Tag Archives: Prime Minister Netanyahu


BLOG 416 January 7, 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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here we are with the first blog of 2019! Can you believe it? What shall we say?

The year ended with the worst stock market drop since the Great Depression. The president has shut down the government and no one knows when it will open. The president’s closest legal advisers are off to jail and the scandal over payments over his affairs with two women is cooking while Congress waits for Robert Mueller’s Investigative Report. In the Middle East, the police are for the third time calling for the prosecution of Prime Minister Netanyahu for corruption. At the same time, Israeli discovered that Hezbollah tried to dig tunnels under the border in the Galilee area to be used for an attack on them.

What can we say as a new year begins?

Let’s set the scandals and disagreements aside and start this year on an entirely different basis. Thomas Merton in his essay The Root of War is Fear has some important insight for us. At the root of all war is fear, not so much the fear people have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another: they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves … It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves that is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this which makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves … Only love – which means humility- can can exorcise the fear that is at the root of war.

Every time we turn on the television or follow news reports, we are swimming in a sea of anxiety. Violence, bombings, school shootings, terrorist reports, fear of environmental collapse, the Stock Market falling, on and on the sources of fear are constantly at our doorstep.

Thomas Merton has important instruction for us. Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to push aside fear and decide to walk in the pathway marked love. Let’s decide to follow the headlines without being swallowed by anxiety. Let’s allow love to remain supreme in 2019.

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BLOG 354 June 26, 2017


            A number of issues bear a second look… like the situation in Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, co-author of the nuclear armaments deal with the West was re-elected. He garnered 57% of the vote so no runoff was needed. This is highly significant since the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary guard supported his opponent. The public and particularly young people stand behind Rouhani and strongly support the nuclear agreement that halted Iran’s race for a nuclear option.

Rouhani’s success at the poles boosters the staying power of the nuclear agreement. Such results offer hope for the future.

At the same time, President Trump signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia to sell the Saudis $380 billion dollars of what Trump called, “beautiful military equipment.” The deal was described in the news as an effort to “counter Iran.” The Saudis want anti-ballistic missiles and a new radar system (THAAD, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). This system will defend against Iran’s missile program. In addition, the Saudis want Lockheed Martin F-35 jets, selling at $100 million apiece. The objective is to provide Saudi Arabia with the strongest military in the region which will outpace Iran’s military and make the Saudis the strongest force in opposition to the Iranians.

From Trump’s point-of-view, the deal brings massive cash infusion into the US defense industry and is getting tough with Iran.

Does this represent an American policy? A critical look at Trump’s campaign rhetoric and subsequent actions raises the question, “what foreign policy?”.

Immediately after America’s November election, Israeli officials were saying that the era of a Palestinian state was over. Eight months later seems like a lifetime ago today. What has happened to countless politicians in the past is now being repeated. The campaign trail to the White House turns out to be filled with hot air exposed in the day light. The plans to move the embassy to Jerusalem have disappeared. No matter what anyone says, Prime Minister Netanyahu is not actually interested in peace talks as he keeps building new settlements on the Palestinian side of the line.

The Israeli public has swung back and forth in a manic-depressive mode from being highly optimistic to dropping into disappointment. The Trump administration will attempt to pressure both Abbas and Netanyahu to get back to the negotiating table for peace. They will respond in some way to appease the Americans, but the fundamental problems haven’t changed  and won’t because of American pressure. Jews and Arabs have been at war with each other for thousands of years. More hot air from Washington won’t change the problem.

Stay tuned.

Robert Wise’s classic will help you during difficult times.

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BLOG 278 November 9, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu simply can’t seem to stay out of trouble. On October 21, he suggested that Adolf Hitler initially had no intention of killing millions of European Jewry. Speaking to the 137th World Zionist Congress, he stated that Palestinian-Arab leader Haj Amin al-Husseini talked Hitler into the “Final Solution.” Husseini, the Mafti of Jerusalem was so bad that he was sought for prosecution in the Nuremberg trials – but Netanyahu’s remarks were unequivocally wrong. Hitler was Hitler without any help from Husseini.

In response, one Israeli politician said Bibi’s statement shows “the depths to which this man has sunk.” Netanyahu had certainly waded out over his head.

Netanyahu’s recent statements to Congress and his war with President Obama over the Iranian nuclear deal have sunk him with Washington. Not only did he lose prestige for sticking his nose into American politics, he didn’t even slow down the approval process. After all the screening and hollering over the possibility that Israel was in jeopardy settled, many voices in Israel noted that their enemy Iran currently wasn’t a threat. At this time, there is no current existential threat to Israel. Netanyahu’s statements were way over the top. When he returns to the White House later this week, the Prime Minister will find a cold shoulder.

