Category Archives: middle east

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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WHY DON’T THEY STOP FIGHTING?

BLOG 412 December 3, 2018December 3, 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.

The recent outbreak of hostility from and toward Gaza raises a question that Westerners have a hard time understanding. After 70 years of off-and-on warfare, why can’t the Israelis and the Palestinians reach a peace settlement? Ending hostilities would be profitable for both sides. While the answer is actually obvious, it remains an enigma in the West.

American presidents come alone every so many years and think they can quickly bring an end to the struggle. Bill Clinton thought he had it in the bag and then Yasser Arafat walked out. The latest bravo came from Donald Trump who said it shouldn’t be difficult to settle. Was he ever diluted!

They all failed to recognize the obvious. Muslim and Arab countries don’t base their decision on democratic standards and ideals. There are no secular Arab states. The suggestion of a separation of church and state would be considered nonsense in their world. The one marginal Muslim state in Turkey has become “Islamized” during the last 20 years. Religious convictions govern what they all do.

The positions that these countries take is based on Islamic texts. At the heart of their religion is the belief that they must oppose Israel. Groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood base their hostile and deadly actions on their faith. Contrary to Western political pronouncements, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not secularized. There political statements proclaim the same religious under-girding.

There are essentially three types of wars: political, just, and holy wars. The American Civil War was a political struggle between the North and the South. World War II has been considered a just war because the Axis operated with cruel, unjust, and inhuman intent. The most dangerous type of warfare is a holy war because at least one of the participants believes they are fighting for Divinity and God Almighty will give them the victory. An end to such a war cannot be negotiated.

Because one side believes God is their champion, they will fight to the death and never voluntarily give ground. The senior-most religious adviser to the PA recently said, “It is the duty of the leaders of the (Islamic) nation and its peoples to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem.” Suicide bombers who blow themselves up for the cause make the point.

That’s the bottom line!

Sorry. There’s no peaceful solution to such a conflict.

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Happy Holidays!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The festive season has begun and we are on the road this weekend.

HOPE YOU HAD A GREAT THANKSGIVING

See you next weekend.

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Filed under middle east, Travels

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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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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THE KHASHOGGI CRISIS

BLOG 409 November 5, 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.

The death of Jamal Khashoggi has created a crisis for Saudi Arabia. Other important Saudi princes have disappeared in Europe and were known to have crossed the wrong line with their government. However, none of them worked for The Washington Post.

Why would the Saudi government murder an internationally known journalist in such a bungled fashion? Reasons behind this story are slowly emerging. While Khashoggi had once been so close to the Saudi government that he was an advisor to the King, he had become increasingly critical of the government actions. With rumors that Saudi Arabia was increasing ties with Israel, Khashoggi dislike this idea. He saw Israel as self-serving and undependable. Consequently, he had become increasingly hostile to this possibility.

For years the West had turned a blind-eye to violations of human rights occurring both inside and out when the Saudis acted badly. Trump considered the Saudis to be “his buddies” and was slow to be critical of the Khashoggi murder. Some analysts have suggested that the Trump Administration had in effect given the Saudis a blank check to do what they wished.

Consequently, the Saudis had no idea that killing Khashoggi could blow up in their face. In the US, the killing became a major issue like the Judge Kavanaugh debacle and the scandal continues to unfold. The snowball affect is now sending potential investors in Saudi Arabia running. The country’s attempt to present a new face to the world has been shot down. The best that the new monarch Mohammed Bin Salman can tout is that women can now drive cars (a hundred years behind the rest of the world).

At this time, Saudi-US relationships have been impaired. Even Trump has retreated. A chorus of Senators and Congressmen have lined up against Riyadh. Lindsay Graham made a statement that there would be “hell to pay” over the murder. The Saudis have come off looking like a pack of bumbling idiots. Countries like Britain and France can no longer overlook the Saudi violations of basic human rights much less outright murder.

Strangely enough the isolation of the Saudis may push them toward Israel. If the Kingdom feels isolated, they might turn to Israel for support. While this would be good for Israel, it remains a treacherous path because the Saudis could abruptly change course.

The situation is far from over. In the next few months, the next step in the journey will be revealed.

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ROCKETS FROM GAZA

BLOG 408 October 29, 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.

The terrorist organization Hamas knows it has run out of options in Gaza. The city remains a pile of broken cement structures that were never repaired after the last incursion by the Israeli after a season of prolonged rocket attacks coming out of the Gaza area. The leaders of Hamas pocketed the rebuilding money that came in from other Arab sources and left the citizens to live in the rubble.

On the morning of October 17, a morning rocket was fired at the Israeli city of Beersheeba. Such had not happened since early August. Almost immediately Hamas issued a statement saying “we didn’t do it.”  Supposedly, Hamas wanted continued calm. Interesting.

If the rockets were not fired by Hamas, then the situation demonstrates the weakness of Hamas to control the Gaza Strip.  Moreover, it suggests that dangerous weapons are also in the hands of other groups. This picture portrays turmoil on top of chaos.

