Category Archives: middle east

WHAT ARE ISRAELIS THINKING TODAY?

BLOG 451
November 18, 2019

israel

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.

WHAT ARE ISRAELIS THINKING TODAY?

Two issues dominate public opinion.

Israelis don’t want a third election. They hope Benny Gantz and the Blue and White alliance can form a government before the deadline shuts them down. In general, the public doesn’t want the ultra-Orthodox groups in office. Of course, these extremists have been significant in Netanyahu’s coalition that kept him in power.

One of the country’s important leaders, Avigdor Liberman declared that Gantz must accept President Rivlin’s plan that included a join Prime Ministry led government including a leave of absence for Netanyahu because of bribery charges and that he gives up the ultra-Orthodox bloc. So far, Netanyahu has refused to abandon the religious oriented bloc. Liberman’s refusal to participate in a right-wing government led to the dissolution of parliament and resulting new elections that followed.

What a mess.

The second problem is wide-spread concern because of the abrupt withdrawal of American troops from the Syrian border in an arbitrary decision by President Donald Trump. Israelis are highly aware that Christian and Muslim Kurds are running for their lives because they fear persecution by the Turkish-backed army. These people know well about the genocide Turkey visited on their people in 1915. In a similar vein, the Turks murdered 1.5 million Armenians. Today’s Kurdish survivors know well that they cannot trust the politicians. Both The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel report Israeli concern because they know a vacuum in the Middle East will be quickly filled by a country like Russia. Moreover, the arbitrary abandonment of the Kurds means that the current USA government could just as easily drop its relationship with other governments like Arabia and Egypt … and of course with Israel. However, Israelis have an even more immediate urgent worry. They fear that Trump’s action will be part of paving the way for Iran to come charging in for a deeper and mover permanent relationship with Syria’s Bashar Assad moving Iran ever closer to Israel’s borders. Because Iran has declared even intent of destroying Israel, the citizenry must be ever wary of such Iranian moves.

The local press reports that Israeli government officials privately view Trump’s actions as “a colossal and dangerous mistake.”

Where is it all going? Many indicators suggest a third election is probable whether the public approves or not. And the situation in Syria? Keep your guns loaded!

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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PROBLEMS IN ISRAEL

BLOG 447
October 14, 2019

election

 

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.

PROBLEMS IN ISRAEL

The political crisis in Israel continues.

Talks have surfaced of a possible coup against Netanyahu within the Likud party, his own political base. If such a challenge evolves, it would be the most serious affront in a decade. The bombshell announcement prompted a statement from Likud leader Gideon Sa’ar announcing that he was prepared to serve in a leadership position. It would appear that Sa’ar is prepared to confront Netanyahu over party leadership. In the past, Sa’ar has been a critic of Netanyahu’s attempts to secure immunity from prosecution for charges of bribery and similar crimes. If you like spy novels and intrigue, this story may be one to follow. We’ll see.

Tied in a dead heat in the last election, Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu continue to exchange barbs with no progress to settling the leadership crisis. President Reuven Rivlin had earlier proposed a unity government with the two each serving in equally divided time periods.
So far no success.

Just before the Rosh Hashanah holidays, Gantz and Netanyahu had a coalition meeting set. Claiming that the minimum conditions for a meeting had not been met, Gantz saw no purpose in meeting and cancelled the discussion. The accusations flew back and forth for what went wrong, but it all sounded like typical political double-talk.

Fundamentally, a stalemate continues to exist. Probably a couple more weeks will be required before enough of the dust clears to really know what is going.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara failed to show in a lawsuit hearing filed by a housecleaner who claims Sara Netanyahu abused her. The judge was furious and condemned both Sara and her attorney. The ultra-Orthodox mother of three is suing for $64,000 dollars of damages. The judge made it clear that Sara would be charged with court costs for this lack of an appearance. Needless to say, this is another headache, Bibi doesn’t need.

