Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Abbas Dilemma

By Micah Halpern
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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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Head Of Hamas Shouts V

By Micah Halpern
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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Friday, August 29, 2014

Abbas Laces Into Hamas

By Micah Halpern
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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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Boycotting Israel Will Not Work

By Micah Halpern
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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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Hamas Wants from a Ceasefire

By Micah Halpern
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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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ISIS Is in Gaza

By Micah Halpern
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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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hamas is Like ISIS

By Micah Halpern
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
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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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Israel's Response Variable

By Micah Halpern
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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Friday, August 22, 2014

Israel Kills Hamas Leaders

By Micah Halpern
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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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hamas Shoots Record Number of Rockets

By Micah Halpern
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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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Status Quo W/ Hamas

By Micah Halpern
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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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hamas Plots to Overthrow Abbas

By Micah Halpern
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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Monday, August 18, 2014

New Old Anti- Semitism in Europe

By Micah Halpern
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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Sunday, August 17, 2014

With Hamas- No Agreement Works

By Micah Halpern
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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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hezbollah Lashes Out At ISIS

By Micah Halpern
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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Friday, August 15, 2014

Tensions Btw Israel & US Climb

By Micah Halpern
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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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Arabs Are Blaming Hamas

By Micah Halpern
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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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Will Israel Empower Hamas

By Micah Halpern
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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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Does Hezbollah Have Tunnels Too?

By Micah Halpern
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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Monday, August 11, 2014

How Can You Compare?

By Micah Halpern
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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Sunday, August 10, 2014

No Word For Ceasefire in Arabic

By Micah Halpern
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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Saturday, August 9, 2014

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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Friday, August 8, 2014

They Do Not Understand

By Micah Halpern
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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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Parallel w/ Pancho Villa

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

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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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hamas Claims Victory

By Micah Halpern
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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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lone Wolf & Hamas

By Micah Halpern
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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Monday, August 4, 2014

Another Cease -Fire

By Micah Halpern
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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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Israel Demands US Support

By Micah Halpern
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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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Tensions Are High in Israel

By Micah Halpern
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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Friday, August 1, 2014

Tunnel Warfare

By Micah Halpern
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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