Category Archives: Gaza

ISRAELIS COUNT DOWN

BLOG 452
November 25, 2019

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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.

ISRAELIS COUNT DOWN

Time is running out.

The current quagmire in Israel is rumbling toward a third election.

The two main sticking points in efforts to reach a unity government have been the right-wing bloc, which Netanyahu has refused to part with, and Blue and White’s refusal to serve under a prime minister facing criminal charges. This week an unexpected indictment against Netanyahu exploded and the pieces are still coming down. For well over a year, I have been writing about this possibility and predicting such was coming.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit leveled and filed three charges of corruption against Netanyahu, putting him under criminal indictment.

Will the Israel public vote for a Prime Minister under criminal indictment? That just maybe the jackpot question. Quite possibly the impasse between Netanyahu and Gantz may have pushed patience too far and the charges were filled to dynamite the log jam. We will see.

Officials in Yisrael Beytenu, whose party is the deciding factor on whether Netanyahu or Gantz will be able to form a government without the other, told The Times of Israel that leader Avigdor Liberman would announce his decision on whether to support either Gantz or Netanyahu, or neither, this week. In his statement Gantz, who had 24 hours left until his deadline to form a governing coalition, said he would “continue to make every effort and turn every stone to try to reach understandings and form a government even in the remaining time, in order to prevent costly and unnecessary elections that are contrary to the will of the citizens of Israel.”

And then President Donald Trump dropped the bombshell! In an effort to support and shore up Netanyahu, he proclaimed West Bank settlements by Israel are not illegal. Needless to say this arbitrary action was rejected on many fronts. The principal Democratic presidential candidates denounced the decision. The European Union rejected the idea and said such a move would be an obstacle to peace. Russia and Turkey both weighted in and rejected the USA position.

Will Trump’s move mean anything? Not if the Israeli public rejects the idea of electing a Prime Minister under criminal indictment. Stay tuned. There’s more to come!

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ISSUES THAT CANNOT BE IGNORED

BLOG 444
September 16, 2019

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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.

ISSUES THAT CANNOT BE IGNORED

In these weekly responses, I have attempted to be objective. Rather than being persuaded by political circumstances or opinion, I attempt to let the chips fall where they may. One reader complained that I didn’t fully support Prime Minister Netanyahu and she thought he was wonderful. I pointed out that thinking any political figure was wonderful was the quickest way to be deceived and never see the light at the end of the tunnel. Didn’t suit her, but I pointed out that I went where the facts led. End of story.

In order to understanding the never-ending conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, one must consider both sides. Currently, Americans tend to consider only the Israeli position. The unequivocal total support by President Donald Trump has colored the picture considerably.

However, there are two sides.

The issues between Israel and the Arabs remains complex. Hatred exists in both camps.

Here’s some of the current problems on the Israeli side. The current government often talks of annexing the West Bank, but almost never of peace initiatives with the Palestinians.

While it is true Israel respects and often exceeds the standards of human rights and the Palestinians generally do not, Israel has the greatest military capability in the Middle East. Israel causes far more damage to the Palestinians, including citizens. Israel protects its citizens far better than the Palestinians can.

One of the biggest problems is that Israel builds settlements on Palestinians land but will not give Palestinians the right to do the same. The constant encroachment on Palestinian territory remains one of the most divisive issues that halts a peace treaty.

One of the thorniest issues between Israelis and Arabs is reflected in the fact that Israel has a substantial minority of Arabs while Arab countries do not allow Jews.  On the other hand, Israel often acts like a colonizer. The birth of the Israel nation also displaced ancestral land of some Palestinians. That issue has never been settled. Fifty-two years later Palestinians must still struggle for self-determination.

Israelis refuse to admit there is an occupation. However, Palestinians experience a painful and humiliating daily reality. I have seen this every time I’ve been in the Holy Land and was there last March. The prejudice against using a Palestinian Christian guide inside Israel makes it impossible for them to work inside Israel. In turn, Jewish guides are shut out of Bethlehem. The situation remains impossible and volatile.

My point? Don’t listen to only one side of this complicated situation. Recognize more is going on that is seldom fully and objectively reported. The complexity demands tolerance and careful consideration of all sides of the issues.

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MIDDLE EAST STRUGGLES

BLOG 441
September 2, 2019

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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.

MIDDLE EAST STRUGGLES

If there’s one constant in the Middle East, it is conflict!

Like keeping up with the players at a Wimbledon Tennis Championship, one must watch all the time to know who’s shooting at who. People seem to be constantly agitated. Of course, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is filled with pathos and tragedy.

