Category Archives: Arabs

RECOGNITION OF THE GOLAN HEIGHTS

BLOG 427 April 8, 2019

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.

What about President Trump’s recent announced recognition of the Golan Heights belonging to Israel? Under international law Israel’s seizure and holding of the land is considered illegal. The Geneva Conventions consider settlements in such an area to be unlawful. So, what’s going on? Politics.

Israel’s election is tomorrow and Prime Minister Netanyahu needed an extra push at the polls. Trump gave him a significant push. This viewpoint is held by the Jewish residents of the Golan Heights. The March 31 edition of the Los Angles Times calls their perspective on the recognition “tepid.” The inhabitants of the Golan fear Trump’s public recognition will upset the apple-cart in what has been an extended period of peace in their history. Even though Syria and Israel have been mutually hostile, the Golan community has been left alone. They worry that while Netanyahu got a boost, they could end up getting the boot.

However, that’s only one part of the story.

Israelis firmly reject any hint of giving this area back because of their need for security. In the beginning, Syrians sat on these heights and shot farmers until Israel cleaned them out.

Give it back? They point to America acquiring California, New Mexico, and Texas. Would America give this land back to Mexico? Americans ready to give back land to the Indians? Absolutely not!

This past history reminds us that Israel is often squeezed to maintain a double standard in which the rest of the world wouldn’t participate.

The analogy makes the point.

A recent International Jerusalem Post editorial reminds us that Israel tried to negotiate some form of settlement over this area with Syria, but those attempts went nowhere. Since then Syria has slid into chaos and President Assad is an international pariah. No future there.

What did America lose through President Trump’s proclamation? Significantly, other Arab states will be more reluctant to negotiate with America. Moreover, the announcement is a gift to Assad, giving him a rallying point to gain more support for his beleaguered nation.  This result is part of the reason that Israeli residents are hesitant to be enthused about the move.

Nevertheless, the recognition is applauded by most Israelis.

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WHAT’S BEEN LEARNED FROM THE RECENT CLASH BETWEEN ISRAEL AND GAZA

BLOG 414 December 17, 2018

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation,  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.

Wars have a way of clarifying reality. (Napoleon, England’s 1776 King George, Japan’s Tojo, & Hitler learned that fact). After the dust settles, we get a more accurate picture of what’s been going on in the background for some time. The recent near-war between Israel and Gaza that occurred in early November has done the same.

Here is what is now clear;

*The control of the terrorist organization Hamas over Gaza and the surrounding territory is extensive and virtually total.

The Israeli Defense Force (the IDF) secretly entered the Gaza strip in a vehicle that was immediately detected by Hamas. The use of technological equipment to identify the encroachment clarified that Hamas has a somewhat sophisticated and total grip on the area.

*Hamas is well down the road in swallowing the Palestine Liberation Front.

Hamas has effectively replaced Fatah as the ruling organization in Palestinian territory.

When Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO threatened to bring sanctions against Hamas, they were warned that should they attempt such an imposition, Hamas would go to war with them. Recognizing they would lose such a conflict, Abbas backed off. The conclusion that insider observers recognized was that Fatah is crumbling.

*These events tell us about the leadership crisis existing within the PLO.

For some time, I have been writing about the problems of 83-year old Mahmoud Abbas. With cancer problems and heart disease, the leader of the PLO has to know he is facing the End in the near future. At this point, no one with any weight has appeared to replace him. Moreover, the Arab population continues to defy Abbas. In turn, Abbas has forever refused to hold elections. The hand on the steering wheel continues to slip.

*The PA is in trouble at the bank. They are running out of money.

When the USA suspended assistance, the Palestinian economy splattered. The PLO has endured because of outside support for years. This prop has dropped.  While the media watched the Israeli-Gaza rocket exchange, tens of thousands of Palestinians were marching against the PA in Ramallah against the government decision to nationalize private pensions and insurance policies. The collapse of the PA is near.

