Tag Archives: PLO


BLOG 414 December 17, 2018

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation,  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.

Wars have a way of clarifying reality. (Napoleon, England’s 1776 King George, Japan’s Tojo, & Hitler learned that fact). After the dust settles, we get a more accurate picture of what’s been going on in the background for some time. The recent near-war between Israel and Gaza that occurred in early November has done the same.

Here is what is now clear;

*The control of the terrorist organization Hamas over Gaza and the surrounding territory is extensive and virtually total.

The Israeli Defense Force (the IDF) secretly entered the Gaza strip in a vehicle that was immediately detected by Hamas. The use of technological equipment to identify the encroachment clarified that Hamas has a somewhat sophisticated and total grip on the area.

*Hamas is well down the road in swallowing the Palestine Liberation Front.

Hamas has effectively replaced Fatah as the ruling organization in Palestinian territory.

When Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO threatened to bring sanctions against Hamas, they were warned that should they attempt such an imposition, Hamas would go to war with them. Recognizing they would lose such a conflict, Abbas backed off. The conclusion that insider observers recognized was that Fatah is crumbling.

*These events tell us about the leadership crisis existing within the PLO.

For some time, I have been writing about the problems of 83-year old Mahmoud Abbas. With cancer problems and heart disease, the leader of the PLO has to know he is facing the End in the near future. At this point, no one with any weight has appeared to replace him. Moreover, the Arab population continues to defy Abbas. In turn, Abbas has forever refused to hold elections. The hand on the steering wheel continues to slip.

*The PA is in trouble at the bank. They are running out of money.

When the USA suspended assistance, the Palestinian economy splattered. The PLO has endured because of outside support for years. This prop has dropped.  While the media watched the Israeli-Gaza rocket exchange, tens of thousands of Palestinians were marching against the PA in Ramallah against the government decision to nationalize private pensions and insurance policies. The collapse of the PA is near.

What really keeps Abbas and Hamas awake at night is the fact that Arab countries no longer see the Palestinian problem as a unifying factor in their world. Many are already doing business of some type with Israel. The recent conflict clarified the situation.

Not a pretty picture.

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Filed under Arabs, middle east


BLOG 404 October 1, 2018

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST ~ Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

Last week we noted:

On August 24, American President Donald Trump ordered the State Department to redirect the funding for programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to unspecified projects elsewhere. The Palestinians screamed!

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat denounced the loss of funds as “disgraceful” and accused the USA of meddling in the internal affairs of the West Bank and attempting to impact their national options. Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi accused America of “cheap blackmail as a political tool.” He said further, “there is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation.”

Here’s what followed.

On September 11th  the Trump administration ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization offices in Washington. This was the next step in President Trump’s policy of putting pressure on the Palestinians to come to the bargaining table. The move was applauded in Israel and deplored in the West Bank.

The person behind this move was National Security Adviser John Bolton, usually recognized as an aggressive right-wing advocate of military action.  Bolton also warned the ICC (International Criminal Court) against taking any actions against Israel and/or the United States. Established in 2002, the ICC has stood as an attempt to bring justice in the international arena. However, Bolton said the ICC “has been ineffective, unaccountable, and … outright dangerous.”

Palestinian officials reacted angrily. Diplomat Saeb Erekat charged that the US actions were an attempt to protect Israeli war crimes. Erekat’s contempt for Trumps actions were reflected in his statement. “I don’t think these people can be part of any peace process or sit in any negotiations. They are really part of the problem and not part of the solution.”

However, Israeli Deputy Minister Michael Oren noted that in the Oslo Accords Palestinians were forbidden to press their pursuit of statehood outside negotiations with Israel. Obviously, they have gotten away with violations of Accords they signed off on. Currently the Trump Administration is forcing them to pay a price for these violations and they don’t like it.

As we observed last week, how one views this depends on the perspective they bring to the issue. However, it is becoming clearer by the month that the Trump Administration is mounting extreme pressure on the Palestinians to negotiate.

