Category Archives: The Middle East

UPDATES ON ISRAEL: PART TWO

BLOG 456
January 20, 2020

peace

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.

UPDATES ON ISRAEL: PART TWO

With a March 2 election looming on the horizon, several questions are now circulating across Israel. While American media hadn’t addressed these issues, they remain pressing for Israeli citizens. What will happen if Netanyahu is defeated? Where will the Likud party go for leadership? In addition, a worry exists about what military action will follow the assassination of General Qassim Suleimani. Let’s take a look.

There is already a serious challenge to Bibi’s leadership of the Likud party afoot. Gideon Sa’ar has mounted the most serious attack on Netanyahu’s leadership since he became party chairman in 2005. A former education and interior minister, Sa’ar probably has only a slim chance of winning, but Netanyahu is taking him seriously. Sa’ar is strongly backed by a group called the New Likudniks who called for Netanyahu’s resignation after charges were brought against him. They and Sa’ar note that Netanyahu has twice failed to form a new government. Even though he brought victory four times, they believe that the handwriting is now on the wall.

The debate over future leadership continues to rage while the public is inundated with campaign promises. Whatever happens, after the election Gideon Sa’ar will remain the favorite to lead the Likud party in a post-Netanyahu era. Keep that name in mind. He’s one to watch and remember.

Regardless of who wins the March 2 election, the most pressing question remains as to whether President Donald Trump’s arbitrary strike on Suleimani will inhibit further attacks or accelerate them. Since Israel remains the main focal target for Iranian hatred, the issue is considerable.

American officials have justified the strike because the general was behind the killing of thousands of American soldiers and they claimed he was planning attacks on American embassies. (Although this has never been documented) The question is will killing a man who amounted to a combination of vice-president, head of the CIA, and the Joint Chief of Staff result in a similar attack on American and Israeli leaders? Speculation is that Pandora’s box has been opened. Because of the seemingly arbitrariness of the strike, will the killing mandate a military response from Iran sooner or later? The argument is that the American strike is not a deterrent but actually a provocation that Iran will respond to militarily. The answer? Only time will tell.

While these are questions in the background, they have an important bearing on what is ahead in the Middle East. Keep your ear to the ground. Rumblings are ahead.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
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MORE THAN YOU WANT TO KNOW IN ISRAEL

BLOG 455
January 6, 2020

israel-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.

MORE THAN YOU WANT TO KNOW IN ISRAEL

Could any country have more turmoil than is currently happening in the United States?

Yeah. Israel.

Two big stories grab the headlines. Of course, the bombing in Iran is blazing across the headlines because Iran has sworn the destruction of Israel. The other story is the continued struggle to elect a Prime Minister and get the government back on track.

Any progress on the Netanyahu-Gantz struggle? No.

On March 2, the next election will be held. Acrimony is already in the air. Making matters more complicated, Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration Wednesday night that he is seeking parliamentary immunity from prosecution was unprecedented and hugely dramatic. For the first time in Israel’s history, a prime minister now aims to persuade his Knesset colleagues to allow him to avoid being tried for corruption. And until they have made their decision, which could be months from now, he will not be required to stand in the dock at Jerusalem District Court and face the three charges of graft issued against him. But a second drama followed hard on the heels of the first, with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman immediately announcing that his party “will not be part of the immunity coalition.” Since Liberman has now declared that he and his party will not back Netanyahu’s bid for Knesset immunity, the prime minister’s gambit has instantly become significantly less likely to succeed. And if, as is more than probable, the prime minister anticipated that Liberman would not back his bid for immunity, his move stands as an act of desperation.

And then the pots are boiling in Iran with the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimaniby an American drone. Iran’s most public proclamations declare hate for Israel and the USA. What will they do to retaliate? If I knew, a military airplane would be waiting to swish me off to Washington, D.C..

On one side of Iran is Saudi Arabia with an equally strong hatred of the Iranians. On another side, Iraq is ruled only by uncertainty. The unexpected action of America has left the Iraqis in a real bind. Iran pulls the strings in that country, but American action could change everything overnight.

Recently General Kenneth F. McKenzie noted that more troops in the Mideast might not stop possible attacks by Iran. The world knows they are the number one exporter of terrorism across the Mid-East into Africa. Moreover Iran’s increased activity in their nuclear program remains a monster waiting n the closet.