What really keeps Abbas and Hamas awake at night is the fact that Arab countries no longer see the Palestinian problem as a unifying factor in their world. Many are already doing business of some type with Israel. The recent conflict clarified the situation.

Not a pretty picture.

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THE CONTINUING DRAMA IN ISRAEL

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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ANOTHER LOOK AT GAZA

BLOG 410 November 12, 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.

We explored the struggle over Gaza firing rockets in southern Israeli cities in a previous blog. Hamas did not claim responsibility which left the question who pulled the trigger and where did the rockets come from. Not knowing who produced the missiles and where they obtained the materials remained a serious question. If some unknown peripheral group had developed this capacity, the issue would be doubly serious. What have we we learned in a couple of weeks?

Interestingly enough, Yahya Sinwar, Gaza’s Hamas leader, just made the first positive statement about any compatibility with American objectives. While they disagree with almost everything including the time of day, Hamas agreed that Palestinian children have a right to educational opportunities, allowing them any profession they choose. The US government applauded the statement as a step forward.

The problem is in how to achieve such an objective. Hamas chooses terrorism and violence as their modus operandi. While attacking Israeli kindergartens only leads to hitting a brick wall, they continue doing so. Surely, they know they can never defeat the IDF (Israeli military). They must wake up to the fact that the world has passed them by. Violence is no longer acceptable to anybody. Moreover, the 17 rockets fired at the Israeli border town of Sderot were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system. 

Hamas’ last war with Israel destroyed much. Among what does not exist in Gaza today is democracy, cooperation, human rights and freedom. No future there! The real culprit in the last rocket attack on Israel is now known. Iran.

Israeli intelligence has clarified that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard communicated directly with Islamic Jihad to fire the rockets. This Gaza extremist group has been financed from Iran. In addition, Syria played an indirect role. However, information now suggests that Egypt leaned on the Islamic Jihadist group to back off and restore peace. They have now said they will cease firing rockets.

Certainly appears that Hamas with other radical groups never gets it. Constant conflict never leads to peace.

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AND  WHAT ABOUT EGYPT?

BLOG 405 October 8, 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.

Egypt hasn’t been in the headlines lately, but that doesn’t mean nothing is going on. Let’s take a second look.

I can never forget the morning I first drove into Cairo with the locals alongside my vehicle. Men rode fifty-year old bicycles next to women on burros. Traditional robes that looked like they had never been washed flapped over sandals worn to the core. A few more affluent appearing business men joined the parade next to a hollowed out wooden cart on rubber tire wheels driven by a bearded guy who must have been 90 years old.

Our parade going to work made a good analogy for contemporary Egypt.

The “Arab Spring” (meaning a new awakening) has become the “Arab Winter” (meaning a return to the past). The man leading the country in the midst of chaos is former general Abel Fattah el-Sissi. While it had been hoped Sissi would prove to be moderate, that has fundamentally not happened. The Egyptian Count just sentenced over 700 demonstrators to death for participation in s public brawl a couple of years ago.  Ousted President Mohamed Morsi remains in jail. The Muslim Brotherhood has been completely outlawed though it remains underground and ready to strike again. Sissi has proven to be a strong man who will not tolerate dissent.

How one views this situation depends on what is brought to the table. The West sees little democracy and views el-Sissi as a dictator. Egypt remains under suspicion. President Obama shut-off aid to the country following the arrest of the former president, but that only sent Sissi’s government looking to Russia and China.  

On the other hand, persons living in Egypt know the country’s instability demands an iron fist at the top. If the Muslim Brotherhood gained control again, the country would be under Muslim Sharia law much like Iran is. The country has too much instability to have a free-wheeling democracy. Police and army control is necessary for balance.

Egypt’s economy has not shown much progress and remains on the down side. On the other hand, Egypt and Israel have developed a good and positive working relationship that puts the Palestinians on the outside. Melania Trump’s just been there and got bad press for her outfit that looked like a business man or colonialist. Come on, folks, who cares what people wear these days.

