BLOG 413 December 10, 2018 

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation,  ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

While we have been exploring the conflict between Israel and Gaza, another drama has been playing out effecting both Israel and surrounding Arab countries. Both situations are important to follow for observers of the continuing Middle East drama.

As reported earlier, the police continue to be on the trail of alleged allegations of bribery leveled against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In Israel, the police make a charge, but the ministry of justice must bring the case to court. Last Sunday the police recommended proceeding with previous charges and added a new third court. Netanyahu seemingly eased business regulations for the Israeli’s largest telecommunications company in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his wife on the television stations owned by the company.

Called Case 4000, the police also brought charges against Shaul Elovitch a major stockholder in the company and close friend of Netanyahu. Elovitch’s wife Iris and Sara Netanyahu are also included in the charges. A case is pending against Sara Netanyahu for breach of public trust. The only one to push the situation forward is Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who is currently playing a waiting game.

Of course, the Prime Minister’s political opponents immediately called for his resignation. Regardless of which way the wind blows, Netanyahu faces a raft of legal woes and problems.

At the same time, the Prime Minister continues his unprecedented trips to Arab countries. In addition, to working with Egypt and Jordan, Oman has extended an official invitation. Netanyahu met with Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said to discuss a multitude of issues, including air traffic over Oman. Recently, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated Israel has a right to exist. Riyadh’s decision to allow Israel over Saudi airspace is highly significant. One must not overstate the meaning of these gestures, but they signal an important softening of the Arab world’s attitude toward Israel.

Contrasting criminal charges with highly important gains in the Arab world have to be balanced in the thinking of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Does Israel really want to take the Prime Minister and his wife to court while important gains are made abroad?

There’s more to come. Stay tuned.

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