Tag Archives: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


BLOG 427 April 8, 2019

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.

What about President Trump’s recent announced recognition of the Golan Heights belonging to Israel? Under international law Israel’s seizure and holding of the land is considered illegal. The Geneva Conventions consider settlements in such an area to be unlawful. So, what’s going on? Politics.

Israel’s election is tomorrow and Prime Minister Netanyahu needed an extra push at the polls. Trump gave him a significant push. This viewpoint is held by the Jewish residents of the Golan Heights. The March 31 edition of the Los Angles Times calls their perspective on the recognition “tepid.” The inhabitants of the Golan fear Trump’s public recognition will upset the apple-cart in what has been an extended period of peace in their history. Even though Syria and Israel have been mutually hostile, the Golan community has been left alone. They worry that while Netanyahu got a boost, they could end up getting the boot.

However, that’s only one part of the story.

Israelis firmly reject any hint of giving this area back because of their need for security. In the beginning, Syrians sat on these heights and shot farmers until Israel cleaned them out.

Give it back? They point to America acquiring California, New Mexico, and Texas. Would America give this land back to Mexico? Americans ready to give back land to the Indians? Absolutely not!

This past history reminds us that Israel is often squeezed to maintain a double standard in which the rest of the world wouldn’t participate.

The analogy makes the point.

A recent International Jerusalem Post editorial reminds us that Israel tried to negotiate some form of settlement over this area with Syria, but those attempts went nowhere. Since then Syria has slid into chaos and President Assad is an international pariah. No future there.

What did America lose through President Trump’s proclamation? Significantly, other Arab states will be more reluctant to negotiate with America. Moreover, the announcement is a gift to Assad, giving him a rallying point to gain more support for his beleaguered nation.  This result is part of the reason that Israeli residents are hesitant to be enthused about the move.

Nevertheless, the recognition is applauded by most Israelis.

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BLOG 420 February 4, 2019

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.

If you haven’t already heard,  Israel will hold a general election with the office of the Prime Minister up for grabs on April 9. Israeli politics can be a fascinating rough and tumble affair. So, what’s going on?

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset and called for elections, some commentators speculated that security issues prompted the call for a vote. After a couple of weeks of behind the scenes investigation, the picture became clearer. The call for an election had nothing to do with security. In fact, Israel remains well secured at this moment. The better commentary on the inside story came from journalist Yaakoy Katz writing for The Jerusalem Post.

Katz reported that State Prosecutor Shai Kitzan said at the Global Business Conference that work had been completed on indictments to be brought against Netanyahu in the immediate future. Charges of corruption were sent from the police some time ago and only await the response of the Attorney General to proceed with the case. By calling for an immediate election, Netanyahu would hope to put the squeeze on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to hold off prosecution.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political future hangs in the balance. Actually, he remains in the public’s eye one of the most popular politicians ever. Whether the voters will be swayed one way or the other by these charges is unclear. Either way one views the evidence, Netanyahu is throwing the dice in this election.

Some high-ranking politicians view this election as one of the most important moments in recent history. Former prime minister Ehud Barak said that he considered this situation to be “the most important election since the assassination of Yitzhat Rabin.”

You can bet there will be plenty of political jockeying between now and April 9. In another week, I’ll be going to Israel and talking with people on the street as well as leaders. I’ll bring you a report back on how much fire is under that smoke.

Stay tuned.

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BLOG 395 May 14, 2018

US President Donald Trump, left, waves with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Middle East is back in the headlines.

Israeli attacks on the Iranian military installations in Syria has sparked renewed interest in what comes next in the Syrian civil war. Iran fired rockets from inside Syria that were aimed at the Golan Heights area. In turn, Israeli’s Iron Dome missile defense system virtually knocked out this attempt to strike Israel. However, the Iranian strike precipitated a far more destructive response from Israel.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, “If we get rain, they’ll get a flood.” And the flood came! Israel hit nearly all of Iran’s bases in Syria. So far any official response from Iran has been negligible.

What’s going on?

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei screamed. Of course, the rocket exchange came against the  backdrop of President’s Trump backing out of the Iranian Nuclear Arms Treaty. As predictable, Iranian parliamentary lawmakers shook their fist at America and helped burn US flags. As the world knows, harsh criticism of the USA is a staple of their politics. However, this was the first time a flag was burned inside the parliament itself.

Quite possibly, the rocket attack was prompted by the American rejection of the treaty. Iranians have long been known for irrational responses that end up only hurting themselves.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Israel not only stopped the rockets in mid-air, but Prime Minister Netanyahu had been vindicated by Trump’s rejection of the treaty. On a television presentation in English aimed at Trump, Netanyahu called Iran a liar (his exact words) and revealed Israel had captured  a cache of 100,000 secret Iranian documents, revealing their clandestine attempts to continue designing nuclear weapons.

