews over 16 years of age to register at their local offices and to register their property and cars, as well. The fee for this mandatory registration was $50.

The following Friday night, in the southern Ukrainian city of Nikolayev, two fire bombs were thrown at the main synagogue. The firebombing took place on the Sabbath eve of Passover.

This past Tuesday, in Crimea, in the city of Sevastopol, the Holocaust memorial was vandalized with a huge red sickle. The memorial is relatively new, having been erected in 2003.

In Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine's 4th largest city with a population of over one million, the grave site of Dov Ber Schneerson, the brother of Menachem, the previous Grand Rabbi of Lubavitch, Chabad was covered with graffiti swastikas.

And this past winter two synagogues were fire bombed and a Jewish person was stabbed in Kiev.

Anti-Semitic violence will only increase in both Ukraine and Crimea as long as stability and order elude those countries.

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Hamas- PA Deal
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 24, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement yesterday.
The overall winner is Hamas. They get almost everything. Abbas and the PA get to rub the faces of the United States and Israel in the mud.

The reality is that all the conditions as agreed upon in this current agreement were already signed onto in two previous agreements - one in Doha and the other in Cairo. The only difference is the timetable.

There are very few details about any sharing of power in any of the three agreements.

So why did Hamas once again agree to this? The real problem for Hamas is that Gaza needs money. They have been bled dry. There is an almost total barricade of funds entering Gaza. Most Arab countries, with only one exception, have long ago withdrawn their support of Hamas. Even Iran, the lone holdout, no longer supports Hamas in Gaza because they are on opposite sides in Syria.

It is the hope of monetary aid that helps drive Hamas' acceptance of the deal.

As for the PA, they have now entered into an agreement and joined forces with a registered and universally accepted terror organization.

United States law, as well as almost all of European law, prohibits supporting a terror organization. That means that the monetary aid, the raison d'etre of Hamas for joining with the PA, will stop.
There is no way the White House can justify sending funds to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

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Europe Sees The Jihad Threat
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 23, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Both the French and Dutch governments issued reports today that hundreds of their citizens have been involved in jihadist activists. Many of them have been trained, fought and died in Syria.

In the case of Amsterdam, one Dutch citizen was even a suicide bomber.

The reports underscore the urgent need for Europe to respond to the changing and wide spread landscape of terror. These governments, as well as the rest of Europe, are trying to create responses which will protect their homes and home turf from the extremism that these jihadists will bring back with them from Syria.

The jihadists return home with battle and weapons experience and training. They are battle hardened and they are even more dedicated to the jihadist cause than they were before joining the fight in Syria.

France says that 700 of their citizens were involved in jihadist activities in 2013. The actual number is probably three times that.

Until now the only tools governments had been using involved intelligence collection. Now the French Ministry of the Interior has announced that they are working on a plan to stem this movement. And Amsterdam has announced that they are cooperating with other governments to try to create a response.

The best response to hate is education. But that is a long term solution.

In the short term Europe needs to breakup jihadist groups, arrest members of jihadists groups and clamp down on individual jihadists.

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Next Iran Talks to Be in NYC
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

The official Iranian student news service reported on Sunday that the next set of nuclear talks will take place in New York City.

The news agency, called ISNA, quoted a senior negotiator saying that in May the Iranians will continue their discussions with Western powers on the sidelines of the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty talks.

This is the first time since the talks began that negotiations will take place in New York City. It is a significant signal.
It means that all the parties to the negotiations have enough of a comfort level to agree to have the United States both host and to be a part of the talks.

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Al Qaeda & the PA
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 20, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Ayman Zawahiri, head of al Qaeda, posted a general update of al Qaeda on Saturday. Part of the update dealt with the Abbas and the Palestinians.

Zawahiri refers to Palestinian leadership as traitors and cowards.
He says that they have given up on the land and on their people and want only to conform to US and Zionist demands.

The PA responded by posting a statement on their website asking since when has al Qaeda even cared about the Palestinians.

Ahmad Assaf, the Fatah spokesmen, took the PA response several steps further saying: "confirm the level of his and his organization's involvement in the Zionist project. Since when has this hypocrite and his gang been interested in the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian people? They see the whole world an open arena for their activities, but we didn't see even one activity against the Israeli occupation."

Did you catch the last line?

The Fatah spokesman is asking why there has been not even a single terror al Qaeda attack against Israel. He is saying, in essence, if you cared about the Palestinians then you would be attacking Israel and killing Israelis.

This is one of the most honest statements by Palestinian leadership that I have heard in a very long time. Palestinian leadership traditionally attempts to create the illusion of a desire for coexistence and a condemnation of terror. Here we see the opposite. The spokesman is saying --- If you really loved us, you would be killing Israelis.