Terrorist organizations stay in business partly because their leaders have made a profession out of fighting and it keeps them wealthy while they pretend to be poverty stricken. Hamas remains as defiant as ever with no sign of releasing its hold on the Gaza Strip. Five years ago, the Israelis blasted Gaza after a never ending series of rocket attacks on Israeli settlements. The Israelis wrecked Hamas headquarters and Gaza City. Almost nothing has changed in the last five years, including rebuilding Gaza City. While Hamas promised to rebuild the homes of many families, nothing has followed and those Palestinians are holed up in apartments waiting for a better life. Hamas claims to have no money to help them.

The backdrop to this problem is the on-going feud between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). In the past two years, the PA cut salaries of thousands inside the Gaza Strip in what is seen as an attempt by Mahmoud Abbas to undermine Hamas. It’s the old Hatfields versus McCoys struggle.

Many political analysts believe Hamas fears a popular revolt in Gaza more than another war with Israel. At one point Hamas used ruthless force to suppress a widespread Gaza protest against economic hardships. The revolt of several youth movements came under the banner “We Want to Live!”

The situation in Iran is not much better. Suffering under the heavy American sanctions, the price of all goods has skyrocketed. Where a pair of shoes was once $10, it is now $100. Stores are empty and restaurants barren. Iran’s oil exports have been cut in half. The Iranian economy that contracted by 4% last year, is expect to fall 6% percent this year. Fruits are now considered luxury items. Families can’t afford meat. Factories are shutting down. The average Iranian believes they are already in a war.

You think they are wrong?

Iran is paying a price for the role it played by intervening in the Syrian Civil War. The Revolutionary Guard has now been labeled a terrorist organization. They propped up Bashar Assad, but he’s not around to help them. At one time, the Iranians seemed to thrive on conflict. Now conflict is chewing on them.

It’s not a good scene.

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NO PEACE IN THE EAST

BLOG 435
July 8, 2019

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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.

NO PEACE IN THE EAST

Did you hear about President Trump’s Middle-East plan for the Palestinians? Probably not, because it made about as big a splash as dropping a penny in the ocean. Trump had earlier called it “The Deal of the Century.” The Palestinian reaction was “The Dump of the Century” and didn’t even show up.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, had been leading a team that worked for over two years to produce a comprehensive economic solution to the Palestinian problems. As the world knows, the Palestinian Authority (PA) offices in Ramallah and is always broke and lost the Gaza strip to Hamas. Kushner’s plan proposed to solve all these problems. With his usual modesty, President Trump said there would never be a Palestinian peace agreement if it was not negotiated during his presidency. Sorry, according to the Palestinians such humility and modesty isn’t going anywhere.

What are the Palestinian Authority leaders saying?

President Mahmoud Abbas described the plan as a “big lie” concocted to embarrass the Palestinians. They fiercely rejected Kushner’s plan and conference, refusing to attend and vowing never to accept any results from the event. The PA saw the plan and event as an attempt to undermine their aspirations for statehood and was only an effort to normalize Israeli status in the Arab World. They forbid any of their people to attend.

Following the conference, a Palestinian businessman was arrested in Hebron for attending. Saleh Abu Mayala was arrested by Palestinian intelligent forces. PA security attempted to arrest Ashraf Ghanam, a Palestinian businessman who attended the conference but escaped. Other Palestinian businessmen who attended the conference were also being chased. The PA meant business when it said, “DON’T ATTEND!”

Why such vehement opposition?

The Trump Administration has consistently bent over backwards to support Israeli objectives. As many Jews feared, moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem destroyed Washington’s ability to be a power broker. The US is not seen as neutral, but a staunch partisan favoring Israel. Abbas and company do not trust the Trump team.

Kushner’s plan was financially generous for the Palestinians. Creation of jobs and lavish spending was promised. Unfortunately, Abbas wants statehood. Kushner’s plan was seen as only an attempt to bribe them.

Where does the matter go next? Probably nowhere until trust and confidence is restored in America.

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THE SITUATION IN GAZA

BLOG 431
June 10, 2019

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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 SITUATION IN GAZA

I’m sure you are aware of the recent intense three-day exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Four Israelis were killed as well as 25 Palestinians. Through the assistance of an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire, the encounter came to a halt. However, the pause is only momentary. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Auhri said, “Our message is that this round is over, but the conflict will not end until we regain our rights.” Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah predicted the fight could begin again as early as this summer.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Benjamin, Netanyahu said Israel was already preparing for the next encounter. The Iron Dome system for rocket intervention proved 85% successful in intercepting Hamas rockets. Almost 700 rockets were fired during a 48-hour period, sending many residents to bomb shelters. In turn, Israel knocked out six high-rise Gaza head-quarters for intelligence gathering as well as five apartment buildings where military commanders lived. Israel also killed a money-changer involved in the transfer of funds from Iran.