No one seems to know what President Trump will do next. No one apparently knows what Hassan Rouhani will do in retaliation. The world is looking down a gun barrel.

Is that the way you planned to start the New Year? I don’t think so.

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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THE ONGOING STRUGGLE IN ISRAEL

BLOG 454
December 23, 2019

trumpy

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 ONGOING STRUGGLE IN ISRAEL

With the impeachment of President Donald Trump in the headlines, the deadlocked prime minister’s election controversy in Israel has gone unreported. However, the kettle is boiling. Here’s something of the give and take now going on.

Senior members of the Right-wing bloc have moved toward creating a third election to settle the question of who is the prime minster. However, the Likud party (Netanyahu’s base) has not expressed an interest in this position. Netanyahu continues to attempt to form a coalition government. Recent polls appear to give him an edge in such an election. However, 24% of the electorate remain undecided and that vote would certainly determine the outcome. Such an election would determine the prime minister and force the Knesset members to get along with the winner whether they like him or not. Not a very happy solution!

The kicker remains. Bribery charges.

For over two decades the Israeli High Court has stood by a singular position. They expect anyone charged and indicted on bribery charges to resign. If a leader cannot carry out the public’s trust, then they should step down. This volatile issue is what is smacking Netanyahu in the face. The general opinion is that it is hard to imagine the High Court allowing him to stay in officer if convicted of bribery.

Bribery is the legal death knell for any prime minister.

Consequently, there have been and continue to be charges and counter-charges. The under the table rumors are equally damaging. Currently, there are staunch witnesses against Netanyahu and they are not going away.

There is a strange irony between Netanyahu and Trump. Both men have continued to kick up dust to obscure the actual charges against them. Moreover, there appears to be little or no evidence to support their volatile claims. Yet, they continue to pound the pavement and claim to be misrepresented. At best, they have come out as little more than politicians trying to cover their tracks. At worst, they are lying.

Where will it all go? The clock is ticking. The Israeli Attorney General isn’t backing down and there is no agreement anywhere in sight. There’s an old saying. Two Jews; three opinions. That’s the convoluted, lingering crisis hanging over Israel.

Netanyahu has gone from hero to legal system censurer. Rather than making Israel great, he has done the opposite. Irony or ironies, Washington has the same problem.

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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ISRAELIS COUNT DOWN

BLOG 452
November 25, 2019

countdown 1

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!

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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SYRIAN UPDATE

BLOG 450
November 11, 2019

putin

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.

SYRIAN UPDATE

In the last blog, I noted that from the point of view of the Middle East, Trump’s actions in Syria have handed Putin his first three major objectives on a silver platter. Putin is now the king maker and controls Syria. America is out.

Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state. Currently, they are struggling to exist.

In a recent article in The Jerusalem Post, Seth J. Frantzman noted that Turkey’s action in attempting to create a buffer zone with the Syrians by attacking the Kurds has re-written the rules of International Law. Declaring that the existence of a terrorist organization gives them the right to create a so-called safe zone or peace corridor, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has created a new doctrine with frightening implications for international affairs.

Countries like Saudi Arabia, Russian, and Egypt might conclude they can do the same if they want to make a grab for more territory. Declaring that they have a right (just as Turkey did) to expand their borders because some terrorist organization could be out, implies a new instability in establishing legal territorial boundaries. The silence in the international community seems to affirm the idea of invasion is acceptable simply because a country deems it necessary.

What is also implied in this action is the argument that more powerful states can assert their right to move across borders into less powerful countries that do not have the ability to protect themselves. Pakistan may now assert a need to grab parts of Afghanistan. Russia could say it can attack the border of Ukraine in the name of creating a “safe zone.” On and on the argument goes.

The abrupt action by President Trump in pulling American troops out of the border area has now left the impression America is no longer interested in such goals as religious freedom and stabilization. At one time America proclaimed an intention of reconstruction in some areas affected by the war with ISIS, but this now appears to be abandoned. The American assistance began in an effort to support the Kurds when ISIS moved to capture Kobani. ISIS was pushed out. Now five years later, America is walking away.

American soldiers have fought shoulder to shoulder with the Kurds and now the USA has abandoned them. If you care about people and their welfare, the implications are frightening!

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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YOU THOUGHT AMERICA HAD POLITICAL PROBLEMS Part 2

BLOG 446
September 30, 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.

