It is day twelve of our war with Hamas and it certainly not looking like a quick war. Last night, we had friends from the United States over for dinner. We had spent ten years convincing them to come visit Israel, assuring them not to worry as it is really a safe place. They arrived two weeks ago, and left last night. Before leaving, they came back to Tel Aviv just to have dinner with us. Before dinner, they went to the beach and had the opportunity to experience an attempted rocket attack on Tel Aviv. There, they had the chance to crowd into a public safe room alongside a public bathroom. As our dinner ended, and they were set to head for the airport, Hamas decided to give them a sendoff, and the sirens once again went off. We all crowded into our safe zone. When the sirens ended, they headed off for the airport to go back home.
Most Saturday mornings, I bike to an area in North Tel Aviv and spend an hour walking along the quiet beach. That was out of the question today, since there is no place along that beach to take cover. So, instead, I walked with my son to the nearest beach - a 15 minute walk from my home. The beach was relatively empty for a Saturday morning.
I spoke to a few of the people there. There was one group, which consisted of two middle age couples who said they had been coming to the same spot every Saturday morning for 20 years. Nothing would stop them from getting together. They called themselves a parliament, which is local term for a group of people who get together regularly to discuss the situation. As a group, they were very satisfied with the way that the Netanyahu government was conducting itself, even though they were not Netanyahu supporters. One of them stated that he felt the operation had been important in helping solidify Israel’s deterrent status, especially with Hezbollah in Lebanon and with Iran, who now would have to be very concerned that their missiles would be intercepted and thus would be less likely to attack. They were all concerned about the economic costs of the operation. And, like everyone, they were concerned for the wellbeing of the troops. They were also concerned with what would be the day after. I had a second conversation with a British immigrant who has been here for three years. He was at the beach we were at and not the one he usually goes to with his 1 year old daughter, since this beach had a safe place to run to if the sirens went off. He was more pessimistic than the first group and was very concerned that the government had no long-term plan to make peace. When asked if we could make peace even if we were willing to make all of the needed concessions, he was hesitant, saying we live in a very tough neighborhood.
On the military front it has been a a mixed day. Two Israeli soldiers were killed when Hamas fighters used one of the tunnels that run into Israel and emerged to see an army jeep carrying unit commanders. They opened fire on the jeep with an RGP and killed two of the passengers. The soldiers returned fire and the Hamas unit that was planning to attack a nearby Kibbutz returned to Gaza after losing one of their members. In a second incident, two Hamas members emerged from a tunnel inside Israel where an army bulldozer was working. They were run over and killed by the bulldozer. Tranquilizers were found on their bodies, as their plan was to kidnap Israelis. The army activities inside Gaza went well, with additional tunnels found and destroyed and Israeli troops sustaining only a few lightly- wounded troops. Special forces have been operating in other parts of Gaza, trying to attack missile sites. Tragically, Hamas fired a missile towards Israel’s nuclear plant in Dimona. But, instead, they hit a Bedouin encampment in the desert and one man was killed, with four other wounded.
There seems to be no diplomatic movement, with Hamas unwilling to reach a ceasefire on any terms that are nearly acceptable to either Israel or Egypt. Egypt, who Israel is familiar with as a good mediator in situations like this, currently see Hamas as a greater enemy than even Israel does and thus is not rushing to work hard as a mediator. With no diplomatic solution on the horizon, and without the Hamas seemingly feeling enough pressure, the sense in Israel is that the government will decide in the next day or two to expand the ground operations in order to put additional pressure on Hamas. At the moment, there is very little optimism that this war will end anytime soon.