Abba Ebon once said, “the Arabs never miss the chance to miss the chance.” Why can’t Hamas give up on firing rockets when it is always so costly for them? Missing the change is only part of the problem. There’s more to the story than the West usually recognizes. For the past 12-years, Israel and Egypt have enforced a land and maritime siege on Gaza. From the point of view of Israel, the embargo is necessary to keep armaments and weapons out of terrorist hands. However, Gaza sees this as a violation of their rights and a serious clamp on their economy. While they consistently lose, they despair enough to feel they have nothing to lose. Desperate opponents make for frightening enemies!

So Gaza remains a political problem Israel must face. Until the two million residents can see a better economic future, they will not stop shooting.

Hang on! There’s more to come!

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A CONTINUING LOOK AT GAZA

BLOG 411 November 19, 2018

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EASTEach 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.

The optimism in last week’s blog abruptly exploded. I noted that neither Israel or Hamas wanted another war. Almost before the ink dried, Palestinian militants bombarded Israel with a barrage of rockets and Israeli warplanes hit the Gaza Strip with the most intense exchange of fire since the 2014 war.

What happened?

Actually, the report of hopes to avoid another full-scale conflict was not incorrect. Neither side wanted a return to that murderous situation, but an Israeli commando unit tried an undercover mission and was caught inside Gaza. Hamas militants opened fire resulting in the deaths of seven militants and an Israeli military officer as well as a Hamas commander. This struggle set off the fierce exchange upsetting the status quo. A Hamas television station in Gaza was destroyed. Israel reported 20 people in Gaza were wounded.

You could be wondering, “Why doesn’t Israel destroy Hamas?” They certainly have the capacity to do so. The answer is simple. There is no one in sight to provide a new government to oversee the Gaza Strip. Israel has always operated by the principle “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” As a result, Hamas is tolerated even though they are an irritant.

As reported last week, Egypt continues to attempt to broker a peace deal and reduce tension. The United Nations now works through Egypt to stop the violence.  They issued a statement saying, “Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all.”

President Mahmoud Abbas has been angered that the Palestinian Authority remains sidelined in these struggles and negotiations. They see Egypt ignoring any possible Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Abbas claimed Egypt’s efforts are a “betrayal of the Palestinian people and its national aspirations.” The truth is that anyone who has followed the Palestinian situation knows the PLO is about as dependable as a 1920 Ford with a blow-out tire going down a freeway in 2018.

As of this date, the battle is over. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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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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ISRAEL AND HAMAS

Blog 343 March 27, 2017

I am often asked if I foresee a military conflict on the horizon for Israel with the militants. Answering that question correctly is like guessing what outlandish “tweet” we will get next from President Trump. Unpredictability seems to be the new order of the day. However, we can discover a few certainties that are probabilities.

Hamas has just appointed Yahya Sinwar as Gaza’s new leader. He succeeds Khaled Mashaal who has his eyes on taking over the PLO and replacing Mahmoud Abbas as the Palestinian president. With no specific title, Sinwar will become the de facto head of Gaza. As you may know, the city of Gaza is still little more than a heap of rubble. As for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the election of Sinwar is another nail in the coffin. When Trump and Netanyahu met in February, Trump’s statements only added to the Middle-East chaos.

The Jerusalem Report, March 6, 2017, states that Sinwar knows the Islamist Palestinian movement is under full siege by Israel and Egyptian blockades will continue. As the same time, the rift between the PLO and Hamas is predicted to widen. He will have to work within that framework. Before any military action can occur, Sinwar must collaborate with colleagues in a collective and elaborate process. At this point, columnist Yossi Melman does not believe that Hamas wants a military engagement anywhere in the near future.

And who is Yahya Sinwar?

The former director of both the political arm and the military wing of Hamas, he could be compared to a general. For his murderous terrorist’s acts, Israel sentenced him to four life terms. During his time in prison, he rose to prominence among the Palestinian inmates. From his cell, he communicated with Hamas leaders the idea of using prisoners as “bargaining chips” in prisoner swaps with captured Israeli citizens and soldiers. After 22 years in prison, he was released in the controversial exchange for Gilad Schalit.

Once released, Sinwar told a gathering of 200,000 Gazans that he stood for uncompromising military confrontation with Israel. It now appears he will press for better relations with Iran in hopes of collecting more money and arms. Even in Hamas terms, Sinwar is considered an extremist. Of course, he rejects all attempts at compromise with Israel and the PLO. His election reflects the ascendency of the military wing of Hamas.

Shaul Mishal, an expert in Palestinian politics, believes Sinwar will be a new test for Israel’s political and military leaders. They know he remains more than ready to resort to violence.

Stay tuned. More to come.