On the upbeat side, the children of Holocaust survivors saved by the actions of German Industrialist Oscar Schindler gathered at his grave in Jerusalem to mark 45 years since his death on October 7, 1974. As is customary for Jews, his grave is marked with many small stones placed on the tombstone. Schindler was a controversial individual because he worked for the Nazi party as well as spying in Czechoslovakia in 1940. He was known as greedy, a gambler, a drinker, and womanizer. And yet from the 1,200 Jewish people Schindler saved have come a multitude. Though a man of contradictions, thousands of Jews are today grateful for his life.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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NO PEACE IN THE EAST

BLOG 435
July 8, 2019

gaza

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 INSIDE IRAN

BLOG 434
July 1, 2019

middle east

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 INSIDE IRAN

The Democratic Party Debates rather effectively captured the headlines this past week, but the serious situation in Iran continues to boil. Politicians in both countries exchanged barbs and insults like children calling each other names on the school ground. President Trump flew off to a G-20 summit and made insensitive jokes about Russia’s interference in the past election. However, there are no jokes inside Iran!

For the average Western citizen, it is difficult to figure out what the actually situation is inside Iran. One must survey a wide swipe of materials to develop an idea of what is actually going on. One of the best sources for information is the international reporting found in The New York Times. You don’t have to like their editorial positions to respect the accuracy of what they discover. Here’s what I’ve picked up from my sources that report from within Iran.

1. Iranian national leaders were furious and frustrated with the tactical commander who made the decision to shoot down the American drone. The public bravado of the Revolutionary Guard mask deeper worries about what the superiority of the American military might do to them. Such mistakes could inadvertently set off a “big time” shooting war.

2. The Revolutionary Guard runs its own independent business and political enterprises. They are the major hard-liners inside Iran. They see shooting down the drone has a victory for Iran. Trump can scream and shout, but the Iranian hard-liners think they won the first-round in the war.

3. Even with the US withdrawal from the nuclear treaty, Iran has avoided direct confrontations with American in the past months. When the Trump administration designed the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and increased sanctions on Iran, this posture change. Iranian now sees itself in economic warfare and declared the same by restarting their nuclear program.

4. The Iranian author Salar Abdoh reports that people on the streets of Tehran already see themselves at war with America. Sanctions have made fruit a luxury and factories are shutting down. The times are increasingly tough.
The previous Iranian ideology to operate as a self-sufficient military prowess is now seen by them as the better way to go. The question will soon be can they really take that road with their economy crumbling. US sanctions continue to take a huge toll on Iran.

So, what comes next from inside Iran? The hard-liners have been emboldened. Many experts do not believe the American cyberattacks will affect much and are seen as relatively unimportant. The crunch is the impact of American sanctions. They are highly effectively.

What’s next? Stay tuned.

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A WAR WITH IRAN?

BLOG 433
June 24, 2019

war iran

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 WAR WITH IRAN?

Last week I began with the question, “Is the United States getting ready to go to war with Iran?” My, my, what a difference a week can make!

Here we are again with battleships steaming around the Straits of Hormuz and threats being shouted across the bough from Washington to Tehran. The shooting down of an American drone airplane has dramatically upped the ante in this high stakes poker game. Last week, I concluded Iran would be seriously diluted to go to war with the U.S. and that remains the same. However, American sanctions are pushing Iran to a point of desperation and that is no small issue for their side.

What does the situation look like from both sides of the globe?

American political candidate Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren put it squarely on the table. She said, “Trump provoked this crisis. He has no strategy to contain it, he’s burned through our friends and allies, and now he’s doubling down on military force.” While her view is that of a political candidate, Warren is expressing the view that many hold in the Middle East.

Iran is reeling from increased sanctions and U.S. pressure. Their dangerous moves are out of desperation. Of course, that is the reason for this pressure. Iran has been the foremost exporter of terrorism in the Middle East and the U.S. is pressing for a halt. The Revolutionary Guard has now been declared a terrorist organization. As a matter of fact, they have for some time been financing Hezbollah and Hamas at the expense of Israel.

However, President Trump’s sudden retreat a few days ago from military response to the downing of the highly expensive Drone has muddied the waters. Ten minutes before a military strike, Trump backed off. Now the Administration is talking about a cyber-attack. What’s going on? In the Middle East how one reads the mixed signals depends on whether one is a hard-liner or seeking reconciliation. Trump’s vacillation is being read by the hard-liners as the roar of a paper tiger. On the other hand, increased sanctions and computer problems are not inconsequential. Probably the answer lies in whether cyber warfare will make a difference. This is not a good situation and could embolden Iran.

