Tag Archives: Elections

THE AMERICAN ELECTION SEEN IN ISRAEL

BLOG  493

NOVEMBER 29,  2020

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 AMERICAN ELECTION SEEN IN ISRAEL

How can anyone not write about the election? The all-absorbing event concerned many because Russia or Iran might hack to distort the results. That story died as other distracting claims poured in. However, the point of view in Israel offers another perspective on the meaning of the election.  The Times of Israel newspaper offered some insights.

Viewed from Jerusalem, this presidentially engineered crisis in American democracy raised particular concerns and echoes. America’s engagement in the Middle East, as a force for stability and freedom, is a critical element of Israel’s strategic defense. A reliable America that shares Israel’s democratic values, is a vital partner and a potent deterrent to  the state’s enemies. That was not the America emblemized by its president on Thursday evening.

Trump’s untrammeled railing against the system through which he was duly elected, and now faced defeat, was also considerably too close for comfort to some of  Israel’s own prime minister’s desperation tactics in his hours of need: Benjamin Netanyahu has never sounded as willfully delusional, but he too, at election time, has questioned the legitimacy of votes in the Arab sector, and sent activists with cameras to try to deter Arab voters. He too, as he seeks to retain power in the midst of his legal troubles, has battered away at the legitimacy of Israel’s democratic institutions, the media and the opposition — asserting without evidence that shadowy forces, including law enforcement and prosecution hierarchies, conspired to illegitimately remove him from power.

The Israel Democracy Institute last week found that 70 percent of Israeli Jews and 63% of all Israelis considered Trump the “preferable” presidential candidate to Biden from the “standpoint of Israel’s interests.” That was thoroughly understandable given the Trump administration’s long series of words and deeds consensually supported by the Israeli public . Such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy to the city, endorsing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights were seen as positive.  In addition, , withdrawing from the 2015 Iran deal and raising financial pressure on Iran while  taking a less sympathetic position on Palestinian demands than previous administrations was applauded by  the Jewish public .

However, The Times noted this presidentially engineered crisis in American democracy raised concerns. America’s engagement in the region, as a force for stability and freedom, is a critical element of Israel’s strategic defense. A reliable America, an America that shares Israel’s democratic values, is a vital partner and a potent deterrent to our enemies. That was not the America emblemized by its president on Thursday evening. That’s the view from Jerusalem.   

My latest books:

I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals!

by Frank Sisson (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)

You can find I MARCHED WITH PATTON on Amazon.

82 Days on Okinawa: One American’s Unforgettable Firsthand Account of the Pacific War’s Greatest Battle!

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA on Amazon.

by Art Shaw (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)

    

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THE SUMMER OF DISCONTENT IN ISRAEL

BLOG 482
August 310 2020

protests

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 SUMMER OF DISCONTENT IN ISRAEL

Everywhere one looks struggle, confusion, and despondency prevail. With American elections coming up, the TV viewer is berouged by negative and often lying political commercials. Are Americans alone in this quagmire? Afraid not. Look at public opinion in Israel.

The danger to democracy looms larger than security threat, poll says; majority see Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus as ‘poor’ and most oppose new elections. Israelis perceive the threat to the nation’s democracy as looming larger than the external security threat, according to an Israeli survey published Wednesday.

The Israel Democracy Institute survey found that only 38 percent of the respondents felt optimistic about the future of democratic governance in Israel, with 54% pessimistic. This compared to 59% who are optimistic about national security, with 35% pessimistic. Just over half (51%) give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “poor” or “not good” grade for his personal and ethical behavior. Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and for accepting bribes. A slightly lower number of respondents, 45%, said his performance handling the coronavirus crisis and running the government was “not good” or “poor.”

During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, a majority of interviewees expressed high trust in Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis. Today, with a second wave of the outbreak shaking the nation, only a minority gave him a grade of “good” or “excellent” in that domain: 27% for Jews and 18% for Arabs, the report on the survey said. Netanyahu’s handling of the nation’s security policy is, however, still approved by most, with 56% of respondents giving him a grade of “good” or “excellent.

Amid recent chatter about the possibility of the coalition breaking apart, the data shows that the majority of voters from all parties oppose new elections, with right-wing voters wanting it the least, the report said.. The data showed that only 25% of Jewish Israelis and 43% Arab Israelis support dismantling the current government and going to new elections at the end of 2020.

You can’t make everybody happy, but Israel is certainly filled with plenty who aren’t positive or content. Where will it all go? Stay tuned.

