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PA Media Calls Israeli Reception was Immature
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 24, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian media is taking pride in their high class behavior and in the way in which they received President Trump in Bethlehem.

In contrast to their behavior, on Palestinian TV the press spoke about how the Israelis were childish and immature in the way they received Trump at Ben Gurion Airport.

Israeli member of Knesset Oren Hassan took a selfie with the president. Then Israel's minister of security, Gilad Erdan, told the president that the terror attack which had just been perpetrated was actually a traffic accident. Erdan wanted to show off - but did not have all the information. The truth became clear a few minutes later.

The Palestinians explained that their reception for the US president in Bethlehem was dignified and classy and showcased the great tradition of Palestinian Arab culture of hospitality.

The Israelis, they said, were childish.

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No Direct Flight From Saudi Arabia to Israel
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 23, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

The maiden Trump Presidential Trip has, so far, been a success.

Here's an interesting tidbit that has not been covered.

On Monday morning, when the US president departed Riyadh, his plane traveled directly to Ben Gurion Airport in Israel.

However, everyone accompanying the president in planes that would normally follow the president, did not make that same direct, non-stop flight, from Saudi Arabia to Israel.

That's because no planes - other than the US president's plane - can travel directly between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Everyone else made a short stop in Cyprus. They just touched down and took off.

Progress, when it comes to diplomacy, can be slow moving.

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Trump's Trip-- A Deal is Coming
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 22, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

President Trump's trip to Israel and visit with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is already a success.

Abbas has declared that he is interested in talks with Israel and will return to the table.

Trump's meeting in Saudi Arabia with Arab and Muslim leaders also gave the US president - and by extension all of us, as well - new reason for hope in two very important fields. President Trump saw the Arab world's willingness to accept Israel and their motivation to destroy ISIS and other extremist groups.

Now the real challenge emerges.

How does the transition from the idea to a reality get under way?
How do you get the parties to actually work together and create a deal.

Previous US leaders have gotten the parties to talk, but getting them to move beyond talking has always been where it all broke down.


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Iran Votes in Liberal
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 21, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Iran has voted - and voted with gusto.

Incumbent Rouhani defeated all other candidates with a resounding victory, garnering a significant 57% of the vote, leaving the other four candidates in the dust.

Ebrahim Raisi, the most serious of all contenders for the position of president of Iran, was far more conservative and representative of a point of view more in line with the style of past president Ahmadinejad than of Rouhani.

Clearly, hands down, Iranian masses rejected that direction. The people of Iran signified that they want to continue down the path of reaching out and embracing the world as opposed to snubbing and spiting on the world.

Rouhani tweeted a message to Iranians - even though twitter is outlawed in Iran. Many, many people, especially young Iranians, follow twitter by getting around the block.

His tweet read: "Great nation of Iran, you are the winner of the election. I humbly bow down before you. I will remain loyal to my promises to you."

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Saudis Say They Don't Mind Sharing Intel
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 19, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

On Thursday, the same day that the Justice Department announced that a special counsel would investigate the "Russian Connection" to the Trump campaign, a very interesting - and supportive, comment was made by a very surprising individual.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir defended Trump with regard to sharing intelligence with Russia.

Jubeir, who will be meeting with Trump next week when the US president visits Saudi Arabia, said that President Trump can certainly discuss intelligence with Russia during a White House meeting last week. He said that the US president had an "absolute right" to share "facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety."

He said: "We share a very, very large amount of intelligence with the United States and vice versa," "We have had no hesitation about doing so and we will not have any hesitation about continuing to do so."

Appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate action taken by the Trump team during the campaign has little - and yet everything - to do with the Saudi statement.

The Saudis are saying: let's get serious and let's act like adults. They are saying: enough already, there is serious business at hand, let's get to the real problems we face and not waste time on games and name calling.

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Elections in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 18, 2017

I've Been Thinking:


Presidential elections in Iran take place tomorrow - Friday. While there are six candidates running for office, only two of them count.

The two contenders to watch in this election are:

#1: the incumbent, current moderate president of Iran, 68 year old Hassan Rouhani

#2: his arch rival, 56 year old staunch conservative Ebrahim Raisi

Terms like "moderate" and "conservative" are relative and not very helpful when they are attached to Iran, but the terms do, at least, put the two candidates on a continuum.

Rouhani's party is actually called the Moderation Party. Raisi seems to be more in line with the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Grand Ayatollah. To date, the Supreme Leader has not endorsed either candidate.

Iran is not really a democracy. The Grand Ayatollah holds all the power, but he cedes much authority to the president who seems to be elected by a popular vote.

So the real question is whether Rouhani's openness to the West - which is what brought down the sanctions -- is more powerful than the conservative Raisi’s point of view which is to spit in the eye of the West and have Iran do whatever Iran must do.

Has the relief caused by lifting the sanctions been good enough? Or has Iran suffered because of the openness?

History is on Rouhani's side. No incumbent has ever lost an election in modern Iran since 1981. But you never know.


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Al-Bashir Invited to Trump Meeting
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 17, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Saudi Arabia has thrown a monkey wrench into the Trump visit.

It seems that Sudanese President Omar al Bashir has been invited to the meeting with Trump and 50 Muslim leaders from the Middle East, Africa and Asia scheduled for this coming Sunday.

Al Bashir is wanted by the International Court for Human Rights in the Hague for war crimes, mass murder and massacres in Darfur during the civil war there.

It will be a major problem for US President Trump to speak to and be greeted by a group that includes a war criminal.

Trump cannot be present in the same room as al Bashir. I look forward to seeing how this plays out. Will the Saudis un-invite al Bashir or will President Trump demure and back out of the meeting? My money is on dumping al Bashir.

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