Tag Archives: West Bank


BLOG 479
July 20, 2020



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.


For the last month, I’ve been exploring the implications of the impending annexation of 30% of the West Bank by Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu grabbed President Trump’s coattails and announced on July 1, he would begin seizure of the land in the area of Judea and Samaria. The world reacted negatively, both inside and outside of Israel.

Guess what? Suddenly the grab is gone. What’s happening?

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin has acknowledged in private conversations that no attention is currently being given in Washington to the Israeli plans to annex, according to a Tuesday Army Radio report. As a result, Levin reportedly said, the controversial move will likely have to be placed on the back burner as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not move forward without coordinating with the Trump administration. The US administration’s attention is elsewhere, the report claimed Levin had said, and “it is not listening” when it comes to annexation.

While similar comments have been made in recent weeks by Likud officials who have acknowledged that the spiraling pandemic has forced the attention of world leaders to turn to other issues, Levin is one of only a handful of Israeli officials who have been deeply involved in talks with American officials regarding the Trump plan’s implementation and ramifications.

Levin also sits on the seven-member joint US-Israeli mapping committee that has been tasked with drawing up the exact parameters for annexation that Washington would be willing to accept. The committee’s progress has been slowed by the pandemic, with Netanyahu telling settler leaders that the maps have yet to be finalized. Settler leaders responded angrily to Tuesday’s Army Radio report, asserting that US approval is not needed for Israel to move forward with annexation. “There is no need to wait for anyone. This move depends solely on us. It is time to keep the promises made and apply [Israeli] sovereignty [to the West Bank] regardless of any factor.”

There you have the latest. All of Netanyahu’s huff and puff about annexation went up in political smoke. Israel really depends on American politics to that extent? You bet.

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Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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Filed under COVID-19, Gaza, Israel, The Middle East, Trump


BLOG 472
May 18, 2020

playing wmatches


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.


My mother use to say that playing with fire was a good way to get burned. This past week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was warned that he’s fiddlin’ with fire. Standing in the shadows is President Donald Trump who is carrying a can of gasoline, waiting to serve his own purposes. Here’s the situation.

Jordan’s king warned of ‘massive conflict’ if Israel annexed land in West Bank.
Abdullah did not rule out suspending any peace deal with the Jewish state and insisted the two-state solution was ‘the only way forward.’ King Abdullah has warned that should Israel move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, it would lead to a “massive conflict” with his country, and did not rule out pulling out of Amman’s peace deal with the Jewish state. In an interview published Friday by the German daily Der Spiegel, Abdullah insisted that a two-state solution was “the only way forward” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Because of the on-going conflict with the Palestinians, many Israelis considered a two-state solution dead. Netanyahu is in that camp. The question becomes whether the Israeli public would support a move that could wreck their country and profoundly unsettle their lives.

The question that follows is what would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed. The Times of Israel reports Abdullah’s answer is, “There would be more chaos and extremism in the region. If Israel really annexed the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. When asked by his interviewer about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention to take advantage of the opportunity that US President Donald Trump has created to seize large parts of Palestine, he said, “I don’t want to make threats and create an atmosphere of loggerheads, but we are considering all options. We agree with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of strength should not apply in the Middle East.

Dangerous indeed!

During the Arafat era, huge numbers of Palestinians fled to Jordan. Today a large portion of Jordan’s population comes from that migration. Abdullah knows that leaders who advocate a one state solution have no idea what that would mean for the entire Middle East.

Several European nations led by France, and including Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg, have reportedly expressed support for threats of punitive action in a bid to deter the new Israeli government (set to be sworn in on Sunday) from carrying out the move with a green light from Washington.

Alone among most governments, the Trump administration has said it will support the annexation of West Bank territory as long as Israel agrees to enter peace talks. US Ambassador David Friedman said last week that Washington is ready to recognize Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank should it be declared in the coming weeks.

Harper-Collins Publishers
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise

You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.

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Filed under America, Gaza, Israel, Jews, Palestinians, The Middle East, Trump


BLOG 452
November 25, 2019

countdown 1


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.


