Category Archives: Trump

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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THE SETTLEMENT SITUATION

BLOG 453
December 16, 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.

THE SETTLEMENT SITUATION

One of the major headlines in Israel has been the American declaration that the Israeli settlements in the area claimed by the Palestinians are now not considered illegal. In a historic reversal of US policy, the Trump administration announced that settlements in the West Bank area are now considered acceptable. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referenced a position once taken by former President Ronald Reagan that they were not considered inherently illegal.

The Trump administration felt it was ambushed in the waning days of the Obama Presidency when Obama went against Trump’s expressed wishes and allowed the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that claimed such settlements were a “flagrant violation under international law.” The position stated by Pompeo rejects that previous perspective.

Of course, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately praised the decision as correct and rejected the idea that under international law the settlements in Judea and Samaria were illegal. In turn, the Palestinians completely rejected the new US position and saw the statement as further evidence of the American basis against the Palestinians. Their denunciation was scathing.

A letter from 106 Democratic representatives to Pompeo called on him to reverse his declaration that the settlements were currently considered legal. They stated that Pompeo’s declaration blatantly disregarded international legal standards. The letter written by Dore Gold claims that this decision casts doubt on Israel’s moral position.

What’s going on here?

Fundamentally, it’s politics. Netanyahu is in serious legal trouble and could wind up in jail. Trump has stuck his nose in Israel’s business to affect how Netanyahu is viewed. Nothing new here. Trump had sided with Israel previously with such moves as bringing the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Trump is now facing impeachment and his own legal troubles.

How one feels about these divisive issues rejects the position one took before the turmoil ever began.

Enthusiastic supporters of Israel view these actions as affirming their position. Individuals concerned with the rights of the Palestinians consider the matter as further evidence that America has lost all credibility in the Middle East and no longer can act to bring peace.

Fundamentally, the issue reflects the deep divide in American politics. Republicans do not seem to care what is the evidence against Trump. Democrats don’t want to just impeach Trump. They want to launch him.

Once more. a deep divide exists around the world. With Christmas shortly upon us, perhaps this is a good time to reconsider the meaning of the coming Prince of Peace. The world needs a new perspective.

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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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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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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Filed under Kurds, Syria, The Middle East, Trump

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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Filed under America, Palestinians, The Middle East, Trump

PUTIN? PUNT!

BLOG 440
August 18, 2019

putins eyes

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.

PUTIN? PUNT!

When asked why he trusted Vladimir Putin, George Bush said that he looked into his eyes and saw his soul. Probably the worst political statement ever made. If he’d looked again, he would have seen KGB beaming up from the depths of a cold soul. That’s the opinion of author Douglas E. Schoen in his just published book, Putin On the March, The Russian President’s Global Advance. (That’s my opinion also.)

Schoen advances insight into how Russia involved itself in Syria during the Civil War and is now aligned with Iran. Anyone interested in the future of the Middle East will do well to pay attention to Douglas Schoen’s insights.

Putin is different from ideological Communist rulers like a Lenin, Khrushchev, and Gorbachev. Rather, he is far more like Russian nationalists like Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Schoen calls Putin a neo-Czarist. Having just completed a sixteen-session study of Russian history, I appreciate Schoen’s distinction. Putin typically functions like those Czarists of the past. He is a Russian opportunist down to his toenails.

An example of ignoring this mentality is one of President Obama’s worst mistakes. After threatening Syria for use of chemical weapons on its own people, when they did it again, Obama did nothing. He turned to Putin for assistance like talking to a friend. Putin promptly took Crimea, attacked the Ukraine and surged ahead in Syria. Putin saw an opportunity and seized the moment. Obama was left scratching his head.

Schoen strongly disagrees with President Trump’s approach to Putin, seeing the same naivete. When Trump joked with Putin about “not interfering” in our next election, the joke was on Trump.  Schoen believes America and its European allies must wage counter-cyber warfare against Putin. He will not retreat from Russia’s aggressive moves in the Middle East unless confronted with consequences. Left unchecked,  Schoen believes there is no limit to what Putin will attempt.

In recent blogs, I have detailed how Russian intervention increased the chaos and fighting in Syria. Assad would have fallen long ago if Putin hadn’t propped him up. The current conflict in Iran may well become another showcase.

What hope is there? Schoen believes it could come from the “better soul” of the Russian people themselves. Such was expressed in the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. Solzhenitsyn displayed the same in The Gulag Archipelago. The West should support and encourage these impulses in the days ahead. Needless to say, treating Putting like a “buddy” only opens the door to more serious consequences.

Anyone concerned for peace in the Middle East needs to listen and read Douglas Schoen.

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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Filed under America, The Middle East, Trump, War