Tag Archives: Netanyahu

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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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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TWO BIG STORIES!

BLOG 449
October 28, 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.

TWO BIG STORIES!

STORY ONE:

If you’re not following what’s happened to the Kurds since President Trump arbitrarily pulled American troops and influence out of Syria, you should be. The Turks have been killing the Kurds in the same manner that ISIS did earlier. The slaughter of a once American Ally while the USA stands on the sidelines and watches will go down in history as not only one of the greatest blunders of recent years, but a betrayer of people who once thought we were their friends. Who would want to be an Ally of America when such arbitrary actions mean that our relationships mean nothing?

(Refer to last week’s blog for a listing of the objectives of Russia.) From the point of view of the Middle East, Trump’s actions have handed Putin his first three major objectives on a silver platter. Putin is now the king maker and controls Syria. America is out.

Who are the Kurds? 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.

STORY TWO:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday evening announced he had failed to muster a coalition after almost four weeks of effort, and therefore returned the mandate to form a government to President Reuven Rivlin. Netanyahu’s 28-day deadline for building a government was due to expire on Wednesday.

Rivlin is now expected, probably on Tuesday morning, to charge Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz with the task of mustering a coalition that can win a Knesset majority. Blue and White said it was determined to build the “liberal unity government, led by Benny Gantz, that the people of Israel voted for.”

Gantz now has 28 days to try and do what Netanyahu could not accomplish. If he fails, any MK will have 21 days to obtain the support of a Knesset majority to form a government. If no one succeeds, elections will be initiated automatically — a third round inside a year after April’s and September’s inconclusive votes.

Like a predictable politician, Netanyahu blamed Gantz for his failure. The truth is that the criminal charges hanging over Netanyahu’s head have sunk his attempts to unite with other political groups needed to form the government.

Keep your eyes open for Story Three — yet 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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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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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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TENSIONS IN/WITH ISRAEL

BLOG 320 September 26, 2016

Political jockeying is going on behind the scenes and the meaning of what is ahead is not entirely clear. In a speech before a joint session of the US Congress, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel has come to the end of its childhood stage and was approaching a state of self-reliance. Netanyahu was saying that American economic aid could end (about $1.2 billion since the Camp David Accords in 1979). However, since 2007, Israel has settled on an annual aid of $3 billion for military aid.

Actually, Israel is doing quite well financially. The country’s high-tech sector is a significant financial success. The finalization of a gas deal will put billions of dollars in their economy. In my experience of traveling and working in Israel beginning in 1968, I have watched the country continually prosper. The first time I went to Jaffa, I had to take a bus down from Tel Aviv. Now Jaffa and Tel Aviv are one city with prosperous businesses in between.

In the ensuing years, US President Obama has been increasingly on a downhill slide in Israel. Netanyahu makes no secret of being highly suspect of Obama. However, the overall commitment of the USA to Israel has stayed intact. As observers in Israel have watched this relationship continue to deteriorate, questions have been raised about moving away from Uncle Sam and what they see as dictates from Washington. Theses voices argue that financial distance from Washington, D.C., will give Israel greater diplomatic independence.

Whether Netanyahu holds this view is not clear, but it is obvious that he has made almost every possible mistake in managing Israel’s relationship with President Obama. This even went to the extent that Netanyahu was seen as meddling in the US presidential electon by publically favoring Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Probably the all-time low point came in March 2015 when he side-stepped the White House and spoke to Congress critizing the administration’s Iran Policy. Ignoring this slap in the face, the White House concluded a Nuclear Arms Negoiation with Iran over Israel’s objections.

This is not how allies treat each other!

Netanyahu’s hubris and petty political actions will not stop American support. The larger Jewish population and lobby is too highly significant for that to happen. However, Netanyahu has already said he will wait and make further negotiations with the next president – another antagonistic response to Obama.