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MEET THE PALESTINIANS

Blog 329 December 12, 2016

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            The first Palestinian I became acquainted with was a tour guide named Simeon who was amazingly knowledgeable about the Holy Land and the Middle East. After the political tensions elevated, Simeon disappeared. My next most intense involvement was a Palestinian woman becoming a relative. That’s when I learned more than I ever wanted to know. She had grown up in a nomad’s tent and once worked for the Jordanian secret service. That’s where you can get the real inside information. (name is withheld for security reasons).

Most Westerners are either violently opposed to or enthusiastically for the Palestinian people, but actually know little about them. It’s worthwhile to update ourselves periodically. Where did they come from?

Legal historian Assaf Likhovski states that the Palestinian identity originated in the early decades of the 20th century. Many were nomadic people or local residences. They had drifted in from across the Arabic world looking for work. Some Palestinians wanted self-government in the face of fears that Zionism would lead to a Jewish state and the dispossession of the Arab majority. Local newspapers in a limited way used the term “Palestinian” to refer to the nationalist concept of a Palestinian people until the exodus of World War I. After the creation of the State of Israel and the massive Arabic exoduses , Palestinian came to signify not only origin, but also a shared past and future in the form of a desire for a Palestinian state. Modern Palestinian identity now claims to encompass the heritage of all ages from biblical times up to the Ottoman period. The origin of the idea of a national consciousness as Palestinians is debated by scholars, but the idea is basically recent. Today’s Palestinians are basically, Arabs.

The day after Israel was declared a nation (by the approval of the United Nations), the Arab world descended on Israel and war followed. Arabs ran to leave the country and set in motion the land division that exists today.

Founded in 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) became an umbrella organization for groups that wanted to represent the Palestinian people before the international community. The Palestinian National Authority, officially established as a result of the Oslo Accords, is an interim administrative body nominally responsible for governance in Palestinian population centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Under Yasser Arafat, secular Palestinian nationalism was grouped together under the umbrella of the PLO whose constituent organizations include Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, groups who at that time believed that political violence was the only way to “liberate” Palestine. The result became a continuing state of war with suicide bombers, rocket attacks, and the murder of civilians.

In the next blog, we will explore the impact of these changes on the everyday people on the streets in the West Band and Gaza. The story remains gripping.

Stay tuned.

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PALESTINIAN FRUSTRATIONS

BLOG 224 November 3, 2014

The Palestinian struggle for independence has not gone well. The debacle in Gaza with Hamas getting smashed only added to the lingering frustrations. The 50 days of fighting with Israel was the third Gaza war in six years and by far the deadliest, exacting the heaviest toll so far on Gaza strip that was already in economic struggles. Entire neighborhoods were reduced to rabble. While the citizens of Gaza had voted Hamas into power, it was almost as if the Israelis were punishing them for supporting the terrorists. Being in step with Hamas proved to a terrible price to pay for their plebiscite.

The ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt called for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to replace Hamas as the civil authority. Israel wanted to make certain that funds for rebuilding did not go into rearmament and the rebuilding of invasion tunnels into Israel. Of course, attempts to create a lasting truce between Israel and Hamas will prove fruitless. On the other hand, divisions within the Palestinian camp with the PA and Hamas fighting each other may prove to be equally difficult to settle. PA state ministers entered Gaza on October 9, for the first meeting of a unity government. However, the reconciliatory rhetoric did not conceal the fact that Hamas and Fatah are locked in serious disputes.

One of the irresolvable issues has to do with money. Hamas has 40,000 unpaid employees and wants the PA to foot the bill. Unfortunately, the PA has been in an economic crisis for years. Sorry. They can’t resolve that problem.

Then, there is the rebuilding of the destroyed Gaza Strip area. Unless there is a legitimate government to oversee distribution of funds, donor countries will back away. The feud between the PA and Hamas currently makes a functioning government impossible. The result is not only that nothing happens, but the everyday Palestinian citizens are increasingly critical of the schism separating both groups.

Of course, Hamas is in a bad way. An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ouster of Mohammad Morsi and the fall of the Brotherhood in Egypt radically cut off funding. The incessant firing of rockets at Israel did not sit well across the world. In addition, their refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist has isolated them further from international powers. The destruction of their tunnels created another crippling economic blow.

Israel killed the two Hamas operatives that kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers. Their deaths set off the assault on the Gaza Strip last spring. Surrounded by Israeli forces in, the two assailants hiding in  a carpentry workshop in Hebron were gunned down trying to emerge from the building. Once again, the Palestinians lost the struggle.

Following the ceasefire, Palestinian citizens came out to walk the streets in Ramallah, but they expressed increasing frustration with failed negotiations, inept UN ventures, and the divided leadership between Hamas and the PA. It would seem that settling their conflicts with Israel or accepting Egypt’s offer of land in the Sinai would be an immediate solution to all of these problems.

Unfortunately, such available solutions seem to be too easy.

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