The story is not over in Egypt. There is much that cannot be foreseen, meaning we will have to watch and see.

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ISRAEL’S NEW NATION-STATE LAW

BLOG 401 September 10, 2018 

Prime-Minister-Benjamin-Netanyahu

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.

Can you believe summer is over? Maybe a little hard to realize, but footballs back and the morning breeze is decidedly a bit colder. Out here in the mountains, it was 36 degrees this morning. B-r-r-r. A sign of things to come.

You probably didn’t see much in the media this summer about a situation in Israel that has raised new ire in the region. It’s been the hot issue in Israel throughout the summer. On July 19, the Knesset  (Israel’s Parliament) passed the Nation-State Law. Applauded by Netanyahu and deplored by the Arab community, the law stated three things:

  1. Israel has the right to national self-determination and is unique to the Jewish people.
  2. Hebrew is the official language of the country. Arabic is downgraded to a “special status.”
  3. Jewish settlements are established as a national value and the state will labor to encourage and promote settlements.

Netanyahu’s far-right government applauded the legislation. Israeli Arabs considered the bill a slap in the face. One-fifth of Israel’s citizens are Arabs. On the floor of the Knesset, Arab parliamentary members tore up the bill and called it apartheid. This was only the beginning of the fireworks.

In early August tens of thousands of Israeli Druze protested in Tel Aviv. Other Israeli citizens joined them. Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafaq told the crowd that Israel does not see them as equal even though they have been utterly loyal. Druze leaders had earlier met with Netanyahu and warned the new law would lead to apartheid. Netanyahu abruptly walked out of the meeting. Other Druze leaders proclaimed the law makes them second-class citizens.

Former Shin Bet director (Israel‘s internal security service) Yuval Diskin accused lawmakers of “petty and miserable political considerations.” He saw the new law as aimed at upcoming elections rather than a desire to strengthen the nation.

On the other hand, two polls taken shortly after the passage of the law found 58% of Israelis supporting the measure with only 34% opposing and 8% with no opinion. Another 61% of the Israeli population did not think the law will affect the Druze population. On the other hand, 88% of the Arab population felt it further degraded the use of the Arabic language.

There appears to be little disagreement that the passage of the legislation will give Netanyahu and his government a legislative accomplishment that will help them in the forth coming election. The wild card is whether the Supreme Court orders Netanyahu to resign because of an indictment on bribery charges.

Stay tuned. More to come.

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THE TRUTH ABOUT THE GAZA DEMONSTRATIONS

BLOG 397 June 4, 2018

    What is going on with the recent demonstrations of citizens in Gaza attacking the Israeli wall and army patrols? Is this actually a result of Israeli repressed Palestinians suffering under the cruel hand of suppressors?

Far from it.

Hamas stole control of the Gaza area from the PA (Palestinian Authority) over a decade ago. The weak leadership of Mahmoud Abbas couldn’t keep Ismail Radwan’s Hamas soldiers out. Using funds from Iran, Radwan became a billionaire while leading Gaza back to the Stone Age.

Gaza has deteriorated in the last decade. No question about it. However, this is a result of Hamas control along with Iran’s financing. Egypt sealed the borders with Gaza because Hamas constantly tried to smuggle in rockets and weapons. The problem has always been Hamas.

Ismail Radwan urged protesters not to fear death, but welcome martyrdom. On April 6, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar called Gaza citizens to “tear down the wall and tear out their (Israelis’) hearts.”

Why have women and children been rushing the Jewish wall around their nation as well as Israeli soldiers, resulting in Palestinians being shot in the legs? There’s your answer.

The so-called “March of Return” is actually a new tactic in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle called “sharp power.” The term originally was used to describe undermining liberal democracies by subversion, manipulation, and lies used by dictatorships. An example of this is the Russian intervention in the US 2016 presidential elections. Russia exploited freedom of expression to promote Trump. Now Hamas does the same by claiming the women and children rushing Israeli troops are helpless victims of oppression. The truth is the exact opposite.