What no one seems to recognize is that the Palestinians have one supreme goal to annihilate the entire country of Israel. The rest of the Arab world has basically realized this is not going to happen. When will the Palestinians join the party?

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Filed under Israel, middle east, Palestinians


BLOG 340 March 6, 2017


With all the turmoil in Washington D.C., during the last month, a number of things have become clear. The capacity of the executive branch of government has proven more limited than President Trump thought or realized. With the court blocking his immigration policy and now his back-peddling on many issues, the checks and balances of the America system is working.

Of course, such will continue to be the case with the Israel-Palestinian situation. Initial actions and reactions will feel the pressure to think twice before taking precipitous actions. Nevertheless, considerable pressure exists in Israel for radical change in a current situation that is going nowhere.

Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania Ian Lustick has not backed away from his statement in The New York Times that a two-state solution is an illusion. His position is that clinging to this ideal only clouds the political process. During his time working in Israel, what he observed led him to the conclusion that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s actual position only camouflages his true objective which is the de facto annexation of the West Bank. Lustick believes the aim of extensive settlement development is to accomplish that goal. While the professor believes future blood-shed and confrontations are inevitable, he proposes that ending what he calls “outdated ideas” will move the world forward.

Voices within Israel remind the world that the dominant religion beyond their borders is radical Islam. As long as this terrorist-oriented religion is strong (and there’s no end in sight), the nation of Israel must take extra precautions to protect their citizens. They vote to stop a non-functioning Arab state from bordering Israel. Looming on the horizon is the possible takeover of the PLO by Hamas. Such an option only further defeats the possibility of a two-state compromise.

Let’s add one other element that may finally be paramount in this problem. The Arabs vehemently deny Israel the right to exist. Arafat turned down a good solution for the Palestinians because his ultimate objection was to defeat Israel. Such has not changed!

As Israel continues to grow stronger, the PLO grows weaker. If this trend continues, somewhere there will be a crunch … and it won‘t be Israel.

Think about it, friends. How would you solve this crisis? If you come up with an answer, they are waiting for you to join them at the conference table.

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Filed under America, Israel, middle east, Palestinians, Uncategorized


Blog 329 December 12, 2016


            The first Palestinian I became acquainted with was a tour guide named Simeon who was amazingly knowledgeable about the Holy Land and the Middle East. After the political tensions elevated, Simeon disappeared. My next most intense involvement was a Palestinian woman becoming a relative. That’s when I learned more than I ever wanted to know. She had grown up in a nomad’s tent and once worked for the Jordanian secret service. That’s where you can get the real inside information. (name is withheld for security reasons).

Most Westerners are either violently opposed to or enthusiastically for the Palestinian people, but actually know little about them. It’s worthwhile to update ourselves periodically. Where did they come from?

Legal historian Assaf Likhovski states that the Palestinian identity originated in the early decades of the 20th century. Many were nomadic people or local residences. They had drifted in from across the Arabic world looking for work. Some Palestinians wanted self-government in the face of fears that Zionism would lead to a Jewish state and the dispossession of the Arab majority. Local newspapers in a limited way used the term “Palestinian” to refer to the nationalist concept of a Palestinian people until the exodus of World War I. After the creation of the State of Israel and the massive Arabic exoduses , Palestinian came to signify not only origin, but also a shared past and future in the form of a desire for a Palestinian state. Modern Palestinian identity now claims to encompass the heritage of all ages from biblical times up to the Ottoman period. The origin of the idea of a national consciousness as Palestinians is debated by scholars, but the idea is basically recent. Today’s Palestinians are basically, Arabs.

The day after Israel was declared a nation (by the approval of the United Nations), the Arab world descended on Israel and war followed. Arabs ran to leave the country and set in motion the land division that exists today.