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
Harper-Collins Publishers
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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THE LATEST ON ISRAELI POLITICS – Pt 4

BLOG 467
April 6, 2020

meflag

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 LATEST ON ISRAELI POLITICS
Part 4

When Americans heard that Benny Gantz had agreed to form a coalition government with Bibi Netanyahu, they were surprised as they knew almost nothing about Gantz. Netanyahu has made a special effort to cultivate American taste and influential political leaders, including the president. Consequentially, Americans are often surprised to learn how he is viewed in Israel. While considered a master politician, Netanyahu is seen as a manipulator, a flip-flopper, and is despised by many even though his rule has been positive for the country. As you probably know, he is currently under indictment and facing a trial in the immediate future.

But who is Benny Gantz? Besides being Israel’s top general, he is not well known politically. In order to bring him into perspective, I felt that reading the General’s words might be one of the best ways for you to make a judgement about him. The following is a statement he made this past week.

  • I chose the only path possible at this time, a national emergency government
  • I will never compromise on democracy or on the underlying principles of the more than one million Israelis who voted for Blue and White
  • We are facing one of the most serious challenges in the history of our country. It is a global challenge of exceptional magnitude, and it has hit Israel at a time of crippling political deadlock and unbearable divisions — a lethal combination. Leadership has never been more necessary. Leading has never been more difficult.
  • As a soldier who has dedicated my life to protecting the State of Israel, I have vowed to carry my commitment to the country forward and inform my decisions as a political leader. At this time of crisis, I had no choice but to put politics aside and choose the only path that allows us to avoid fourth elections. Because at a time like this, pulling people out to the polls again — many of whom have lost their livelihoods and are riddled with anxiety about the future — is inconceivable. I chose the only path which positions Israel to effectively fight this horrific pandemic: the path of a national emergency government.
  • More than ever, Israel needs unity. Israel needs strong and capable leadership, able to relentlessly fight the coronavirus, while protecting Israel’s democracy.
  • And let me state clearly: No matter how fierce the battle, I will never compromise on democracy. I will never compromise on the principles underpinning the votes of the more than one million Israelis who voted for Blue and White. … I embrace the people who feel angry. I have love for the people who feel disappointed. I respect everyone. And I personally pledge to the public: I will use every means to ensure that our attitude and our way prevail.

Perhaps, Gantz’s own perspective will paint a picture of why so many in Israel voted for him three times in a row, bringing the Netanyahu administration to a halt and forcing a compromise from both sides.

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
Harper-Collins Publishers
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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Filed under Elections, Israel, The Middle East, Trump

THE LATEST ON ISRAELI POLITICS Part 2

BLOG 466
March 30, 2020

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 LATEST ON ISRAELI POLITICS
Part 2

You think American politics is crazy? Israeli elections and results are off the scale. After three elections in a row, Israel remained divided with Prime Minister Netanyahu scurrying around like a scared mouse, trying to put a government together as well as avoiding going to jail. If you’ve followed this scenario for several months, you’d swear the Keystone Cops had made a come back.

Today we are possibly on the verge of a breakthrough.

Benny Gantz appears to be willing to give up on his political career to ally with Netanyahu in hopes of helping his beleaguered nation. Benny Gantz’s change of position on Thursday was met with bitter excoriation from his former allies.  “Benny Gantz decided today to break apart Blue and White and crawl into Netanyahu’s government,” declared Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. “What’s being formed today isn’t a unity government and not an emergency government. It’s another Netanyahu government. Benny Gantz surrendered without a fight and crawled into Netanyahu’s government, joined the haredi-extremist bloc,” he said.

In a sense, he’s right. Gantz appears to be the most obvious loser from his decision to join Netanyahu. He surrendered his most valuable cards just as the fight was reaching its climax, with Blue and White finally in control of the Knesset and a new speaker set to be voted in, and just as Netanyahu, fearful of a Knesset set against him, was for the first time begging for serious unity talks.

Among the issues yet to be resolved are the distribution of a number of ministry portfolios and other senior posts, and promises the two parties are looking to extract from each other regarding what kind of legislation they will advance, particularly regarding Netanyahu’s legal fate. On Thursday, Gantz was sworn in as Knesset speaker with the support of Likud, signaling an apparent unity deal between the two that would put a year-long political deadlock to rest. Gantz, who had promised not to sit under Netanyahu as prime minister because of indictments in three criminal cases against him, said he was putting aside his vow given the health crisis plaguing the world.

Is the Israeli government crisis really over? Who can tell? Maybe yes; maybe no. As of this day, the log jam seems to have broken more because of the coronavirus crisis turning the country upside down rather than the will of the people. As in every good soap opera, you have to keep listening tomorrow to see what comes next.

Stay tuned!

YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
Harper-Collins Publishers
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

Leave a comment

Filed under COVID-19, Elections, Israel, The Middle East

THE LATEST ON ISRAELI POLITICS

BLOG 465
March 23, 2020

virus

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 LATEST ON ISRAELI POLITICS

I promise to write nothing about the coronavirus. You can’t turn on the TV without being inundated with that story. I promise none of that this week!