Hamas is attempting to undermine Israel’s right to self-defense.

If the Western media is soft on this issue and accepts Hamas’ lies and distortion, then public opinion will be turned against Israel. To put it another way, if Hamas cannot prevail against Israel, why not sacrifice a few women and children for the sake of better public relations? That’s the strategy!

Sound brutal, bizarre, and barbaric?

You got it!

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THE SYRIAN – IRANIAN SITUATION

BLOG 396 May 21, 2018

   Israel’s recent strikes on Iranian installations inside Syria has raised new questions about what is going on as well as what’s next. Let’s see if we can make some sense out of the situation.

    Back in February, the Iranians flew a drone carrying explosives into Israel. The Israeli defense system allowed the drone to enter their territory before bringing it down because they wanted to make a close inspection of the unmanned aircraft. They found that it was essentially a copy of the US stealth drone that had been downed in 2011. However, the fact that the Iranian drone carried explosives amounted to a military attack on Israel. The Iranian action actually gave Israel additional insight into the Iranian military situation.

In his book, Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change, former Israeli security adviser Charles Freilich argues that Israelis should be very concerned about Iranian influence in Syria because they are attempting to establish air, naval, and ground bases. If they succeed, they could well merge Syria with Lebanon and end up hemming Israel in from two sides. Such a situation would have catastrophic consequences for Israel. Therefore, Freilich concludes that Israel must never allow this to occur.

A major doctrine that has guided Israel since the days of Ben-Gurion is that because of Israel’s demographic vulnerability and geographic narrowness, they must be prepared to make pre-emptive strikes. This was most effectively done in 1967 when Egypt was preparing to go to war against Israel. In a sweeping blow, they wiped out the Egyptian air force. The pre-emptive strike more than gives the enemy pause to reflect. The action has proved to be an important deterrent.

The drone invasion gave Israel an effective reason to hit Iranian installations. This puts Israel in the position of saying they were only defending themselves. Even the man on the street in Tehran would reason that self-protection is to be expected. Currently the top Iranian ayatollah has been faced with unrest in the streets. The Supreme Leader may be reaching for the Mediterranean, but at home he’s got a mess.

The recent Israeli strikes are part of a larger strategy. Israel simply will not allow Iran to achieve their long range goal!

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A SECOND LOOK AT SYRIA

BLOG 390 April 9, 2018

Syrian children waving as U.S. forces patrol on a rural road in the village of Darbasiyah, in northern Syria. (AP Photo via APTV)

During the past week, President Donald Trump made a passing comment that the US would soon leave Syria. Apparently, this not only caught the military by surprise, but came with their objections. No one ever knows what Trump’s tweets and comments might actually mean, but the suggestion calls for another look at the Syrian Civil War. Sadly, many Americans have lost interest in the seven-year old conflict that continues to be one of the bloodiest and worst in recent history.  Nearly half a million people have been killed. Most of the citizens who fled Syria no longer have any hope of returning.

President Obama made a costly mistake when he pulled US forces back and didn’t follow up on the red line proclamation demanding Syria not use chemical weapons on its citizens which they did. Russia promptly filled the gap and has been escalating tensions with the US ever since (Remember the Crimea grab & the Ukrainian struggle?) When the US backed off in Syria, Russia brought in thousands of troops, fighter planes, and bombers that rescued Assad and his regime from total collapse. Currently, Assad survives because of Russian intervention.

Iran became even more forceful in their incursions in Syria. The only good accomplishment has been the defeat of the ISIS presence, although ISIS has popped up in other countries.

One of the costliest battlefields has been in and around Damascus. I have walked through the streets of this ancient city, including the old city with its street called Straight. I even visited the sight where the Apostle Paul received healing of his blindness when he came to attack Christians (Acts 9:10-18). Today these streets are filled with the debris of war.