Mossad had struck again!

Very few Iranians knew that Iran had moved its secret nuclear-weapons files to the Shorabad district in southern Tehran. Obtaining this material had to be one of the most significant intelligence efforts since the English broke the Nazi Enigma code system in World War II. These documents prove Iran had a secret weapons program from 1999 to 2003 called Project Aman.

What’s the bottom line? Israel has consistently made it clear that they will not allow Iran to build a corridor through Syria to the Mediterranean. The message has also been aimed at Russia. The attack on all Iranian installations inside Syria spells out the conclusion that Israel means what it said.

One might also conclude that it has not been a good week for Iran.

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BLOG 383 February 19, 2014


While I have been aware of this story during the past year, I didn’t write about the details until substantial charges appeared that were more than mere allegations. The facts are that Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel has been under police investigation for some time. During the past week, the story first appeared in American newspapers. If any aspect of the charges amount to an indictment, the matters could destroy Netanyahu’s coalition.

The three charges are:

Case 3000: corruption involving the sale of a German submarine and a navy vessel to Israel. Netanyahu’s closest associates were arrested.

Case 2000: The Prime Minister allegedly offered the circulation of Israel Hayom newspaper a bid for more favorable coverage.

Case 1000: The Prime Minister allegedly took gifts involving Hollywood mogul Arnold Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.

The last case is the one that could bring Netanyahu down. A similar situation ended Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s career and put him in jail. At that time, Netanyahu urged Olmert to resign saying a leader with such accusations could not govern. Now the shoe is on the other foot!

The Prime Minister has long been known as a notorious flip-flopper. His opponents accused him of not being credible. This past Tuesday the Israeli Police recommended that he be charged with bribery and breach of trust. His opponents can now say we told you so.

The recommendation will now go to Attorney General Avihal Mendelblit who must make the decision about whether to formally indict Netanyahu\. Will he? The answer remains complicated.

More immediate is the possibility of increasing calls for  Netanyahu’s coalition to dissolve. If hundreds of thousands of Israeli protestors take to the streets urging Kulanu and Bayit Yehudi political parties to pull out, the house could crumble. Such a response remains a possibility.

Interestingly enough, Netanyahu recently launched an attack in December on the Police to discredit them. In addition, he ridiculed Moshe Nussbaum, a veteran police reporter. Netanyahu’s behavior in these situations appears to be more like a suspect in a criminal case than a head of state.

Anyone who follows Israeli politics know this story is far from over. The complexities continue to unravel. Keep watching. We’ll keep you up on the details!


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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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BLOG 341 March 13, 2017

The Prime Minister of Israel and the American President appear to be all smiles and good buddies. America’s love of Israel supplies Trump with a good voting base and Trump’s compliance with Netanyahu’s goal flies high in Israel. But there’s a surprisingly unexpected strange connection between the two men.

They hate the media.

In recent days, President Trump has continued a relentless attack on the American media for reporting what he doesn’t like. Secretary of State Tillerson refused to allow media to travel with him to Japan, Korea, and the Orient, preventing the press from any objective reporting of what he is doing and saying. The Israeli Prime Minister is reading from the same play book. While attempting to correct media mistakes and fake stories, they both want to harness reporting to fit their liking.

Dangerous business! While many of us may not like what we read in the papers, the media remains one of the major safe guards of democracy and the truth. Attacking the media is attacking the facts. Watch out!

For some time commentators, have been after Netanyahu for trying either to attack or manipulate the press. Netanyahu not only took the Prime Minister’s job, but also the Communication Minister’s portfolio. This gave him the leverage to seek favorable coverage from outlets he once called “radically biased.” Israeli writer Nahum Barnes noted that what he called Netanyahu’s “obsession” with the news media showed him to be “gripped by fear and paranoia.”

Sound familiar?

On the eve of the election in March 2015, the Prime Minister’s battle with the media reached its peak. Apparently, Netanyahu feared that he could loose the election because of what he perceived as the media’s hostile coverage. Three days before the election, he launched a blitz against the press itself and won the election.

Currently, Netanyahu studiously avoids being interviewed. However, aides have confided he is acutely aware of every word written about him. Writers such as Ruth Margalit and commentator Nachman Shai are too good at what they do – to be trusted!

What do we make of the situation in Israel as well as America? Sure, the news media has its biases occasionally. In America, we have one network that is blatantly false in their reporting, but on the whole, the majority of the networks and journalists seek a balanced relentless reporting of events. When politicians attempt to stifle free speech, the public must demand accountability and exposure. When it was all said and done, the fall of Richard Nixon came because of the relentless reporting of Woodward and Bernstein. In spite of massive efforts to conceal the truth, the media revealed the mess!