The headline in The Jerusalem Post was “KING BIBI, THE MAGICIAN.” While Netanyahu doesn’t have a coalition in the bag, he seems to have pulled a rabbit out of the hat.

Having served as Prime Minister for 14 years and just two weeks before trial on bribery and breach of trust charges, he eked out a few seats in the Knesset giving him another shot at forming a government.

The biggest boast to his attempt to stay in office now turns out to be the coronavirus scourge. (Oops! I broke my promise.) While there is still a political impasse, Netanyahu is calling for an emergency coalition government, leaving his political opponent Mr. Gantz little room to do much more than cooperate. This clever manipulation would push the government more toward Netanyahu’s control.

While most of Israel thought that he was down and out, this rapidly spreading illness has actually brought him back to life. Netanyahu reached into an empty hat and pulled out a new angle on staying in office.

Netanyahu stated that this would only be an emergency government for a limited time. Gantz has not responded to the idea, but the leader of the Blue and White party said he would be willing to discuss the idea. These gyrations showcase Netanyahu’s skills as a leader. It puts him in the driver’s seat to lock-down the country if the disease continues to spread. The self-imposed quarantine means that all contacts with other foreign leaders would be by video or telephone.

The political advantage to Netayahu is that it showcases him. While some leaders say he’s doing way too much, no one can claim he’s not doing anything. Critics accuse him of exploiting the problem for political gain. If they like him, he’s a genius. If they don’t, he’s a fraud.

The political situation in Israel continues to be more intriguing than those old Saturday afternoon movie serials. Can the hero win? The villain be caught? Keep showing up at the box office for more exciting adventures.

Now here’s something you really can sink your teeth into! I have a new book just out.

82 DAYS ON OKINAWA has been proclaimed as an unforgettable firsthand account of the Pacific’s war’s greatest Battle. The book has been released by Harper-Collins under the name of Col Art Shaw and Robert L. Wise. You’ll find it to be a great diversion during this virus crisis.

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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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AND WHAT HAPPENED TO EGYPT?

I’m never sure why the media does or does not cover important events occurring around the globe. The best that I can tell is that when there are no riots, large-scale explosions, or military interventions, it all news slips behind the local sports page or a report on how to make a pecan pie. As of late, Egypt ended up behind the pies.

However, the political situation continues to boil in the land of pyramids. If you haven’t kept up with the latest shifts, here’s the current setting. General Abdel al-Sisi resigned the military and became a citizen. As was predicted on this blog some months ago, Sisi is now making a bid for the presidency. Military and security agencies continue to control the country and have virtually wiped out the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The MB were declared a terrorist organization with over 500 members sentenced to death. Sisi also brought harsh reprisals on Hamas, a close ally of the MB. How these dramatic changes will play out is the new question of the day.

The past three years of revolution would seem to suggest that Egyptians do not want a return to Mubark’s style of an authoritarian regime. (the reason why Sisi resigned his position with the military) Neither do they want former president Mori’s backdoor approach to creating a Muslim state (like Iran) and putting all of his old cronies in office. However, after Sisi was promoted to Field Marshall, he demonstrated that he rules with an iron fist. Military troops hit hard any protests against his rule. The years of political and social unrest appear to have created wide-spread support for Abdel Sisi because citizens recognize that he won’t tolerate any nonsense (unfortunately, or opposition).

Political relationships have radically changed. Sisi pushed away from Turkey, but grew significantly closer to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Because of the criticisms from Washington and delays in recognizing the new government, Sisi made a trip to Moscow looking into the Russians supplying arms. This action was taken in the face of the USA’s continued supply of foreign aid. Surprisingly, Egypt improved better relationships with Israel. The Morsi regime had hinted at cancellation of the peace treaty with Israel which would have been a disaster for Egypt. Sisi’s new doctrine and the pressure placed on Hamas was welcomed with joy in Israel. Both Egypt and Israel renewed their efforts to shut down the radical jihadists creating problems for both countries in the Sinai peninsula. These efforts have proved significant.

Undoubtedly, Sisi will win by a landslide in the upcoming election. Egypt desperately needs to end the violence and instability that has wrecked the country and sent tourism to the bottom. However, Sisi’s heavy-handedness has raised fears that he may turn into a despotic pharaoh with a return to a Mubarkic style of governing. No small issue!

The world will be observing what follows the predictable election and the Egyptians have already demonstrated a willingness to react violently to disappointments. Let’s hope Abdel Sisi proves to be a good guy this time.

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EGYPT TEETERING ON THE EDGE

            Early in June, I reported on the deepening crisis in Egypt and reported President Morsi was facing serious issues. With Ethiopia proposing to build a hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, Egypt could end up with a water crisis. Morsi warned that Egypt would not tolerate having their water supply threatened, but the alternative might be a war. In June, I pointed out that the Morsi government had been a serious disappoint for many Egyptians. Now that situation has exploded in the streets.