Is all of this trivial, mean-spirited, squabbling – or could it be a definite matter of policy? Netanyahu has already manuevered with the far-right and the ultra-Orthodox parties to give the US State Department no hope of renewned negotiations with Palestinians. Netanyahu is throwing the dice in a highly risky game.

The next American president will have to decide on how to respond and the negotiations will be tricky with an Israeli Prime Minister who has been playing this game for at least seven years.

Is it a policy change or just politics?

Stay tunned!

 

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ANOTHER INTIFADA? PART 2

BLOG 276 October 26, 2015

Let’s take another look at the current unrest in Jerusalem and the Old City. Israelis fear another intifada could explode – and it might!
The quagmire continues as Israel won’t budge in negotiations and the Palestinians won’t lead. The inability of either side “to give” has created a nightmare. As a result, the frustrated Palestinians attack with knives and stone throwing while the Israeli’s shoot back with bullets. A few Israelis get knifed and a much larger number of Palestinians get killed. How can we understand such extremes?
Israel won’t comment on their secret talks with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. The Palestinians are completely left out of these negotiations which only frustrate them further. While Hamas screams and hollers anti-Semitic threats, it appears they are actually negotiating an acceptance of a 10-year ceasefire with Israel. Their position reflects what the Prophet Muhammad did with a time-limited truce with a powerful Quraysh tribe in 628. Even in 1997, the founder of Hamas offered Israel a 30-year hudna. The facts suggest that Hamas needs time to rebuild their military strength and get their act back together after the drubbing they took in Gaza that a year later is little more than a pile of broken cement.
From the Palestinian point of view, Hamas has no business or authority to make and sign any agreements with Israel. PLO President Mahmoud Abbas is also left out in the cold. Turmoil within the Arab world is increased because Abbas does not trust Hamas leadership. He believes Hamas is out to create a separate independent state in Gaza and that Israel is willing to help them do so. The issues of expanding Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees, and East Jerusalem would not be touched. Once again, the Palestinians have the door slammed in their faces.
Netanyahu currently has no intention of agreeing to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state along the l967 lines or granting sovereignty over East Jerusalem and control of the Temple Mount. Such a hard-line position could provide the fuel for a much larger Jewish-Muslim war. The recent violence by Palestinians extremists must strike the match that sets off the explosion.
And what would happen? As the matter now stands, the Israeli’s would kill a multitude of the Palestinians. The Arabs know this, but believe their sacrifice would somehow be worth the effort. Suicide-bombers have come to this conclusion already. When you add all this up, the equation equals disaster for the Arabs, but they don’t seem to get it or be willing to make adjustments for a settlement. They have already blown off everything from the Oslo Accords to the 2008 offer of Prime Minister Ehud Olmer’s offer of a Palestinians state along the l967 lines. Their intransient position sounds like madness.
Such madness is what starts wars.

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AN UPDATE ON THE FALLOUT IN ISRAEL

BLOG 248 April 6, 2013

In the world of contemporary politics, it’s rather unusual to win an election and then come away looking worse that if you’d lost. Netanyahu’s squeaker  of a win was eclipsed by the turmoil created with both the White House and the Arab population as well as many, many Jewish people on both sides of the ocean. The problem is far from over.

Recently, I was talking with an American Jewish rabbi about the election. The rabbi had nothing but the harshest words for Netanyahu coming to the Congress just before their election as well as his racist comments about Arabs.

While generally not reported in the American media, the Prime Minister just made a public apology in Israel recognizing that he had offended both the Israelis and Arab communities. In the closing minutes of the campaign Netanyahyu made a bigoted call for right wing voters to respond because he claimed the Arabs were swarming the polls and would tilt the election. This was straight out of old American Southern politics designed to defeat blacks. The election was over before anyone within the country could respond. His remarks as the newly elected Prime Minister were meant to express regret for those statements.