You may not like what the press says now and then – but for heavens sake keep them reporting!

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BLOG 339 February 27, 2017


            Last week we began exploration of one of the most explosive issues facing the Middle East as well as the United States. With the change of leadership in Washington, D.C., the suggestion that America might alter policy that has existed for over 40-years has created intense speculation about what is ahead in solving the tension between Israel and the Palestinians.

Is President Donald Trump holding a stick of dynamite? Could be.

In 1988, David Grossman published in Hebrew The Yellow Wind, describing the smoldering hostility of the Palestinians. Originally intended to be The Yellow Time, but an Arab named Abu Harb told him about the yellow wind, the wind that will rise from the gates of Hell. Local Arabs call it rih asfar, the hot, terrible east wind which comes only once in a generation and sets the world on fire. The mountains will crumble into powder and the land will be covered with bodies.

This best selling book in Israel shocked many Israelis who had no idea the Palestinians had such hostility. Today, they certainly know. Unfortunately, the West is still struggling to wake up.

Let’s put it another way. Arabs are from Mars. Israeli’s from Venus. They are peoples of two radically different worlds.

Of course, many Arabs have higher motivation, but a good number are content to sit quietly, smoke a cigarette, and drink coffee in the morning sun light. They were happy with the land like it was. While some Arabs were Christian, most are Muslims.

Israelis reflect the democratic, industrialized world of Europe. Vast numbers migrated with a keen sense of what it was to be persecuted and annihilated. They came with cutting edge knowledge of science, technology, and a burning desire to create a safe haven for all Jews. They want a state that protects their Jewish faith.

Hey, we’re talking American Indians versus the cowboys and settlers. Again, Mars and Venus on a collision course!

All the rhetoric and political conferences in the world will go nowhere until they recognize the problem of this radically different political environments. Why is there no unity? Well, there is no unity in Christianity with its 40,000 different groups. The Arabs are currently killing each other over the division between the Sunnis and the Shiites. Judaism encompasses everything from the radical Hassidim to Reconstructionist divisions in Jewish thought. In our time, people are far better at splitting than unifying!

Make no mistake about it, Prime Minister Netanyahu will exploit these initial suggestions by President Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem with the hint of trashing the two-state solution approach. And if this occurs what will follow?

No one can say for sure. However, should a yellow wind result, the Arabs have already warned it blows hot from hell itself.

Let’s all take a deep breath and think it over before we do anything foolish.

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Blog 332 January 9, 2017

My, my! What a difference a few days can make!

As the year ended, the Obama administration failed to keep Israel out of hot water at the United Nations over the continued expansion of settlements. Sounded like a payoff to Netanyahu for by-passing the President when he went over his head to Congress. Obama got the final slap – for the moment.

What’s really going? In fact, it’s all more complicated that it appears to be. How you read the situation depends on where you stand politically.

The nay-sayers remind Netanyahu than somewhere around 40% of Israeli citizens do not approve of what the Prime Minister is doing by increasing settlements. They point out that his actions are illegal and believe he is only complicating the peace process. They see Netanyahu as becoming increasing dictatorial and disconnected from the international scene which is dangerous for the state of Israel.

Those supporting Netanyahu’s actions say he is building a defensive perimeter to stand against Palestinian attacks on innocent Israeli citizens. Keeping Israel secure demands pushing attackers further away. When Ariel Sharon withdrew Israel from Gaza, their country got nothing but more rocket attacks. Now look at where the Gaza strip is today. One big pile of smashed concrete!

Actually, President Obama’s opposition to settlements in the Palestinian area is not new and extends back to the Reagan years. Obama did not decrease financial aid to Israel’s military.

Responsible voices are increasingly saying that a two-state solution is already dead. The incoming Trump administration appears to be moving in that direction. Hamas controls Gaza. Supposed Palestinian leader Abbas and his Fatah party are essentially delegitimized and continue to exist only because they are propped up by the West. Who do you negotiate with? A terrorist organization or an ineffective political party?

Israel has many good reasons not to negotiate including Arafat’s walking out on a deal to establish a state, on to murderous assaults by knife-swinging Palestinian assailants.

The larger problem has been noted by David A. Andelman journalist and contributor to USA Today. He sees the risk of Israel becoming a global pariah on the scale of South Africa during the apartheid era. Andelman believes this would also drag America into the abyss because of the US’s close relationship to Israel.

Netanyahu’s current policies could jeopardize Isreal’s position as one of the world’s most technologically innovative countries. Israel is at the top of the ladder in research and production of such items as flash drives (the one you use was invented in Israel).

At this point, the world is not on Israel’s side. The U.N. Security Council’s vote was unanimous only with abstentions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu better take a second look.