So, the chess game goes on. In the Middle East, President Trump is seen as a real estate manipulator with no long-term strategies or particular insight. They view him as a big-time supporter of Israel. Netanyahu loves it. The problem is that the US has lost the possibility of being a power broker with the Palestinians and now is seen completely on Israel’s side with little regard for the Palestinians and certainly none for Iran.

What’s next? A war is still not off the table, but the manipulations will certainly go back and forth. Iran’s goal is to curtail sanctions. No one’s sure what the American objective is.

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THE SITUATION WITH IRAN

BLOG 432
June 17, 2019

Iran

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 WITH IRAN

Is the United States getting ready to go to war with Iran? Sounds like it.

Isn’t it amazing how often the Middle East pops up out of nowhere and dominates the headlines? Here we are again with battleships steaming toward the Straits of Hormuz and threats being shouted across the bow. Is war really on the horizon?

Recognizing that President Donald Trump is as predictable as a charging rhino and that he is willing to take rash actions to divert attention from his troubles at home makes predicting his responses unpredictable. At this point the idea of impeachment is more that idle talk. Consequently, the recent attacks on oil tankers raises important questions about what comes next.

However, the experts are not predicting a war. H.R. McMaster recently told The Jerusalem Post, “There are two ways of fighting America. One is symmetrically and the other is stupid.” He believes that the only way a country like Iran can fight America is through terrorism and insurgency.

Iran can huff and puff, but they know they can’t square off against the United States. For one thing, their current economy is in shambles. Secondly, the Sunni Saudis are standing at their borders with their guns raised and aimed at the Iranian Shi’ite. Not a good position to be in!

The Iranian Air Force relies heavily on jets sold to them by President Nixon and they now lack spare parts. Consequently, the American Air Force is in a position to overpower their air force, destroy their air fields, and do so at a minimal cost to American lives.

Probably that fleet of American battleships came sailing in more to send a message than start a fight.

American sanctions are breaking their back. The better option is to sit down and hammer out a new nuclear agreement that keeps everyone happy. The best option for them may well be to come out with new negotiations that insure their survival. A little cup of something is much better than a whole bucket of nothing.

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THE SITUATION IN GAZA

BLOG 431
June 10, 2019

gaza

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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AFTER THE ELECTION

BLOG 430
June 3, 2019

white concrete building

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.

AFTER THE ELECTION

One thing you can always say about Israel. Life is never dull.
Following the election that he barely squeaked through, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is apparently attempting to get the Knesset to pass a law that exempts the Prime Minister from prosecution during his term in office. The situation is sort of like the debate in the US over whether Trump can be pulled into court on a wide assortment of charges now pending.

Sure, Netanyahu is trying an end around play to avoid being hauled into court on the charges that the police now have against him. Speculation prior to the election suggested he might not get elected with these serious charges of bribery pending. Of course, that did not happen as a slim majority of the voters pushed his party over the top. While it can be argued that this is a move to ensure government stability, the idea also appears to be an admission of guilt on Netanyahu’s part.

Is that a smart move?

When I was in Israel a month back, I found many people who did not like him personally,but liked the positive economic condition of the country. Even in the off season, tourism was booming. They weren’t happy with him, but didn’t see a better alternative. Now he’s elected and the next phase may not be pretty. We’ll see.

Several difficult situations loom in the background. The exchange of rockets between Israel and Gaza is dangerous. Gaza militants fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel two Sundays ago killing four Israelis. Israel in turn pounded Gaza killing at least 23. Israel believed it killed a Hamas commander attempting to deliver funds from Iran. These were the first Israeli fatalities since the 2014 war.

Israel and Egypt’s blockade has ravaged Gaza’s economy. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Hamas was not interested in “a new war.” Apparently, the rocketeers have a strange way of expressing avoidance. If they keep it up, there won’t be anybody left in Gaza to fight with Israel.

On a different front, President Trump’s blockade of Iran has had a serious effect on Hezbollah. Iran doesn’t have the funds to continue to support this terrorist group in Lebanon.

This may somewhat diminish the threat on the Northern side of Israel. The new round of problems for Bibi Netanyahu is just starting.