YOU THOUGHT AMERICA HAD POLITICAL PROBLEMS
Part 2

Because the impending Trump Impeachment Inquiry grabbed the headlines, the story in Israel hasn’t even been reported in the national media. Even though it hasn’t been a headline grabber, the situation remains fascinating … and highly muddled.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday proposed a unity government in which power would be equally divided. Likud’s Netanyahu and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz would each serve two years as prime minister. Netanyahu would take an open-ended leave of absence if and when he is indicted in three criminal probes. Under the arrangement Gantz, as “interim prime minister,” would enjoy all prime ministerial authority.

Why not? The two candidates virtually tied in the election. Gantz won 33 seats and Netanyahu’s Likud’s took 32 seats. Neither side had a clear path to a majority coalition. One of the problems in the election was Netanyahu’s forming a government including right-wing and Orthodox religious parties. The public clearly wants the religious groups out of the government. However, Netanyahu knows he can’t function without their support.

Negotiating teams for Likud and Blue and White groups met Friday morning for ongoing talks over a potential unity government between the two parties, but made little headway, with each side appearing chiefly concerned with avoiding any blame for a collapse of negotiations.

For its part, Blue and White said in a statement that it was concerned with “principles and values” as “the foundation of any negotiation” while Likud was chiefly concerned with Netanyahu remaining prime minister. Observers said it was clear Likud’s stance was aimed at dragging the State of Israel into a third round of elections, and that lined up with the interests of the prime minister. Despite the tense mood, the sides agreed to meet again on Sunday morning.

President Rivling stressed Wednesday that Israelis do not want a third round of elections, saying “the public will pay the price” of a failure by Netanyahu and Gantz to find common ground. However, observers currently believe Netanyahu may be stalling, ready to force another election. Why? Only by being able to control the Knesset does Netanyahu have any chance of avoiding facing serious legal charges. He’s not going to throw in the towel easily.

The fact that Netanyahu can’t form a government or win the election is viewed within Israel as somewhat of a rejection of President Trump. Netanyahu had vigorously campaigned with pictures of himself standing with Trump but this didn’t work to win the election.

What’s next? Who knows! Sure beats most of what’s on television.

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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Filed under History, Israel, The Middle East, Trump

YOU THOUGHT AMERICA HAD POLITICAL PROBLEMS

BLOG 445
September 23, 2019

isreal

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.

YOU THOUGHT AMERICA HAD POLITICAL PROBLEMS

The situation in Israel makes America’s political issues almost look like a kindergarten problem. Like a Kentucky Derby ending in a dead heat, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz finished the campaign for a new prime minister in a deadlock. Neither candidate won the election.

Now Netanyahu is scrambling day and night to make a deal with anybody in sight to establish a new government. He needs the Knesset’s support to survive the legal process that is after him. Should he fail, Bibi will be faced with criminal charges that now hang over his head, including bribery. The charges are serious business!

What is going on?

Once a military and public hero, Netanyahu has turned into little more than a conniving, manipulative politician who will say and do anything to win. The people who depend on him don’t care about the charges. They’ll do anything to keep him at the top.

On the other hand, a voter like Mrs. Yael Shrem Senator said she was so fed up with Mr. Netanyahu’s divisiveness and what it was doing to Israel that she had thought about emigrating if he wins. She said, “Every time I open the newspaper I want to cry.”

However, Mrs. Senator said of Benny Gantz, “He’s too nice. And I don’t think he has enough experience. But listen, we have no choice.”

Interestingly enough, this woman’s statements reflect the tension in Israel. Even people who voted for Netanyahu concede he lies, manipulates, and is clearly poised to snatch land from the Palestinians. President Trump’s backing that he has campaigned on, only defines and illuminates the dark side of the man.

On the other hand, critics have said that Gantz’s Blue and White Party’s strategy was indecipherable and their message muddled. A former general, Gantz’s biggest asset was his image. His combat experience and towering statue with steely blue eyes make him highly appealing. A spokesperson for Gantz said that Israel deserves a value-driven political culture as well as a needs-driven political platform. They want the current government without Netanyahu’s destructive rhetoric and behavior.

There you have it. At this very moment as Netanyahu’s Likud party scrambles to form a government before White and Blue pulls it off, you can bet the smoke-filled back rooms are humming with hot conversations. There is a strong feeling that if Netanyahu can’t pull off forming a government, he won’t get a third chance.