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Israeli envoy to the United Nations Abba Ebon once said, “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” His haunting pronouncement has become prophetic. The lost possibilities keep mounting up.

During peace negotiations with Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) went out the back door and signed a peace agreement with Hamas which sunk the ship because the PA knew Israeli’s policy is never to negotiate with terrorists.  In turn, Hamas killed three Israeli teenagers and retaliation followed. Now the PA and the Gaza Strip are getting blasted. From opportunity to onslaught in a matter of days.

Personal perspectives on Israel and the Palestinians will shape how people interrupt the current conflict. Currently, Europe is experiencing a resurgence of antisemitism that colors reporting. Having returned from Israel several months ago, I have my own perspective shaped by over 35 trips to the country. I do know that the conflicts remain a powder keg just waiting to blow. This past week put the match to the fuse.

The great tragedy of war is that women and children as well as innocent bystanders get hit in the crossfire. We will hear many of these stories. They are beyond terrible and should never have happened. Neither should the three Israeli teen boys have been murdered that kicked off this conflict. Revenge and retaliation only produce more hate.

Following the killings, Israel launched its largest offensive in the Gaza Strip in nearly two years. Hamas has never stopped firing rockets into Israel and this current assault has the intention of ending weeks of heavy rocket fire. Militants fired around 160 rockets including one strike that came near the northern Israeli city of Hadera. At the same time, Israel hit 150 sites in Gaza. Of course, Hamas rockets had a minimal impact in Israel because of the Iron Dome rocket repelling system Israel has in place. Israeli rockets knocked out Hamas missiles while they were still in the air, damaging nothing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the military to “take the gloves off” in responding to Hamas. Undoubtedly, the Israeli military will not let up until Hamas’s attacks are humbled. The army has called up 40,000 reservists that are prepared for a ground operation in Gaza if necessary. No efforts are underway for a cease-fire.

The Palestinians have compounded their first mistake with another. The cost will be high. It is almost as if their actions are always self-defeating. Of course, the PA didn’t like the deal on the table in their negotiations. Israel didn’t either. A compromise would greatly have been preferred to a war.

One aspect of the conflict is that Israeli and Palestinians have a different view of the value of life. Palestinians send in women wired with explosives to use as suicide bombers. Their view of human existence is that life is expendable. On the other hand, Israel considers life to be sacred. The L’chayim, to life, is a basic tenant of Israeli faith. The death of one Jew is considered to be the loss of a nation. In this philosophical debate, the Palestinians will loose again.

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Followers of Israeli politics are acquainted with the roller-coaster ride that comes with their system of many parties and the ultimate emergence of coalition governments. Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken the ride many times sitting in the front seat and last week experienced a sharp downhill drop that resulted in the emergence of a new President of Israel.

Shimon Peres from the Kadima Party became the 9th president in 2007. Peres had been involved in Israeli politics since the re-emergence of the nation in 1948 and had gained an international reputation for insight, persistence, and tenacity. The nastiness of the recent presidential campaign did not do justice to the standards that he set.

The president is elected by the Knesset, not the public. For many outsiders the name of Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin will be new. Actually the names of all of the candidates for the position would be a list of unknowns outside of Israel. Meir Sheetrit, Dalia Itzik, Dalia Dorner, and Dan Shechtman represented different fronts in national life. You might have heard of Shechtman because he was a Nobel prize winner. In the second round of voting Sheetrit trailed Rivlin 63-53.

The real loser in this rocky ride may have been Prime Minister Netanyahu.  While he was eventually forced to support Rivlin publically, he did everything possible to both delay and cancel the election. Public exposure of these tactics during the campaign would have been humiliating for Netanyahu, but his actions were no secret. He tried to persuade a number of public figures to join the race, including Nathan Sharansky. No one picked up the baton and Netanyahu came up short. It is also a defeat because Rivlin’s campaign manager is second in the Likud party and increasingly critical of Netanyahu. Probably in the next leadership race, Netanyahu will be faced with this difficult challenge.

In his acceptance speech, Reuven Rivlin noted he was now leaving a political party behind to become the president of all the people – Jews, Arabs, rich and poor. Such is the proper role for the president.

The Hebrew term for the president “Nasi” come from the Bible.  It was once used for the head of the Sanhedrin. Elected every seven years, the Nasi is to be above political strive and press for national unity. In many respects, the office is ceremonial.

Following his election, Rivlin went to the Western Wall to pray. Next, he traveled to the Mount of Olives where his parents and ideological father, former Prime Minister Menachem Begin are buried.

Rivlin opposes the formation of a Palestinian state and advocates giving Israeli citizenship to Palestinians. He and Netanyahu are definitely not in the same camp. The roller coaster ride goes on. Watch for the next sharp turn in the track.

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