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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Filed under America, Gaza, History, The Middle East


BLOG 380 January 29, 2018


In a continuing analysis of the current situation in Israel and the West Bank since President Trump announced the USA would move their embassy to Jerusalem, a number of re-positioning’s have occurred. As expected, most of the Arab world grumbled, but did nothing because it was in their best interest to stay on solid footing with Washington. They remain far more concerned with Iran. However, the Palestinians went ballistic.

Because they are now losing “big time,” Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the US in every possible way and declared America was no longer a fair negotiator in the peace process, characterized Trump’s move as criminal, and a gift to the Zionist Movement. For two hours, Abbas talked endlessly of Trump abandoning the peace process. Vice-President Pence was snubbed when he came through. Washington responded that Abbas’ accusations were far from the truth. Another “he said,” “she said,” exchange.

Taking the problem one step further, Trump was irate at the rejection of Pence and made the bold statement, “Money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.” Previous US presidents have been irritated with the Palestinian opposition and obstinacy, but none threatened to cut off assistance if the Palestinians didn’t negotiate.

The issue now before the world is would the PA collapse if the USA cut off all funding? A major problem indeed!

An issue that has long wrangled American politicians is that the PA uses American assistance to fund terrorists and their families. American taxpayers find rewarding terrorists to be particularly abhorrent. Responding to this issue, The House Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have approved th Taylor Force legislation which would force the PA to choose between US assistance and their morally reprehensible policy of funding terrorist. If approved, the legislation could bring the house down on the PA.

What next? The frightening possibly would be Abbas being replace by a more radical group like Hama. No negotiations would follow this entity and American security interest would be hurt.

However, what is ahead is fundamentally in the hands of the Palestinians. Trump has emboldened the Israelites and pushed the Palestinians further back in the corner. They know it and can only scream.

But before we draw any conclusions, it is well to remember that the sun always rises on the unexpected in the Middle East. Let’s hope this does not mean more killing.

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Filed under Israel, middle east, Palestinians


BLOG 376 December 18, 2017

The cost of President Trump’s arbitrary decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem and recognize it as the solidarity capital of Israel has mounted during the last week. Here’s some of the aftermath.

Four Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded. Eighty were known downed or wounded. Westerns often don’t realize many Arab Palestinians are Christian and caught up in the chaos. All of America’s allies stood firm in opposing Trump’s arbitrary action. Seeing an opportunity for change, Prime Minister Netanyahu flew to Brussels to ask for members of the European Union to follow Trump’s lead. Their answer was a firm no. Netanyahu then turned to French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. Once more, the Israeli Prime Minister received an emphatic no. Czech foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek said Monday that Trump’s announcement last week “can’t help us.”  All want an international commission to settle these issues with a two-state solution. They all had harsh words for Trump.

That’s the response from America’s friends.

In Palestine, President Mahmoud Abbas called for the United Nations to replace Washington as a Mideast mediator and suggested he would not cooperate with the Trump administration’s effort for Israeli-Palestinians. Abbas considers Trump’s actions to disqualify the United States as a participant in any further negotiations. Moreover, Abbas will not meet with Vice-President Pence’s visit to the Middle East. In other words, Trumps action has hung his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s efforts to head a peace delegation out to dry.

The Middle East peace process is in shambles.

Anticipating this response, the Jewish community remains divided with most opposed to President Trump’s action.

Where does the Middle East go from here? Critics of Israel, who claim the country is an occupier imposing their will on the Palestinian minority, are emboldened by Trump’s action. Many will see Israel as becoming further isolated.

Within Israel many citizens have already decided a two-state solution is not possible. In the West Bank, many young Palestinians agree. Their position is, “Let’s make one state and then we’ll insist on civil rights. The Jews will succumb to ethical pressure and be forced to treat as equals. There will be more Arabs than Israelis and we will win by default.” The Israeli government is certainly aware of this position.

