Tag Archives: President Mahmoud Abbas


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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BLOG 381 February 5, 2018


THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY DISINTEGRATING? During the many years I spent in Jerusalem, I’ve seen the constant tension that exists everywhere. One can feel the unrest in the scowling faces of shop owners in the Old City and see hatred in the eyes of Muslim women shopping in the markets. Something is always wrong – but never explained..

Local newspapers claim the problem is with the Prime Minister because Netanyahu is under investigation for corruption. His response is to build more apartments in occupied land. Who knows where that will go? On the other hand, Palestinians charge that Israel is a “colonial apartheid state” built on violence and dehumanization. Their response has been suicide bombs and knife attacks.

In the midst of the screaming and shouting, one thing is clear. The 82-year-old PA President Mahmoud Abbas has consistently failed the Palestinian people. While the United Nations has often been anti-Semitic, they never seem to take note of the following issues evolving in the West Bank.

The old adage that power corrupts is clearly true in Ramallah. Abbas has destroyed the judiciary and continues to undermine all peace efforts from his side of the table. Abbas undermined an independent judiciary by appointing a system of judges subservient to his wishes. While the goal of destroying Israel faded decades ago, Abbas keeps functioning with the mentality of a Saddam Hussein. Completely ignoring the time period for elections, Mahmoud Abbas has stayed in office acting as if constitutional mandates are meaningless as long as he is in office. The Parliament has not convened in over a decade.  Palestinian Basic Law of 2003 guaranteed the right speech in speech or print. In contrast, Abbas issued a decree that any internet expression that he considers an endangerment to the Palestinian state would result in a year of imprisonment. Such an edict will silence any opposition.

The Abbas government blocked funding to the respected Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, attempting to force the think tank out of business. As a result of these and other actions, belief in a two-state peace is dwindling. Where 80 percent of the Palestinians once supported the idea, now only 46 percent believe it is a possibility.

Of course there is another side to this story. The Israelis treat the Palestinians harshly and arbitrarily. Abbas uses the excesses of the Netanyahu government as an excuse for their situation. However, his actions have done nothing to change anything about their status. The point is that the time is way overdue for a change in the Palestinian leadership if there is any positive future for their people.

Is there any genuine hope for the future? Not as long as Abbas stays!

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Filed under Israel, middle east, Palestinians


BLOG 303 May 23, 2016

With the outrageous rhetoric of Donald Trump and the Clinton and Sanders deadlock, the media has lately said little about the continuing struggle in the Holy Land. But we need to know more.

Knife attacks by Palestinians inside Israel have subsided somewhat and Israel has become more competent at stopping lone wolf assaults before they happen. However, more is going on behind the scenes.

Why should you care? Because any settlement (or lack of it) has consequences for Europe, America, and the rest of the Middle East. The festering problem of the Palestinians has infected many other Arab communities. Prospects for genuine peace across the Middle East depend on some form of reconciliation.

Why can’t this problem get solved? Because Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas don’t want it done. Netanyahu rightly says the Palestinians won’t recognize the right of Israel to exist. He fears the creation of another armed Arab country with guns aimed at Israel. An independent Palestine could become another Islamic dictatorship. On the other hand, Abbas’s attempts to achieve statehood through diplomacy and wiggling his way into the United Nations have totally sunk. Because Abbas has continually failed, he has lost credibility at home. What can he achieve now by renewed negotiations with Israel?

Many voices continually speak of the “almost” collapsing Palestinian Authority (PA). While this is probably unlike, it reflects the deterioration in the West Bank. If the PA did implode, Israel would be forced to step in to restore order and take over a virtually bankrupted state. The headaches for Israel would be endless. Abbas understands this and the possibility gives him some leverage.

The big problem for the Palestinians is leadership. Abbas is 80-years old. A decade ago he was elected to a four-year term and there’s been no election since. He is now seen as an authority with no authority. When his leadership has been threatened, Abbas’s response has generally been suppression. Among the names at the top of today’s list to succeed him is Marwan Barghoutin. The big problem is that he is currently serving five life sentences from an Israel Court for leading two uprisings and for murder. He’s a little like electing Al Capone for Attorney General. Not much promise there!

A recent poll by the Ramallah based Arab World for Research and Development indicated that today the Palestinians have little faith in violent resistance and are more concerned about personal income and safety. In the Gaza Strip’s summer war, Hamas lost 2,100 Palestinians while Israel lost only 67 soldiers. The Palestinians are beginning to figure out that violence goes nowhere – but to a cemetery.

So, keep your eye on what Mahmoud Abbas does next (if anything). Hopeful Palestine will not be plunged into period of chaos. At this point, there are no promises.

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


On February 16, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of 300 left-wing Israeli students that he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and he ruled out any Jews remaining in a Palestinian state. Of course, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has made recognize a number one condition for a settlement. Obviously, Abbas was telling them an impasse had been reached. What does this mean?