Not only did the Israeli Prime Minister create a stir in Washington, he created a serious division in the Jewish community that still remains. Many American Jewish leaders felt he was pushing American Jews to choose Israel’s interest over Washington’s. Bibi split congregations at the local synagogue.

The problem is that Netanyahu appears to have become a politican who will say anything to win. He did so in the last election displaying racism against the Arabs as well as flip-flopping in his position on a two-state solution for the Palestinians issue. He won by playing the flim-flam card reminiscent of the worst of American politics.

Now, PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas is making noises about ending the Oslo Accords that should have provided a transitional period ending in a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. In violation of the accord, Bibi has kept building in the West Bank area. Should such a cancelation occur, Israel would be faced with difficult options. To make matters worse, Mahmoud Abbas is aging and faced with the threat of Hamas becoming the dominant player in Palestinian politics. Again, leaving Israel with hard choices. Can Netanyahu face up to such serious challenges? Uncertainty deepens.

Currently, many Jewish leaders believe David Ben-Gurion was the last visionary leader Israel had. (Probably they are pushing the issue too far) Since Ben-Gurion, most of the Prime Ministers have been caught up in the quarrels of special interest groups who are always grabbing for power while leaving the nation caught up in strife and discord. Courageous and moral leadership is needed to keep Israel on course.

Can Netanyahu provide the same? Currently, he is not only distrusted by the Palestinians but in Washington as well. Great numbers of the Jewish people feel the same way.

Not a good sign!

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Blog 258 June 22, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the election but–

It’s been a downhill slide ever since and the struggle in Israel is far from over. Netanyahu snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by making racist comments the day before the election and then reversing himself on the two-state solution the day after the election. Already criticized for his flip-flops, Netanyahu has unfortunately degraded himself during and after the election process.

Elected months ago, Netanyahu continues to struggle in putting a working government in place. Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat recently came out with strong opposition to the appointment of Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin’s appointment as Jerusalem Affairs Minister. Barkat lashed out, “Jerusalem is not a consolation prize for anyone.” Barkat is accusing Netanyahu of breaking a campaign promise. This struggle is systematic of the political struggles going on in Israel.

One day after Netanyahu was quoted in a closed conversation saying that he wants to restart the peace process, opposition leader Isaac Herzog expressed strong doubt that Netanyahu would do the same. His comments reflect a doubt about the government’s seriousness in its political statements. Herzog called the problem the “Netanyahu circus.” Herzog has also opposed Finance Minister’s Moshe Kahlon’s demand to take the Interior Ministry portfolio. Right, wrong, or indifferent, the situation reflects the political struggles inside the government.

In mid-May, Avigor Liberman announced he was resigning as foreign minister and joined the opposition to Netanyahu. His decision was a bombshell that no one saw coming – least of all Netanyahu. His step-back has definitely dwindled Netanyahu’s deck of cards.  The politically besieged Netanyahu now presides over the narrowest margin possible in the Knesset. He is staring at a legislature whose enmity and tricks will keep him busier than worrying about Iran (which is no small problem).

This complicated situation certainly doesn’t spell a demise but it is a political landscape that is more hostile and less favorable than what Netanyahu faced before the election. The problems have only emboldened his rivals. After a 23-year working relationship, Liberman’s exit remains a devastating blow that is seen as forcing Netanyahu into a narrow government. Political observers inside Israel see this as a bumpy road hard to travel.

Of course, I haven’t even mentioned Netanyahu’s problems with Washington. While Israel’s status as a favored nation is not in question, their relationship with the American president has serious problems. Whatever is wrong with President Obama’s reactions with Israel (and there are plenty of questions to be raised), Netanyahu has cornered himself and will continue to be in a difficult position with Israel’s major supporter.

On the other side, Europe is pressing Natanyahu to free construction of housing in the major settlement blocks. The European Union is not convinced he can be trusted to pursue a two-state solution and want to see concrete steps if Netanyahu is to be credible. The international community has been infuriated by the government’s persistent attempts to create new settlements. Talk of sanctions is no longer hypothetical. Currently, Israel has lost a considerable amount of ground in that arena.

Netanyahu had best make some significant changes if he’s not going to end up being seen as just another second-rate politician.

