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So far so good. As of this moment Israel's cyber defenses have prevented any major cyber break-in. After some one hundred countries have reported a major cyber offensive around the globe, Prime Minister Netanyahu told the regular cabinet session today that Israel's cyber wall had stood the test. The country was waiting for Sunday when Israel goes back to work after the Sabbath when everything shuts down. The PM reported only 'very minor' cyber attempts were detected and there had been no penetration of vital strategic networks. He also disclosed that several years ago Israel had established a 'Governmental Authority' to protect Israel's vital institutions. This obviously referred to the IDF and a vast array of other potential military and civilian targets. Netanyahu did not reveal details, but it's a safe bet that Iran poses the greatest cyber threat to Israel.

Jordan feeling the heat of Syrian refugees…

May13th, East Jerusalem: A Jordanian tourist suddenly stabs an Israeli policeman in the neck and head. The wounded officer manages to fight off his attacker, draw his handgun, and shoot dead the terrorist. The police officer was rush to the hospital suffering from moderate stab wounds. An open-and-shut case? Not to King Abdullah in neighboring Jordan, whose father King Hussein signed a peace treaty with Israel's Yitzhak Rabin in 1994. Within hours an official Jordanian statement accused Israel of perpetrating a 'heinous crime' and demanded an explanation from the Israeli government:

       “The Israeli government, which is the occupying force, bears responsibility for the shooting of a Jordanian citizen in occupied East Jerusalem which led to his martyrdom.”

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu hit the roof:

       “It's time for Jordan to stop playing this double game. Just as Israel condemns terror attacks in Jordan, Jordan must condemn terror attacks in Israel. Terror is terror is terror wherever it is.”

Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein signing the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty (1994)

How can King Abdullah's absurd reaction be explained? For years Israel has served as Jordan's protector, preventing Syria from trying to overthrow the Hashemite Kingdom. Abdullah must be very worried about the vicious civil war raging on his northern border with Syria and the new presence of all sorts of potential enemies. His new neighbors include Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Daesh, you name it. Therefore, King Abdullah is more dependent than ever on having a strong ally like Israel watching his back. However, an offshoot from the Syrian civil war, are the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan. Even before their sudden arrival, Palestinians in Jordan outnumbered the native residents of the Hashemite Kingdom. In other words, King Abdullah is very concerned about an ever-growing majority of foreign residents and is trying to publicly distance himself for the Jewish state, even by expressing his support for Muslim 'martyrdom' against the Jews. In this case, Bibi signaled Abdullah that this time the Jordanian condemnation had gone too far.

West Bank 'fake' elections…

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

On May 13th, Palestinians on the West Bank went to the polls, sort of - this is because only Fatah was in the running. Fatah's bitter and bloody rival Hamas, which rules Gaza, boycotted the ballot. On the eve of President Trump's visit, it raises the question of just who does Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas represent? Abbas does not visit Hamas, for fear of being thrown off a high-rise building, as were some of his Fatah colleagues in the past. Neither does Abbas represent several million Palestinian refugees and their descendants living abroad or in refugee camps. In light of this reality, we tend to refer more accurately to West Bank President Mahmoud Abbas. In fact, his mandate expired in 2009 when the Palestinians were supposed to have conducted an election that never took place. Question - if considering the democratic process, is Abbas serving illegally in office?

Enter a wounded President Trump…

The American leader will be arriving in the Middle East in a foul mood. The Comey-FBI affair has left Trump battered and bruised - and homo-sapiens should be considered as dangerous as any other wounded species in the animal kingdom. So, Bibi and Abbas had better be on their best behavior and play ball with the US President, who will want to fly home after succeeding to kick-start the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. After all, just a few short weeks ago Trump was basking in praise for taking a moral and military stand against Assad's use of chemical weapons, something Obama failed to do.) So, it makes sense that Trump will want to ease his present domestic woes by gaining some praise in the international arena.

Neither Abbas nor Bibi, are stupid. Abbas has reiterated that he is ready to meet Bibi, after boycotting any direct negotiations for years. Bibi has also deigned to take Trump's advice and hold off on West Bank settlement building. So, the first step has been taken, now comes the second - moving forward with establishing a framework for keeping the ball rolling. This could also include some mutual good-will gestures. Bibi will have to buck far Right opposition both in his own Likud party and his government coalition. Bibi should be able to persuade his Likudniks to lie low and let the Palestinians take the rap for not for not cooperating with Trump. However, the far-Right Jewish Home party has risen on an almost fanatical demand for unlimited Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria and to reject the two- state solution. Party leader Naftali Bennett has just called publicly on Bibi to desist from his 'bunker-like' defensive position. Without doubt the Far Right is concerned about media reports that Trump plans on pressing Bibi to make some good-will gestures to Abbas and that the President may also declare his support for Palestinian self-determination. In addition, Ha'aretz newspaper has reported that Abbas has agreed to renew peace talks from where they ended with former Prime Minister Ehud which is a far cry from what Bibi or his coalition would accept.

After former President Barack Obama dumped Saudi Arabia in favor of the nuclear deal with Iran, Trump will reportedly do a retake. A White House source has disclosed that when he kicks off his trip in Riyadh, Trump will announce a huge $300 billion arms deal with the Saudis. Saudi Arabia, like Israel, is deeply concerned with the ascendancy of Iran. This has led to a recent closing of ranks between Israel and Saudi Arabia. On Jan. 3, 2016, a mob ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran which inspired Riyadh to sever diplomatic relations. In neighboring Yemen, Saudi forces are backing the government that is battling Iranian supported Houthi rebels. The new arms deal with Saudi Arabia indicates that Trump is restoring America's support for its Middle East allies - relations that were jettisoned by Obama in his rush for a deal with Tehran.


David Essing

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