In contrast to Hamas claims, for the last 7 months there have been repeated clashes at the Gaza border.  During the 30 weeks of struggle, 200 citizens of Gaza were killed and thousands wounded. At the same time the Israel Air Force targeted radicals sending incendiary balloons over the tall petition wall that have burned half of the trees and green areas adjacent to the border. If you are one of those folks who keeps count of deaths in this struggle, the figures aren’t good for the Palestinians.

You haven’t heard much about these current episodes because of the on-going headline stories about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the conflict with Saudi Arabia. Consequently, the Gaza struggle is now seen in a more narrow view. Nevertheless, the October 17 rocket firing could be a prelude to a dangerous response. Israeli politicians are currently pushing for stronger government action. Another such incident could trigger a massive response from Israel.

Keep your eyes open. There’s surely more to come.

We have a new website ~ THE EARLY CHURCH FOR TODAY ~ Surveying the first 3 centuries, we are examining the ancient Christian faith.  The focus is practical, relevant, and inspirational. TUNE IN. Join us at earlyfaithfortoday.com

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Filed under Bible Lands, Israel, middle east

UPDATES ON ARCHAEOLOGY

BLOG 406 October 15, 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.

In the last couple of blogs, I’ve been updating you on the events occurring during the summer while I was off line. Last week, we surveyed Egypt. At the same time, remarkable finds were occurring in Israel through the digs around Jerusalem’s Old City. Here’s the latest from that front.

Are these discoveries important? Arab and Muslim activists scream because they discount Israeli claims to the ancient city when evidence demonstrates the Jews were always there just as they always alleged. Liberal scholars who proclaim Biblical stories are only myths have to take a backseat as well. The most recent finds validate the historic facts of scripture.

Recently, the Israel Antiquities Authority displayed an unprecedented piece of papyrus containing a reference to Jerusalem from the First Temple period. Written in ancient Hebrew script, the papyrus dates back to the 7th century BCE. At this time, this is the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew.

Hebrew University professor Eilat Mazar has been working in an area that she contends extends back to King Solomon. The distinctive pottery shards she found have helped identity the city walls Solomon built on the edge of the Kidron Valley. She has uncovered dozens of small seals used for verifying official documents as well as engraved jug handles that reflect the 7th and 8th centuries BCE.

At this time, Prof. Mazar is working on the remains of what she believes will prove to be the palace of King David. If this work is validated, the impact will be extraordinary. Prof. Ronnie Reich and Eli Shukron excavated at the southern end of the City of David and uncovered what they believe is a large ritual bath, a mikve, that dates from the Second Temple period. This site is mentioned in John 9 as “the pool of Siloam” where Jesus healed a blind man. Next to the pool was a stairway that extended clear up to the Temple Mount. During their work a small seal was recovered with the word Bethlehem. This is the earliest proof that Bethlehem existed at this time.

Since my first visit to Israel in 1968, so much has been uncovered that it takes ones breath away. Again and again, the biblical story has been authenticated. The connection between the Jewish people and their land has become an established fact.

We have just began a new website ~ THE EARLY CHURCH FOR TODAY ~ Surveying the first 3 centuries, we are examining the ancient Christian faith. The focus is practical, relevant, and inspirational. TUNE IN ~ Join us at earlyfaithfortoday.com

 

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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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UPHEAVAL BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS Part II

BLOG 404 October 1, 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.

Last week we noted:

On August 24, American President Donald Trump ordered the State Department to redirect the funding for programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to unspecified projects elsewhere. The Palestinians screamed!

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat denounced the loss of funds as “disgraceful” and accused the USA of meddling in the internal affairs of the West Bank and attempting to impact their national options. Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi accused America of “cheap blackmail as a political tool.” He said further, “there is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation.”

Here’s what followed.

On September 11th  the Trump administration ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization offices in Washington. This was the next step in President Trump’s policy of putting pressure on the Palestinians to come to the bargaining table. The move was applauded in Israel and deplored in the West Bank.

The person behind this move was National Security Adviser John Bolton, usually recognized as an aggressive right-wing advocate of military action.  Bolton also warned the ICC (International Criminal Court) against taking any actions against Israel and/or the United States. Established in 2002, the ICC has stood as an attempt to bring justice in the international arena. However, Bolton said the ICC “has been ineffective, unaccountable, and … outright dangerous.”

Palestinian officials reacted angrily. Diplomat Saeb Erekat charged that the US actions were an attempt to protect Israeli war crimes. Erekat’s contempt for Trumps actions were reflected in his statement. “I don’t think these people can be part of any peace process or sit in any negotiations. They are really part of the problem and not part of the solution.”

However, Israeli Deputy Minister Michael Oren noted that in the Oslo Accords Palestinians were forbidden to press their pursuit of statehood outside negotiations with Israel. Obviously, they have gotten away with violations of Accords they signed off on. Currently the Trump Administration is forcing them to pay a price for these violations and they don’t like it.

As we observed last week, how one views this depends on the perspective they bring to the issue. However, it is becoming clearer by the month that the Trump Administration is mounting extreme pressure on the Palestinians to negotiate.

What no one seems to recognize is that the Palestinians have one supreme goal to annihilate the entire country of Israel. The rest of the Arab world has basically realized this is not going to happen. When will the Palestinians join the party?

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