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After flying in from Tel Aviv to Newark, I discovered an unexpected winter snow storm had blown in. The cold winds left me stranded in the airport with no way out (not exactly what I had hoped for) and it felt like walking into a parable of what is happening across the world today. When I left America, the Ukrainian people were objecting to a relationship with Russia; now they are on the verge of a war with Putin! Karzai is leaving office in Afghanistan accusing America of no interest in the future of his country when a painful number of Americans died fighting Al-Qada and supporting a free Afghan where the USA spent billions. Are those blizzards out of nowhere or what?

My time in Israel with people who affect the future as well as common folks proved clarifying and helpful. The dynamics of changes have certainly not slowed. I was impressed again with the importance of trying to stay in touch with the essence of critical events. Unfortunately, the media shims across the top of stories and seldom touches the center of historic situations. As a former Israeli official related concerning the Obama administration, the Arabs attacked within hours of the birth of Israel and then again in the Six-Day war and once more in the Yom Kippor War. He said, “You think we don’t know what makes them tick? The trouble with Obama is that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know.” Another way to express this man’s opinion is that in the view of many Israelis the American administration is missing the essence of the problem.

Currently, the American administration keeps leaning on Netanyahu to settle the Palestinian issue. Media reporting suggests that the Israeli Prime Minister is being obstinate and not committed to negotiations. What I universally found across Israel was a recognition that the Palestinian’s basic position is that Israel must be wiped out. It’s hard to bargain with people’s whose objective is to kill you. Anyone not see the problem?

The essence of the struggle is achieving an agreement with the Palestinians who must recognize the right of Israel to exist and guarantee their security. Netanyahu is not going to back off of that problem. Would you?

In a later blog, I’ll detail the mounting possibility of an economic boycott from Europe to put additional pressure on Israel. However, when outside countries take sides and attempt to create leverage, they are throwing the dice in a game that they may not actually understand. I would maintain that one must live in both the Palestinian and Israeli worlds to understand what is actually going on behind the scenes. The Jews and the Arabs constitute two highly divergent perspectives. To have insight into where the future is going, one must grasp how these realms function. More to come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The media flashed pictures of Palestinians surging into the streets, firing weapons in the air, and proclaiming they had won. From the television coverage, I witnessed, it appeared that Hamas had gained a major victory over Israel.

I was reminded of the day that Anwar Sadat was assassinated. Egypt had just been knocked upside down and defeated. Of course, that loss called for a military parade celebrating their victory. The badly defeated Egyptian army marched into the field before the review stand. Suddenly the soldiers turned on Sadat and the military leaders, firing their weapons indiscriminately. Egyptians defeat was compounded by tragedy.

The Palestinians characteristically don’t read the handwriting on the wall. Israel had killed their major military leader, other agents, reduced all Hamas headquarter buildings to rubble, terrified the civilian population, and caused multiple deaths. The Israeli army stood amassed on their border with the capacity to reduce Gaza City to rubble. The major reasons that Israel did not press forward were that major military objectives had been accomplished and the pressure from President Barack Obama called for them to stand down. Of course, at least half of the population of Israel did not want Prime Minister Netanyahu to invade. With elections in the near future, this factor more than any other gave Netanyahu a good reason to stop.

Did Hamas win? Win what? A reprieve from having their houses destroyed? Having more Hamas leaders killed? Not having to commit suicide by continuing the war? Doesn’t sound like a victory to me.

Several interesting twists appeared out of this war. The Iron Dome system that Israel built and America funded proved successful. Not only were 90% of the incoming rockets destroyed, the system demonstrated the capacity select which projectiles to intercept and which ones to let go. Amazing capacity, indeed. Of course, the rockets came from Iran as Hamas acknowledged. The Iranians now have a reading on what their missiles can not do and must be taking a long, hard, second look at the results. Iran could now be more ready to negotiate because they must recognize their own limitations.

The second surprise was Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s actions immediately after the cease fire. Recognized as playing a key role in negotiations, Morse went home and gave himself dictatorial powers. He unilaterally neutralized the judicial system by barring the courts from challenging his decisions. This move gave protection to the Islamist dominated assembly writing a new constitution because the court held the possibility of a dissolution of the Assembly.

Morsi supporters in the Moslem Brotherhood immediately clashed with liberals who feared the rise of a new dictatorship. In Alexandria, anti-Morsi opponents attacked the Brotherhood and the protests are far from over. And where is the military in this upheaval? Nothing has been heard from the generals who were demoted as Morsi rose in power. If the tanks and troops came back on the streets, Morsi would be in big trouble. The issue is far from settled.

So, did Hamas win something or the other? I don’t thinks so. They are luck to be alive!

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