Both the Arab sector and U.S. officials questioned the sincerity of his apology. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Hart said, “When he says one thing one day and another thing another it’s impossible to tell if he’s sincere. Arab Joint List head Ayman Odeh declared the Netanyahu statement’s  unacceptable. “This is just another zigzag by a man known for his zigzag.” Odeh noted that a genuine apology would mean real equality.

At approximately the same time, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon adamantly denied reports that Israel had spied on America’s nuclear talks with Iran. The charge against Israel in this matter is not just spying (which they all do) but giving data to American opposing legislators to undermine USA diplomacy. That’s serious business!

What is true? Hard to say. No one is sure what Netanyahu means anymore. What we have discovered in recent days is a strategy by the Netanyahu administration to affirm one position and then turn around and present obstacles that make realizing that proposition impossible. The most recent example is suddenly asking Iran to recognize Israel’s legitimacy before a nuclear arms agreement is signed. Of course, this idea is impossible and only meant to stop the agreement. We saw a similar reversal during the Israeli election. The Prime Minister declared there would never be a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Twenty-four hours after the election with American running in the opposite direction, he totally withdrew the statement. However, the statement is actually probably true.

Sound like a mess? America think so. Many Jews and Israeli’s think so. The time for double-talk has run out. If Israel is going to rise above this trouble, Netanyahu better think twice – no — thrice – about what he says.

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SORTING OUT ISRAEL — AT THE MOMENT

            Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the Shabbat Torah portion of scripture to explain why it would be foolish to leap into a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would include far reaching concessions. The scripture lesson from Exodus said, “a new king arose from Egypt who did not know Joseph.” Referring to the dramatic changes in Egypt, the Prime Minister noted that the same result could come with the Palestinian Authority. He recognized that Hamas could take control over the PA just as it did in gaining control of Gaza. Unless the diplomatic processes are handled responsibility and wisely, a third Iranian terror base could result as it now does in Gaza and southern Lebanon. He concluded, “peace can only be achieved when security is guaranteed.”

During the Bible study, Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, asked about archeological evidence of the Israelites’ sojourn in Egypt. Benjamin Netanyahu responded that the Shiloah inscription still resides in Turkey. This stone tablet dates back to the 8th century B.C. E. when the construction of Hezekiah’s Tunnel brought water from the Gihon Spring to the Shiloah pool. The Turks still have not responded to the Prime Minister’s request to return this tablet to Israel.

I have walked through that water tunnel and seen the place on the wall where the stone plate once hung. At that point, the tunnel takes an abrupt perpendicular turn to avoid digging under King David’s grave. That trek through knee high water proved to be one of those unforgettable moments that stays with one forever.

However, Netanyahu’s comments are worth noting. Back in early December, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal  addressed a crowd in Gaza City crowd and vowed that his movement would not give up one inch of the land or any part of it. He declared that Palestine extended from the sea to the Jordan, from the north to the south. He said, “Palestine was, still is, and will always be Arab and Islamic. Palestine belongs to us and to no one else.” He made Netanyahu’s point for him.

Obviously, Hamas also has designs on the Palestinian Authority’s position of leadership. The Fatah organization that Yasser Arafat once controlled remains in Mahaal’s gun sights.

At this time, the PA is on the verge of bankruptcy. In retaliation for breaking  away from the peace negotiation process and going to the United Nations, Israel has withheld moneys formerly paid to the PA. Donor countries who told the PA they would stand behind them have not kept their promises. It appears this situation could be a fatal blow to the Palestinian economy. An appeal from the PA cabinet to Arab countries has been made, but nothing has happened to date.

The Prime Minister’s reluctance to leap into a quick agreement has been certified by the actions of Israel’s enemies. The entire Middle East remains in serious turmoil. Egypt that was once in a positive relationship with Israel is in transition as well. Israel must insist that its enemies accept its right to exist and promise to cease hostilities. If not, the likes of Hamas chief Khaled Mahaal will take the day and serious confrontations and military action will follow.

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