Stay tuned. More to come!

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MIDDLE EASTERN TIDBITS FOR THE CONNOISSEUR

BLOG 429 April 22, 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.

A number of interesting discoveries have surfaced in recent weeks that are worthy of our inspection. While the April 9 election overshadowed all other details in the Middle East, much was going on behind the scenes that is worthy of a second look.

The Jewish world took note of the fact that Pope Francis stated that he is opening the World War II archives in the Vatican. Controversy has swirled around the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church ever since the end of the war. The target of much criticism has been whether Pope Pius XII ignored the plight of the Jews occurring right under his nose in Rome. What did Pius XII do or not do?

Several years ago, Pope Francis invited me to walk through the mausoleum recently uncovered during the period of the reign of Pius XII. After careful evaluation, scholars and archaeologists found the original tomb of Peter that was over 2,000 years old. As I peered through the excavations, I could see the plastic containers holding those bones. Quite an experience!

At the end of the tunnels, I found the tomb of Pius XII. The cement sarcophagus stands about three feet above the ground and is rather ordinary in appearance compared to some of the papal tombs in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Part of the reason that Pope Francis has opened this door is because of his personal understanding and relationship with the Jewish community. Moreover, he is particularly interested in a greater openness in the Vatican. The world will be watching to see what comes forth.

And speaking of what is now appearing, a 2,600 year old seal from the Kingdom of Judah was recently discovered in the City of David. The inscription read, “belonging to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King. While it was not impossible at the time to say that the seal belonged to the Nathan-Melech mentioned in the Bible, the similarity is uncanny. In II Kings 23:11, he is described as an official in the court of King Josiah. The seal was found in the remains of a public building destroyed during the fall of the First Temple. The seal attests to the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah.

A second artifact was also uncovered. The bluish agate stone was engraved in ancient Hebrew (belonging to) Ikar the son of Matanyahu. Both of these finds will be presented in the Israel Exploration Journal. Pictures will help the reader envision these discoveries.

Keep your eyes open. More to come.

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THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION

BLOG 428 April 15, 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.

And did President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israel’s right to the Golan Heights as well as many photo-ops with the ‘big boys’ help Netanyahu? It probably elected him.

The Israeli election this past week was a squeezer with the two top candidates both claiming election, but as the dust settled, Netanyahu slipped passed Benny Gatz. Of course, a political party, not a man is the winner. Once the election is over, the head of the party must form a coalition government to win the country. That is what Netanyahu is now doing.

Four ex-generals had lined up against the Prime Minister. Gabo Ashenazi, Moshe Yaalon, Benny Gatz, and Yair Lapid stood behind the new Blue and White Coalition. These important military men formed a formidable front against Netanyahu’s Likud Party. In addition, Attorney General Avichal Mandelblit had recommended that proceedings against Netanyahu and his wife for corruption charges proceed.

So, what happened?

When I was in Israel a month ago, I talked with many people about this situation. I found few people who liked Netanyahu and his political manipulations, but at the same time doubted if there was anybody better out there. Israel has been in a period of unprecedented prosperity; Arab terrorists have been shut down. Hezbollah as well as Hamas can scream and shout, but know they are no match for Israel. The Palestinian Authority is little more than a joke. Right or wrong, Netanyahu got the credit for a situation that is positive for most Israeli citizens. Just a few weeks before the election one poll had 53% percent of the population behind Likud with Gantz only getting 27%. Of course the results were much closer.

Now that he has won the election, Netanyahu is in a more positive position to fight these charges. Could he lose? Certainly. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went to jail for the same. Sure, it is possible, but uncertain.

What’s ahead? All indications are that the new government will be even more right wing. Such actions as annexing Jewish settlements on land considered bellowing to the Palestinians are probably in the works. One probable faction in his cabinet will call for taking the Temple Mount away from the Muslims. Of course, this won’t go anywhere, but it tells us where the emphasis will be. Netanyahu has played a game of politics of division, pitting various groups against each other. Undoubtedly, this will not stop. On the positive side, while they aren’t saying so in public, nations like Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia have recognized Israel isn’t going away and are doing business under the table. This will probably increase.

And the PLO? They are taking it on the chin. Hang on and watch. There’s much more to come.

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