Behind the scenes, Israelis have continued attacking in Syria. Major General Amir Eshel stated Israel had attacked Syrian military targets 100 times since the war began. Iran’s Quds Force and Hezbollah planned guerrilla cells and attacks that would have challenged Israel on two fronts.  However, Israel jets attacked and killed cell leaders, including the son of Hezbollah operations chief. The diabolical plot was destroyed.

Israeli targets depends on current circumstances. In mid-February, an Israeli F-16 jet shot down an Iranian drone inside Syria and came under heavy Syrian fire. In turn, the F-16 was hit by Syrian fire and crashed in Northern Israel after the two pilots ejected. In turn, Israel unleashed a wave of strikes against Syrian and Iranian targets inside Syria.

To put it another way, the US military presence remains important in the Syrian struggle, even if now somewhat marginalized. To pull out is anything but in the interest of Israel and in the long run America. Syria remains a key link in Iran’s drive to build a Shi’ite crescent across the heart of the Middle East, linking Iran to Iraq to Syria to Lebanon and giving them a foothold on the Mediterranean. Iran definitely has long-term strategic aims and isn’t about to give them up. The completion of this maneuver sets the stage for a potential war between Iran and Israel.

Get the picture? Serious business!

President Trump must not deal with the Syrian situation like declaring a Boardwalk Casino bankrupt. The lives of millions of people are at stake. If Israel is forced to go it alone, every sign indicates they will. And they have the BOMB to do it. Not a good picture.

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IS THE TWO- STATE SOLUTION DEAD PART II

BLOG 339 February 27, 2017

biblelands-desert

            Last week we began exploration of one of the most explosive issues facing the Middle East as well as the United States. With the change of leadership in Washington, D.C., the suggestion that America might alter policy that has existed for over 40-years has created intense speculation about what is ahead in solving the tension between Israel and the Palestinians.

Is President Donald Trump holding a stick of dynamite? Could be.

In 1988, David Grossman published in Hebrew The Yellow Wind, describing the smoldering hostility of the Palestinians. Originally intended to be The Yellow Time, but an Arab named Abu Harb told him about the yellow wind, the wind that will rise from the gates of Hell. Local Arabs call it rih asfar, the hot, terrible east wind which comes only once in a generation and sets the world on fire. The mountains will crumble into powder and the land will be covered with bodies.

This best selling book in Israel shocked many Israelis who had no idea the Palestinians had such hostility. Today, they certainly know. Unfortunately, the West is still struggling to wake up.

Let’s put it another way. Arabs are from Mars. Israeli’s from Venus. They are peoples of two radically different worlds.

Of course, many Arabs have higher motivation, but a good number are content to sit quietly, smoke a cigarette, and drink coffee in the morning sun light. They were happy with the land like it was. While some Arabs were Christian, most are Muslims.

Israelis reflect the democratic, industrialized world of Europe. Vast numbers migrated with a keen sense of what it was to be persecuted and annihilated. They came with cutting edge knowledge of science, technology, and a burning desire to create a safe haven for all Jews. They want a state that protects their Jewish faith.

Hey, we’re talking American Indians versus the cowboys and settlers. Again, Mars and Venus on a collision course!

All the rhetoric and political conferences in the world will go nowhere until they recognize the problem of this radically different political environments. Why is there no unity? Well, there is no unity in Christianity with its 40,000 different groups. The Arabs are currently killing each other over the division between the Sunnis and the Shiites. Judaism encompasses everything from the radical Hassidim to Reconstructionist divisions in Jewish thought. In our time, people are far better at splitting than unifying!

Make no mistake about it, Prime Minister Netanyahu will exploit these initial suggestions by President Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem with the hint of trashing the two-state solution approach. And if this occurs what will follow?

No one can say for sure. However, should a yellow wind result, the Arabs have already warned it blows hot from hell itself.

Let’s all take a deep breath and think it over before we do anything foolish.

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