Category Archives: Arabs

RAPID CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BLOG 486

September 14,  2020

RAPID CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., 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.

In recent blogs, I’ve commented on the change occurring in the Middle East. Notably, the United States has little to do with most of this. movement However, these are signs that Israel’s position is shifting and receiving wider acceptance in the Arab world. These blogs were barely published when news arrived that Bahrain had established full diplomatic relations with Israel.

A day after the announcement that Bahrain is establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Saturday that Jerusalem would work to establish an embassy in Manama in the near future. The two country’s foreign ministers, Israel’s Gabi Ashkenazi and Bahrain’s Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, spoke on the phone Saturday, and exchanged congratulations on the deal and discussed the importance of pushing relations forward in various fields and in support of common interests

According to Kan news, in addition to the establishment of embassies and the appointment of ambassadors, the two countries have also agreed to the operation of direct flights as well as a number of unspecified joint ventures. Earlier this month, Bahrain announced that it was opening its airspace to Israeli flights.

Netanyahu hailed the agreement as part of a “new era of peace” and predicted more accords would follow. The Bahraini king’s senior adviser Khalid al-Khalifa said in a statement that the normalization deal “sends a positive and encouraging message to the people of Israel, that a just and comprehensive peace with the Palestinian people is the best path and the true interest for their future and the future of the peoples of the region.”

Regional power player Saudi Arabia remained noticeably silent following Friday’s announcement of a normalization agreement between Israel and Bahrain.  Bahrain is seen as a client state of its neighbor and close ally Saudi Arabia, and the tiny Gulf state is not likely to have moved forward with normalization without approval from Riyadh.

Predictable responses followed from the usual quarters. The Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terror group both condemned Friday’s Israeli-Bahraini normalization deal as another “stab in the back” by an Arab state and act of “aggression” against their people. Turkey and Iran also condemned the accord.

Israel is on a roll. Got to be a good sign for the Middle East.

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
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JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

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THE SHIFTING MIDDLE-EASTERN SCENE

BLOG 484
August 24, 2020

deal

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., 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.

THE SHIFTING MIDDLE-EASTERN SCENE

There’s an old joke Jews tell each other. A wealthy man proposed to give a thousand-dollar check to representatives of faith if they could tell him who was the greatest man that ever lived. He asks the Protestant. The man answered, “Martin Luther, the founder of the Reformation.” “Thank you, the wealthy man said, but that’s not what I’m looking for.’ He asks the Roman Catholic and was told, “It is the Pope.” Again, he said this is not the answer. He asks the Rabbi who is the greatest man who ever lived. The Rabbi says, “Jesus.”

“Good heavens!” the wealthy man said. “I was sure you would say Moses.” The Rabbi replied, “Moses is Moses. Business is business.!”

The Rabbi’s answer describes the situation in the entire Middle-East regardless of country or background. They may scream and holler in public, but when they sit down at the business table. Business is business.

Keep that in mind when trying to understand the shift in politics when the Arab Emirates went public on their working with Israel in secret. They had concluded it was in their best interest to come out of the closet and admit they had been doing business with Israel for some time.

The Arab leaders had heard from both Jordan and Egypt about Israel’s reliability and assistance in times of need. Israel had helped shore up Egypt’s problem with terrorist in the Sinai bringing that intrusion to a halt. On the other hand, Arabs had become increasingly disillusioned with Washington not coming to their aid as they once believed American politicians would do. They could see in the last four years that Washington had backed away from stopping Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power or crippling them with sanctions. Israel was now seen as more dependable than America.

Moreover, the Arab Spring brought the recognition that that popular anger at repression and corruption could backfire on them. Old campaign slogans against Israel were going out of style. The real menace was now Iran. Israel had demonstrated they were prepared to halt Iran by themselves if necessary. Because of the longstanding struggle with Iran, the Emirates were now glad to lean on Israel.