Founded in 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) became an umbrella organization for groups that wanted to represent the Palestinian people before the international community. The Palestinian National Authority, officially established as a result of the Oslo Accords, is an interim administrative body nominally responsible for governance in Palestinian population centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Under Yasser Arafat, secular Palestinian nationalism was grouped together under the umbrella of the PLO whose constituent organizations include Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, groups who at that time believed that political violence was the only way to “liberate” Palestine. The result became a continuing state of war with suicide bombers, rocket attacks, and the murder of civilians.

In the next blog, we will explore the impact of these changes on the everyday people on the streets in the West Band and Gaza. The story remains gripping.

Stay tuned.

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BLOG 275 October 19, 2015

With stabbings and shootings filling the streets of Jerusalem, is another war with the Palestinians underway? The volcano of Palestinian anxiety and anger is certainly rumbling and could erupt explosively. Blood shed in the streets of Jerusalem is a frightening omen for the future.

Why would people armed only with knives risk their lives against people with guns? What is going on?

Last year I was in East Jerusalem and talked with some of the Arab citizens who live there. They complain of prejudicial treatment, check-points in and out of their area, and although some are citizens of Israel, they are treated with prejudice. Equally bad, the PLO offices in Ramallah do nothing to help their citizens who claim East Jerusalem as their capital city.

The issue is personal and profound. The Palestinians Center for Public Opinion found that 61% of Palestinians living in Jerusalem support an armed struggle against Israel. Surprisingly, at the same time 52% would rather be Israelis citizens than part of a Palestinian state. Arabs in East Jerusalem live with this strange contradiction.

On the other hand, with knife attacks in their streets and rockets flying out of Gaza, the Israelis don’t believe anything they hear coming out of the West Bank. This week the mayor of Jerusalem called on citizens to visibly carry guns. Sounds like Jerusalem, the city of peace, is turning into Dodge City in 1880!

However, there is more to this story. In the midst of their despair and frustration, the Palestinians know their attacks have a potential to bring international pressure to bear on Israel. For example, the French have just submitted a proposal to the United Nations to bring international observers to the Temple Mount. Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the idea as “absurd.” Still, it reflects a strategy beyond the knife attacks.

To complicate matters for the Palestinians, Israel has been in secret talks with Hamas to declare a 10-year truce. The truth is that the Gaza strip is a rumbled mess of broken cement one-year after the war and Hamas is in bad shape militarily. Hamas badly needs a breather. On the other hand, PLO leader Abbas doesn’t trust Hamas and believes they are trying to create a separate state in Gaza. Of course, the weak PLO government is no challenge for the Israeli military.

So who negotiates with who? The quagmire continues to rumble along going nowhere while the citizens suffer. In 2000, US president Bill Clinton had Israel and the PLO were on the verge of an agreement when Yasser Arafat simply walked out. Why? His true ultimate object was the entire destruction of Israel. He actually didn’t want a settlement.

Consequently, today no one really wants to talk with anyone else. The frustration boils over in knife attacks in the streets of Jerusalem. No compromises or settlements are even beyond the horizon.

Let us hope the situation doesn’t continue to deteriorate this week. Death doesn’t need another walk down the streets of Jerusalem once more.


Filed under Arabs, Israel, middle east, Palestinians


I religiously track the news. Whether its on TV, in the newspapers, magazines, the where-evers, I attempt to stay in touch with the world. Lately I’ve noticed the strange absence of some of the most important stories reporting events in the Middle East. Egypt is still embroiled in the military repressing all opposition as Sisi runs for president. No sight of that story in the newspapers. The civil war in Syria gets a blip as multitudes continue to be killed but that’s about it. Sometime ago, I reported on the efforts of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayp Erdogan’s attempts to recreate the Ottoman empire and cement relations with Iran. Ever hear about his recent struggles to pull off that coupe? Sorry. Not a peep.