At this point, who can call what’s coming next? They make movies about this stuff.

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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MY, MY LOOK WHAT THEY FOUND WHILE PLAYING IN THE DIRT

BLOG 439
August 5, 2019

coin (1)

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.

MY, MY LOOK WHAT THEY FOUND WHILE PLAYING IN THE DIRT

Periodically, I share the latest archaeological finds in Israel. (Makes a nice break from all the turmoil and fighting going on across the Middle East.) Moreover, the latest discoveries are always fascinating. Over the decades, I’ve watched many of these digs reveal the past in surprising ways. They always make us more aware of the importance of the past.

Remember the city of Ziklag? Probably not because the name is rather obscure. However, Ziklag was one of the places that David stayed when he was running from King Saul. A team from the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem turned up the ruins of Ziklag. Large stone structures characteristic of Philistine culture were turned up along with a significant number of vessels that reveal the biblical period. Bowls and jugs all reflect the period of King David. The Philistine name further supports the contention that the Philistines were not native to the area, but migrated from Europe.

All of which reflect new discoveries at the excavation of the Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon. The Book of Joshua identified five Philistine cities: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. The name Palestine came from this beginning and was first used by the Greeks. Dating of the bones reveals that the Philistines probably immigrated in the 12th century B.C.E.. Bone samples received DNA testing that also revealed ancestry from European population. Their dig continues offering new insights.

Jerusalem is once again offering more discoveries. A broken sewage pipe in 2004 in the Silwan neighborhood led to the discovery of a long, narrow staircase that connected the Pool of Siloam to the Temple. People would bathe in the pool before entering the Temple grounds. When I was there in February, this was being readied for opening to the public.

Archaeologists are calling the ancient street “the Pilgrimage Road.” They are convinced this was the path millions of Jews took three times a year when fulfilling the commandment to go up to the holy city and bring their sacrifices during Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Jesus would certainly have used this road in going up to the Second Temple.

Discovered in the dirt of this find was a cache of coins marked, “Free Zion.” This was the Jewish battle cry against the Romans. One archaeologist suggests they made coins instead of arrowheads because they knew they could not beat the Romans. However, the coins would be there for the people who would one day come back.

And so we have. We, too, can now walk this ancient path.

You might find my book on near-death experiences important for you:
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD OF ETERNITY
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WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH IRAN?

BLOG 438
July 29, 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.

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH IRAN?

And by the way, after my last week’s blog on racism in Israel, an important statement appeared in The Jerusalem Post on the subject. Columnist Yaakov Katz wrote, “Another urgent step pertains to the racist culture within Israeli society. This must end through education.” We’ve been following an important story.

And now on to Iran and the current crisis. No one disputes that President Trump’s pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal precipitated the current situation. Of course, that’s old news. Now where are we?

America has rushed in thousands of troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, an aircraft carrier capable of launching nuclear carrying B-52 bombers. On the other side Iran has stood behind attacks on oil freighters sailing through the Straits of Hurmuz as well as shooting down an American drone.

In response, Bibi Netanyahu noted that World War II emerged because Germany got away with taking similar “small steps” that no nation stopped. One step led to another step as the issues became progressively more serious. When Iran started enriching plutonium to a 3.67% level it was a change the world could live with. However, Netanyahu’s point was small steps were what eventually got the entire world in war.

What does the 3.67% level mean? That level of fissile material is well below the 20% level Iran was reaching when the treaty was signed. However, 20% is way lower than the 90% level required to make a nuclear weapon. Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said that if Iran was really serious about a bomb, they would have to return to raising enrichment to a 20% level for technical reasons.

So, what’s going on?

Everyone is posturing, flexing their muscles. American sanctions have put Iran in a horrific bind. The man on the street is struggling to survive. After Iran boarded a British ship, Britain joined the discussion about imposing sanctions. The Iranians also have the Saudis next door who would love to whack them big time. Consequently, Iranian current actions are saying, “you don’t frighten us.”

But they do.

I would suggest Iran is struggling for a better place at the table when discussions start again. Probably more provocations will follow. However, no one really wants a war which Iran knows they will lose.

Keep watching. More to come.

You might find my book on near-death experiences important for you:
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD OF ETERNITY
Revell books

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