What’s ahead? Peace? Sorry. I’m afraid not. More chaos to follow.

YOU CAN PUT THE MIDDLE-EAST INTO PERSPECTIVE WITH Robert L. Wise’s Bible Land’s: An Illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places published by Barbour Books.

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Filed under America, Bible Lands, Israel, middle east


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 330 December 19, 2019


            In our last blog, we looked at the Palestinian struggle in the West Bank and Gaza areas. Not a good scene.

Regardless of where they came from or their claims, the Palestinians are human beings living in the midst of an ongoing and unresolved struggle. As of this past week, it appears matters will get worse. The incoming Trump administration appears to be plowing ahead to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ambassador to Israel nominee David Friedman who rejects a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Friedman supports Israel annexing a large section of the West Bank. Such a move would effectively eliminate a Palestinian state. Once again, the Palestinians could be pushed against the wall.

As Abba Ebon once note, “the Arabs never miss the opportunity to miss the opportunity.” A remark no longer funny or ironic if one is a Palestinian.

Building on the information I sketched out last week, let’s look at Gaza City. Nearly two years after the 50-Day War, the Gaza Strip remains in ruins. Piles of broken concrete are everywhere. Because of the fear of new violence, international donors haven’t met their pledges. Out of the nearly 18,000 destroyed homes hardly a single house has been rebuilt. One reason is that sacks of cement ended up on Gaza’s black market and much of the substance for building has been used in creating militant’s attack tunnels. Bags of the mix sit untouched. A year ago, it was estimated that 37,000 tons of cement still sat unused in warehouses. After authorities get through blaming each other, families without homes are still living in tents in refugee camps!

Camp life isn’t exactly positive (to say the least). For example, in the Shuafat Refugee Camp there are no laws in spite of the fact, the camp is near Jerusalem. Life is marginal.

And who is to blame? It’s easy to say Israel created the mess, but that’s a vast over simplification. Yasser Arafat had a national state in hand and walked out of the conference because his actual objective was the total destruction of Israel. What prompted the 50-Day war was Palestinian militants firing rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Tit-for-tat leaves the blame on both sides.

The leadership of Hamas and Hezbullah are equally guilty. The leadership of these groups has emptied their coffers into their own pockets, making themselves extraordinarily wealth while nothing is spent on the human needs of their Palestinian followers. Their one goal is the same as was Arafat’s.

Are the Israelis insensitive to this situation? Many are. But they would answer that Arab knife attacks on their children and women gives them no reason to worry about their enemy’s well-being. The “knife intifada” continues to this day.

And so the immigrations out of this land continue while the death toll mounts.

The coming months do not appear good for the Palestinians. And they remain human beings worthy of our concern. The time has come to transcend politics, but will we? Probably not.

Merry Christmas from the West Bank.


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Everyone is sickened by the death of women and children in Gaza’s death toll of over 1,830 Palestinians in the military skirmish. The 64 Israeli casualties were all soldiers. Hamas fired 3,200 rockets at Israel during the battle and the rockets were destroyed or hit virtually nothing. The Iron Dome defense held. Gaza had no such defense.

Because Hamas used civilians as human shields, blame will be placed on Israel by those who already are negative. In America, 53% of citizens 65 or older blame Hamas. On the other hand, only 29% of citizens aged 18 to 29 support Israel. Growing numbers of Europeans believe that not to be angry at Israel is tantamount to not having a conscience. Of course, part of the growth of European anti-Semitism is in the expanding large Muslim communities.

So, where are we today? Probably the depressing reality is that the Gaza conflict is heading toward a familiar conclusion. People get killed; nothing changes. Some groups will probably attempt to create a U.N. condemnation of alleged war crimes committed by Israel. The Palestinian Authority (PA) may make another attempt to gain recognition as a state. Probably neither of those approaches will produce any significant result. Mahmoud Abbas will go hobbling along affecting little, but making extreme accusations. Benjamin Netanyahu will continue building settlements to put the squeeze on the PA. A weak PA and a defeated Hamas will create a void that well may attempt to be filled by jihadists like ISIS or al-Qaida. The struggle continues.