A new dimension has appeared that could apply significant pressure on Israel to settle. The Dutch pension giant PGGM divested their business ties with Israel’s five largest banks. Other major European investment funds announced they were considering following suit. Norway’s largest pension fund KLP indicated it had reservations linked to the West Bank settlement. These are only some of the dark clouds beginning to settled over the agreement process. Israel’s major hi-tech industry could become a target of such aggressive financial actions.

Do sanctions work? Ask South Africa that ignored the threat until it sank their boat. Ask Iran that stumbled to the negotiating table after the USA and its allies tightened their economic boycott and froze their assets. Yes, sanctions can become monstrous.

Israel’s continual expansion of settlements across the green line (the debated border with the Palestinians) has been bad PR with much of the rest of the world. Moreover, many question whether Netanyahu is serious about negotiating a settlement and see him as intentionally dragging his feet. The weight of public opinion in those holding these view has shifted behind the Palestinians.

On the other hand, American Secretary of State John Kerry has been working on a trade-off deal in which the Palestinians would recognize Israel and Israel would offer East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The ultimate goal would be to reach a final agreement by the end of 2014. Of course, such an agreement would be painful and difficult for both sides, but that is how these matters usually end.

Kerry’s position is that such a settlement would be a win-win for both sides, bringing great economic rewards for both countries. I have been in Jordan both before agreement was reached with Israel and many times afterward. The dramatic difference is obvious. Jordan has greatly prospered. No question that this would be true for the Palestinnians.

Christian evangelical groups have resolutely stood behind Israel in these conflicts and their influence has been significant. However, in the world of politics and economics, the big bucks swing the pendulum. If an economic boycott is pressed against Israel, the game will be changed. The next few months will prove crucial.

Probably, the ball is in Bibi’s court. Caught in his own political squeeze between the right wing and his current government coalition, Netanyahu is faced with fierce career shaping pressures. The consequences for Israel are huge.

Can Abbas change his mind about recognizing Israel? If not, then the weight of economic pressure could well swing in the other direction. The problem is that the Palestinian’s economy is zero compared to Israel.

Stay tuned.

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Filed under Israel, middle east, Muslims, Palestinians


            An unexpected shift has opened the door to the first negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian in years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Saturday that he would agree to release 104 Palestinian prisoners as a condition to start peace talks. In turn, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made another step toward sitting down at the table.

            Secretary of State John Kerry’s tenacious and persistent efforts achieved this progress. The American Secretary of State traveled back and forth nonstop to pull the two parties together. However, Netanyahu’s agreement is conditional, depending on progress at the table. The prisoners will be released in four stages after the negotiations begin and in accordance with progress. If the agreement falls apart, the release ends.

Both the Palestinian and Israeli publics are strongly opposed to this proposition. During this past weekend, Abbas’s people were in the streets protesting even the start of talks. Israelis did the same. The man on the street appears to be far more aware of the practical problems that does John Kerry. No one can fault Kerry for his diligence and steadfast efforts. At the same time, he is trying to move the immoveable object with irresistible force ( all of which is a contradiction in possibilities) Kerry is desperately trying to achieve a breakthrough before the annual convening of the United Nations General Assembly.

Can Kerry pull it off? No one knows, but I remain pessimistic.

The PA is struggling with leadership problems. The last Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah lasted 18 days. Abbas is struggling to avoid a constitutionally mandated election as Hamas and Hezbullah could walk away with the results. As he lost control of the Gaza Strip, the same upheaval is possible in Ramallah. Palestinians think negotiations means they will get back Haifa, Jaffa, and Safed. Sorry. Won’t happen.

Israeli’s are no longer willing to settle for a divided Jerusalem as their eternal capital. Will they give part of it back? I cannot see that in my crystal ball. Netanyahu as already been forced to go beyond what his Likud party will allow. In order to make any progress, he may have to leave the ideology of his party behind and walk out into a  political no man’s land. Can Netanyahu do so? That may end up being the jackpot question.

At this point, we don’t know what carrot and stick Kerry used to set up this breakthrough. With huge financial offerings at stage, Kerry could have considerable leverage on both sides. However, they will not be enough to bring a true breakthrough. Abbas continually faces being overthrown and if he makes the offers that lead to success, he may well fall. In the same way, Netanyahu is faced with a resolute public that is no less adamant about backing down.

What do I see? They will sit down at the table and kibitz over how to proceed for a period of time, but when the rock solid issues comes down, it will be all over. At lest, that’s the testimony of the last 20 years. Barak and Arafat launched talks, but couldn’t conclude them. Olmert and Abbas did the same. And so it goes.

Hope I’m wrong but I see more bluster than breakthrough.

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Filed under Israel, middle east, Palestinians