Today is the second day of the agreed upon three-day ceasefire. Hamas has threatened not to renew the ceasefire when it expires – unless there is an agreement in place. I just heard Finance Minister Lapid warn Hamas, once again, that they had better not resume firing – because this time (as opposed to last time) we will respond with great force ... Of course, that is the same thing Lapid threatened before. Every Israeli commentator whom I have heard questioned today refused to predict whether or not firing would resume tomorrow at midnight. While visiting a Naval base earlier today, Defense Minister Ya’alon said – this war was not over. I am also not willing to hazard a guess on whether or not we will be running for cover come tomorrow – once again. Meanwhile, the community pool in the town of Sderot was crowded today for the first time this summer. The pool has been closed throughout all of the fighting.
I received two e-mails today from the school my son attends – one from the new Superintendent, and the other from the high school Principal. His school is scheduled to begin the academic school year this coming Monday. Both e-mails detailed the psychological services available for students who have been effected by the events of the past month. The radio is also full of programs discussing how to help children who have been negatively effected by sirens and rockets. A study conducted a few years ago concluded that 40% of the children living in Sderot (a town on the Gaza border which has been on the receiving end of rocket fire since 2001) suffer from PTSD. Israelis, myself included, get very frustrated when observers from abroad are dismissive of the Hamas missile fire. I do not think any major western city has heard the sound of air raid sirens since World War II, (with the exception of Tel Aviv during the Gulf War). Since the start of this current war we in Tel Aviv have heard those ground shaking vibrations, followed by the intercept blasts, with the corresponding sound of the explosions, nearly 40 times. I have no idea what the lasting effects of the events of the last month will be on the children of this country. I am sure it will be less devastating than the effects on the children of Gaza – a tragic reality, compounded by the fact that we did not start this Gaza war.
Even as the possible resumption of hostilities remain, Israel is dealing with the consequences of the war. First, attention has being directed toward the appointment of a Board of Inquiry by the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate possible war crimes committed by the IDF. There was particular anger, followed later by amusement at the appointment of William Shabas to head the committee. Shabas has called for Prime Minister Netanyahu to be hauled before the Court of International Justice, in the Hague, to answer for crimes during Operation Cast Lead. This statement belies both Shabas' “neutrality” and his ignorance. Netanyahu was not in the government in 2008 during Operation Cast Lead. Ehud Olmert was the Prime Minister at that time. Israel plans to take steps to blunt any biased probe of its conduct by creating an independent commission (that will include internationally known jurists) to investigate all of the events that took place in the recent fighting.
Israel is also dealing with the economic consequences of the war. The Defense Ministry has demanded $4 billion increase in its budget – over the next two years – because of the war. Before the war, budgetary discussions in the Knesset primarily focused on how to cut the defense budget. One of the leading items in the news today in Israel was the scene from the Knesset Budget Committee. In one of the unique features of the Israeli political system, that committee has the ability to unilaterally approve the transfer of funds from one ministry to another. Today, when Stav Shafir, (who had been one of the key leaders of Israeli social protest movement 3 years ago, and is now a member of the Knesset Budget committee) objected to the transfer of approximately $800 million to the Defense Ministry from other ministry budgets without any discussion, the chairman of the committee had her forcibly removed from the meeting. The next few days should be anything but boring.