A new shift may follow as Israel demands not only recognition of their right to exist, but may demand a long-term military presence in the West Bank. Increasing numbers of Israelis already question whether a two-state solution is possible. Many Arabs have already become Israeli citizens because they believe this is the only possible alternative for a productive life. Unless some significant action is taken, Hamas will again be trying to smuggle weapons into Gaza while manufacturing there own rockets in people’s homes. Israel wants to see the international community halt arms shipments from Iran and Sudan. But will they?

Many Arabs are already opposed to Hamas. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates view Hamas as frightening extremists that pose a threat to peace and tranquility in the entire region. By its own actions, Hamas has isolated itself. Now is the time for Israel to stop their warring capacities if Isrealis are to be secure.

Thoughtful citizens in Gaza must recognize that Hamas has only made their lives worse. Will they? At the least, they won’t say so out loud, but they will be thinking. The Hamas strategy of using humans as shields with schools, hospitals, mosques as rocket launching sites has cost the average citizen dearly. At the same time, the hatred of Israel only deepens. The problem is that with over 1,800 deaths, a new generation of young people will rise up bent on revenge even at the cost of their own lives. And the war starts over again.

Sorry. That’s all I can see.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Palestinians, War


The current warfare with Israel began because Hamas kept firing rockets into Israel and dug tunnels under the border to infiltrate Israel with night attacks. In response, Israel has flattened Gaza City that is controlled by Hamas. To date, the Palestinian death toll has topped 1,030 with only 45 Israeli soldiers killed in battle. Gaza City now looks like a junk pile. Over this past weekend, CBS journalist Charlie Rose ask Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas, if he would ever accept the existence of the state of Israel. His answer?  No.

Before the current altercation began, matters were not good for Hamas. The suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ended their hopes of ties with that country. Funds were lost and the borders closed. Residents of Gaza were bottled up. One would conclude a cease-fire would be a no brainer. Sorry. That’s not how Hamas thinks.

As I have reported in earlier blogs, the radical jihadist element views themselves in a holy war with Israel and the West. Religious wars are the most deadly of conflicts because the combatants believe God is on their side and they become blind to reason. In this case, hatred for the existence of Israel only fuels the fire. Khaled Meshal’s rejection of the state of Israel is a “to-the-death” response. Yasser Arafat had an agreement in sight, including receiving East Jerusalem as their capital and walked out because his only acceptable political solution was the annihilation of Israel. Political solutions are impossible in a climate of such hate.

This weekend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged Hamas with “double war crimes.” The first issues is firing rockets indiscriminately at Israel and the second is using and sacrificing Palestinians as human shields by placing rockets in schools, mosques, and residential neighborhoods.

To make matters worse, virtually all communication between Jews and Palestinians has ceased with mutual disdain and distrust existing on both sides. In past decades, normal communication existed, but today each side despises the other. And of course, Israel will not negotiate with a terrorist organization.

With the lopsided death toll, the pressure on Israel to cease fighting is increasing. Support from abroad is decreasing, but ironically, Netanyahu’s support within Israel has greatly risen. At recent poll showed more that 80% of Israelis applaud his efforts. A unified consensus in his cabinet supports  cleaning out the Hamas military operation before they stop fighting. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts have largely been rebuffed, again discrediting Kerry.

Israel will not disappear. It is a flourishing state with significant income from high tech developments, tourism, and agricultural. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority depends on outside financing to stay afloat. Virtually no economic developments within the West Bank are making a difference in their situation.

Obviously, a political settlement is needed. Israel must stop building new settlements in territory claimed by the West Bank Palestinians.  Attention must be giving to the economic plight of the citizens of Gaza who suffer greatly because of the blockade of their ports and exit routes.  Hamas must accept the state of Israel as legitimate and stop initiating attacks. Israel has a right to demand attacks stop. Will they?


The war goes on and the future is grim for the inhabitants of Gaza.

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