One of the most underreported stories is the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating progress. Months ago, I predicted this was where the road would lead. However, no media outlet is relating that it has happened, much less the details for the collapse. So, here’s the update you need to know.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party signed a unity pact in Gaza City with its previously militant rival Hamas. This action was taken  when the PLO knew full well Israel would not negotiate with any group supported by an Islamist terror organization. In other words, the PLO shut down the talks by going out the back door, knowing this tactic would force the Israelis to back away – then Israel could be blamed for the failure. Just another day’s work in the world of parliamentary maneuvering.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about this failure on Holocaust Remembrance Day noting that Abbas had formed an alliance with an Holocaust-denying terrorist organization that continues to attempt to kill Jews. He underlined the fact that the talks were doomed before they started because the Palestinians have one major objective: to destroy Israel. You can’t reason with a gun barrel.

Perhaps, the only person who really thought negotiations might go somewhere was US Secretary of State John Kerry. It is not clear why he thought so after a century of conflict, 20 years of failed negotiations, and the efforts of countless presidents before him. During the nine months of so-called talks, nothing changed except Kerry’s credibility with the Israeli public continued to drop. No one can say that Kerry’s 30 year history of having a pro-Israel record in the Senate is not genuine. However, he simply ignored the handwriting on the wall.

And what is it like on the PLO side? On April 21, six rockets were fired from Gaza. One missile landed in a street in the city of Sderot, but no one was hurt. The Israeli Air Force responded by attacking targets in Gaza. Will this exchange stop? Sorry. No!

The possibility of a negotiated settlement is nowhere on the horizon. The Arabs will not change their minds and Israeli won’t back off. To get an answer, you may have to wait until the next century comes rolling along.


Filed under Israel, middle east, Palestinians


In the last blog, I suggested that a world is ending in the Middle East. Actually, that’s not new. Simply following the history of Israel is a continuous story of endless change. The Romans changed the name to Aelia Capitolina and it stated that way for well over 200 years. Helena, the mother of Constantine started the trend in the other direction and the name changed back to Jerusalem. In recent times everyone from the Turks to the Germans to the British have claimed the city of Jerusalem. As recently as  June of l967, Israeli soldiers recaptured the entire city and united Jerusalem under Jewish control. Change is a worn word in this portion of the Middle East.

Exactly what form change takes in the Egyptian world is now under duress. The struggle remains up for grabs. The situation is no less volatile in Israel.

The Israeli Air Force strike that killed Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari set off the rocket exchange that leveled most of the Hamas offices in the Gaza strip and seriously depleted their rocket supply. No rockets have been fired since the cease fire. At that point, PLO leader Abbas sought a nonmember observer state status at the United Nations. One hundred and thirty-eight General Assembly members voted yes and the Palestinians broke into wild celebrations in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed the UN vote as meaningless and suggested retaliation would follow. It now has as Israel plans to start 3,000 new houses in the disputed area. What’s really happening? Shake up or shake down?

Of course, how this action is viewed depends on which side of the issue you already stand on. I attempt to view each situation as objectively as I possibly can. And there is more to the Israel action that meets the eye.

Construction in the El area will connect the large Jewish Ma’ale Adumim settlement to Jerusalem. The Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem will be cut off making the continuous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations virtually impossible. Whether Israel proceeds is still in question as the United States stopped a similar effort back in 1994. However, the area makes a serious bargaining chip. With an Israeli election coming on January 22, Netanyahu felt pressure to act quickly.

Israelis do not consider this area as settlements because they believe Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem is their capital and property. Most of the rest of the world considers East Jerusalem as occupied territory.

PLO leader Abbas may have strengthened his diplomatic stature with the U.N. vote. The rise of the popularity of Hamas has proved to be a problem for him. However, Israel’s counter move could close the window on a 2-state solution. Israel’s response signals that the Palestinians have actually lost ground in this latest exchange. Even Professor Zakaria al-Qaq at Al Quds University said, “maybe the Palestinians got something on paper and morally, but he got nothing on the ground.”

Change is in the wind, but where is it going? Don’t count on who is the winner in this latest exchange in Israel. The shake up may yet prove to be a shake down.

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Filed under Egypt, Israel, middle east, United Nations