Former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan much earlier recognized an intersection of interests in the Arab world with Israel’s concerns. The old problems were dying as new ones emerged. Prejudices were shifting.

Let’s fact it. Business is business.

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
Harper-Collins Publishers
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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A SURPRISE AT SUNRISE!

BLOG 483
August 16, 2020

palestine flag

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., 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.

A SURPRISE AT SUNRISE!

Israel has agreed to suspend West Bank annexation plans in exchange for the normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, according to a joint statement from Israel, the UAE and the US released by US President Donald Trump. UAE Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayad confirms in a tweet that Israel has agreed to suspend annexation plans, but says that the countries have only agreed to work toward the normalization of relations. The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship.

While this is big news this week, it not actually new. Israel and the UAF have been doing business under the table for a considerable amount of time. The driving force behind this mutual public recognition is animosity toward Iran. The Arabs are particularly hostile and the world knows Iran continues to seek nuclear weapons. In this agreement, Israelis is the big winner and Iran the loser.

Israel had already put annexation on hold because of Washington’s preoccupation with their own problems. Trump continues to lag in the polls and the White House struggles with those worries. Reactions across the region have been predicable.

The mayor of the Beit El settlement Shai Alon accused Netanyahu of selling out his movement. “They pulled a fast one on the settlers. Our future is in Judea and Samaria and in courageous decisions which our leaders will make. Notagreements that we sign today and are not worth the paper they are written on tomorrow.” But Oded Revivi, mayor of the Efrat settlement says suspending the annexation bid is a “proper price,” for normalizing ties, while predicting a change in how settlements are perceived.

Of course, Palestinian officials were not happy. Hanan Ashrawi said, “Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” She also said the UAE has come forward with its “secret dealings/normalization with Israel.”

Arab countries are recognizing the reality of Israel’s endurance and economic wellbeing. Israel’s are the major military power in the Middle East. It makes more sense to play ball with them than to stand outside the stadium.

Undoubtedly more normalization will come.

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
Harper-Collins Publishers
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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Filed under America, Arabs, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestinians, The Middle East, Trump

THE SUMMER OF DISCONTENT IN ISRAEL

BLOG 482
August 310 2020

protests

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., 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.

THE SUMMER OF DISCONTENT IN ISRAEL

Everywhere one looks struggle, confusion, and despondency prevail. With American elections coming up, the TV viewer is berouged by negative and often lying political commercials. Are Americans alone in this quagmire? Afraid not. Look at public opinion in Israel.

The danger to democracy looms larger than security threat, poll says; majority see Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus as ‘poor’ and most oppose new elections. Israelis perceive the threat to the nation’s democracy as looming larger than the external security threat, according to an Israeli survey published Wednesday.

The Israel Democracy Institute survey found that only 38 percent of the respondents felt optimistic about the future of democratic governance in Israel, with 54% pessimistic. This compared to 59% who are optimistic about national security, with 35% pessimistic. Just over half (51%) give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “poor” or “not good” grade for his personal and ethical behavior. Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and for accepting bribes. A slightly lower number of respondents, 45%, said his performance handling the coronavirus crisis and running the government was “not good” or “poor.”

During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, a majority of interviewees expressed high trust in Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis. Today, with a second wave of the outbreak shaking the nation, only a minority gave him a grade of “good” or “excellent” in that domain: 27% for Jews and 18% for Arabs, the report on the survey said. Netanyahu’s handling of the nation’s security policy is, however, still approved by most, with 56% of respondents giving him a grade of “good” or “excellent.

Amid recent chatter about the possibility of the coalition breaking apart, the data shows that the majority of voters from all parties oppose new elections, with right-wing voters wanting it the least, the report said.. The data showed that only 25% of Jewish Israelis and 43% Arab Israelis support dismantling the current government and going to new elections at the end of 2020.

You can’t make everybody happy, but Israel is certainly filled with plenty who aren’t positive or content. Where will it all go? Stay tuned.

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
Harper-Collins Publishers
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

Leave a comment

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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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