            Three days of protests against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have turned violent with five Brotherhood members killed by gunfire. Unfortunately, gunfire has become more common on both sides of the conflict. The Brotherhood lines up to support Morsi while the opposition refuses to back down. The country is again in an uproar. American student Andrew Pochter was killed by stabbing. The reverberations from his death have only begun.

The first election in the entire history of Egypt stretching back to pre-historic times is now a year old, but the promises and hopes in the balloting process have not paid off. In the past two years of postrevolutionary crisis, the streets have never been so tense as they are today. It now appears that any sense of unity has disappeared.

The tension has risen to the point where even the United States government is expressing concern about the safety of the embassy. While the Obama administration refuses to express opinions about the leadership of Egypt, it is preparing for the worst.

Adding to the fragility of the political process, the police are fundamentally in a revolt among themselves. The Murbarak’s feared security forces still exist within the Interior Ministry, but are angry over the reversal they have witnessed following the collapse of the Murbarak regime. However, the police have agreed among themselves that no protection will be provided for the Brotherhood headquarters.

In the streets, the populace is divided between those who supported the aristocratic policies of the past and extreme right-wing views of the Brotherhood. Unfortunately, the vast Egyptian masses have lost all confidence in the leadership of the Brotherhood.

The wild card remains the military. Playing their cards close to the vest, they have not openly supported Morse. Fundamentally, they have issued statements saying they will intervene if matters get out of hand. As of July 2, the military has given Morsi 24 hours to get matters under control. Even the leftist opposition have left their own hints suggesting a military coup would be the  only way to solve the Morsi crisis.

Apparently, the fundamental issue on the streets is over who will run the country and set the rules. The Muslim Brotherhood haven’t given up, but are not trusted to do more than create a theocracy like Iran. On the other side, the old Mubark leaders are feared as a return to the past. In turn, the people are circumventing the ballot box and flooding the streets in a riot mode.

Where is it going? No one knows. But you can bet it will be a hot summer in Egypt.

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WHAT’S NEXT IN ISRAEL?

            With Israel’s national elections now concluded and the air beginning to clear, we can ponder where Israel is going next. The Israeli turnout proved to be significant. Far from disinterested (as some predicted), the numbers indicate that the public is not only paying attention but remains concerned about what the politicians have in mind. In the US national election, 57% responded while in Israel 66 percent of the population voted. Their message to the government was clear: Change.

            While Prime Minister Netanyahu survived the election, he was still the loser.  Last year Time  magazine published an edition that declared Netanyahu to be the “king of Israel,” such is clearly no longer so. The electorate told him they wanted changed within the government and how he got things accomplished. Equally significant was the loss of Tzipi Livni’s Party. While she vowed not to get out of politics, she is no longer seems as a significant challenge to the Prime Minister’s office. The bottom line iss that the election signaled a clear shift to the right.

Israeli politics is significantly different from the American scene with only two parties. The outcome of our national elections declares one group to be the dominant force for the next four years. Obviously, Obama’s victory knocked the wind out of the Republican party’s sails and Washington now has a different tone. Not so in Israel. With a number of political parties, the winner must pull together a coalition. If one group doesn’t like the way decisions are being made, they can drop out without toppling the government. Prime Minister Netanyahu is now in the process of trying to pull together an agreement either with Lapid or the Labor party. What he does in the future will be significantly affected by how these agreements are worked out. At this point, it is too early to tell.

While it did not create a great ripple in the United States, information was leaked in Israel that President Obama and the new Secretary of Defense John Kerry are planning trips to Israel in the next few months with Obama’s trip scheduled for March 20. After the tensions of last summer, the unfolding Arab spring, and the fact that Romney was a strong favorite by the Israeli electorate, the new two leaders have much to talk about. However, in the entire region expectations are not high for much change.

No one is predicting that President Obama can bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the bargaining table. There is an expectation that the United States will soon release $200 million to the nearly bankrupt Palestinian Authority. In addition, there is talk of Israel postponing further settlement construction in the West Bank in exchange for a Palestinian cancellation of claims against Israel in the International Criminal Court. Obviously many alternatives could be on the table.

However, no believes the White House will throw its weight behind the necessary confrontations to produce change. At this time President Mahmoud Abbas is struggling to survive a financial crisis while being further cornered because he is a secular moderate in an Arab world that is increasingly more religiously radical. Abbas dug his own hole when he went to the United Nations to seek an international status for the PA. Consequently, Israel stopped funneling moneys to the PA as they had done previously.

What’s going to happen?  Probably not much until after March 20.

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