This was a day of reflection in Israel . The number of rockets falling on Israel’s cities has lessened in the last few days. While Hamas has continued to send rockets to the center of the country, the numbers of rockets have dropped off by 50%. One more person in Israel, however, died - a Thai worker working in one of the hot houses at a Moshav not far from Gaza was killed by mortar fire.
In the field, three Israeli soldiers were killed when a building they were entering was blown up. Israel destroyed an empty hospital that was used as a command center by the Hamas. The number of tunnels dug to go into Israel has risen to 26, and the sense is that there are more.
Two both heartwarming and simultaneously sad events have occurred in the last two days. Two funerals of American citizens- two young people who decided to come to Israel and fight in the Israeli army- were killed in the current war and were buried this week. In both cases, the two soldiers were considered lone soldiers - soldiers who are here without parents. And, in both cases, the word spread on Social Media for the average Israelis to attend the funerals so that they should not be lone at the time of their internment. 40,000 people showed up in Haifa for the funeral of Sean Carmeli and 30,000 showed up to the funeral of Max Steinberg of Los Angeles today on Mt Herzl.
Last night, I came across two very interesting groups of people. Earlier in the evening, I briefly joined a group made up of Jewish and Palestinian victims of the conflict. They were clearly calling for an end to the fighting, of course without a very clear plan. Much later in the evening, while I was on my nightly bicycle ride, I came across a large group holding, what looked like, a heated discussion in the middle of Rabin Square ( the main Public square in the Tel Aviv). I stopped to try and assess what was going on, and it turned out that it was the same group of both leftest and rightest who, in the previous few days of the conflict, had come to blows over demonstrations against the war. This time, however, they decided that instead of pushing and shoving, they would sit down and talk. The talking went on for hours. I stayed until 3:30 AM. Can I say that they reached any understanding? No, the distance between the right and left in Israel is very large, with most of the country in the middle. But, it was positive to see them talking and trying to understand each other instead of resorting to violence.
There was a growing sense of frustration with the Obama administration today among the average Israeli, on a number of different levels. First and foremost, there is the FAA decision to stop flights to Israel. The sense is that maybe it was okay; that yesterday ,a bureaucrat on the FAA could decide, based on certain rules, to stop the flights to Israel of US Carriers. But, the decision today to extend it is one that should have been stopped by the White House. The FAA is, after all, an executive agency. Tonight (Israel time), the State Department spokesman spoke about the fact that there are missiles that can reach Ben Gurion Airport. Why she had to state that is an interesting question. There is also resentment regarding Secretary of State Kerry deciding to spend all of his efforts on reaching a ceasefire here. In this case, it looks like his efforts are most likely coming in terms of pressure on Israel. Reports, at the moment, seem to indicate that he is pressuring Israel to accept a 5 day temporary ceasefire. Until now, Israel has demanded a permanent ceasefire, fearing that 5 days will only be used by Hamas to improve its tactical situation.
The major questions that Israelis are asking themselves, with so many complicated and difficult problems occurring in the world at the same time (especially an ongoing war in the Ukraine, not to mention the ongoing slaughter in Syria/iraq where hundreds have been dying every day) is why has Secretary of State Kerry and the Obama Administration have decided that this is the one problem it needs to solve. Why is it is now trying to solve this problem by trying to pressure Israel in different ways to do so? Maybe it is because President Obama seems to have no leverage over the Russians, the Iranians, the Syrians, or the Iraqis and feels that he can exert his limited powers in the one place that he has some leverage- namely, Israel.
Tonight, once again there are rumors in the air that there will indeed be a ceasefire in the coming hours. However, the latest speech by Halid Mashal, the head of Hamas, seems to indicate that while Secretary of State Kerry and others keep spinning ideas regarding bringing about a ceasefire, Hamas does not seem willing to compromise. He stated that Hamas is not stupid and they will not agree to a temporary ceasefire without achieving their goals. Tonight the Israeli government seems to have gotten the message and believes that the time is not ripe for a ceasefire. Kerry in the meantime has headed back to Cairo.