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Al Qaeda vs Al Qaeda
By Micah Halpern

Saturday April 19, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

It is clear that Bashar Assad is there to stay, at least for the short term. It is also clear that the real battle now being waged in Syria is between al Qaeda and al Qaeda breakaway groups.

The most recent spat is being waged on the audio waves of the internet. Abu Mohammed al Adnani, spokesperson for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the largest breakaway from al Qaeda posted a very angry and antagonistic internet audio message attacking the current leader of al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri.

Al Adnani let loose an ad hominem rant about how Zawahiri is betraying the cause of Islam and jihad and how he has deviated from the proper path.

In November of 2013, Zawahiri was so frustrated with this group that he officially disbanded them. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant responded by breaking away from al Qaeda claiming that they were the true jihadist group and declaring war on all others groups - especially al Nusra, now the official al Qaeda representative in Syria.

The battle about how best to conduct jihad continues. And the killing goes on.

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Turkey to Ask Russia for a Favor
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 18, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

In foreign affairs and diplomacy nothing happens in isolation. A country's foreign affairs are, in many ways, akin to the game Settlers of Catan.

So as the situation begins to unravel with Russia, many other countries are stepping up, taking sides and taking advantage.

Imagine how interested I was to see that the deputy of the Russian natural gas company Gazprom was schedule to visit Turkey. And during the visit, Turkey intends on asking the Russians for a price reduction.

Russia/Gazprom is the major provider of natural gas for Turkey - and Turkey is dependent on imports for almost all of their energy.
Given today's political climate, Russia might be willing to reduce the price of gas in exchange for support in the international arena. If not support, at least silence.

For Turkey, it would seem to be a very small price to pay for cheaper natural gas.

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Horrific - Jews Must Register in Russian Ukraine!
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 17, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Horrific!! Just Horrific!!

The Jews living in a province located in a section of Ukraine that is being contested by the Russians have been asked to register at the regional citizenship office. If they do not follow directions their citizenship will be revoked, they will be forced to leave Ukraine and all their property will be confiscated. They must also pay a $50 registration fee.

The province, or, Obalst in Ukranian, is called Donetsk. It is home to the largest industrial area in Ukraine and lies in the eastern part of the country, close to Russia. Donetsk has a population of 4.3 million which is about 10% of the total population of Ukraine.
Many ethnic Russians live in the province. And there are 17,000 Jews living in Donetsk.

On Passover armed masked men delivered leaflets demanding that the Jews register.

The leaflet read:

"Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,
Due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine, because you supported Bendery Junta, and oppose the pro-Slavic People's Republic of Donetsk, (An historical allusion to WWII) has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic's territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register.

ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.

Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property."

Who would have imagined that this would happen in the year 2014.

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Secret Talks
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 16, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

Those in the know knew, but they were quiet about it for these past two years. And those who did not know were no less wise without the knowledge.

I am referring to secret talks between Israel and her Arab neighbors. The talks have focused on how the region can confront Iran and save the Middle East from falling into crisis.

And then, on Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman gave an interview during which he outlined the pros and cons of the talks and explained why Arab countries are engaged in these unofficial dialogues with Israel.

Liberman said: "For the first time there is an understanding there that the real threat is not Israel, the Jews or Zionism. It is Iran, global jihad, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda."

He continued: "There are contacts, there are talks, but we are very close to the stage in which within a year or 18 months it will no longer be secret, it will be conducted openly."

"I have spent more than a few years of meetings and talks with them. As far as they are concerned, there is only one red rag and that is Iran," he said.

"You have to understand that if in Bahrain outlaws Hamas or Hezbollah, it's not because of Israel. When the presidential candidate in Egypt, General al-Sisi, outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood, it's not because of Zionism. They understand that we are on the same side of the divide."

"I think that they too are stewing in their own juice and reaching an awareness that there will be no choice but to move from the secret stage of the dialogue between us to the open stage of the talks."

The winds of the Middle East might be changing.


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Elections in Egypt May 26-27
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 15, 2014

I've Been Thinking:

On May 26th and 27th Egypt is scheduled to have democratic elections.

Last July Egypt ousted their democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood party. Since then an interim government has been in place. That temporary government was supported by the military. And it was the military, together with public outrage at the Muslim Brotherhood, which ousted Morsi.

Now the former leader of that military, Abdel-Fatteh al-Sissi, has collected the 25,000 signatures necessary to run for president in the May elections.

We have always assumed that al-Sissi will run and that he would be a shoe in. But nothing is certain until it happens - and in the Middle East nothing is certain until the dust settles which can take a good few weeks.

Elections in Egypt are five weeks away and campaigning has yet to really begin.

We hope for a fair election and that whoever the winner is will propel Egypt towards a future that is more stable and free.

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