Hamas finally found a way to get to the average resident of Tel Aviv. A few days ago, they attacked at 2:30 in the morning. Much of Tel Aviv was still awake, so it did not bother people too much. But, this morning, they fired on Tel Aviv at 6:00 AM on a Saturday, waking up much of Tel Aviv hours before they normally awake on a Saturday. I took a walk at 7:00 AM this Saturday morning, a time at which Tel Aviv is usually deserted, and the coffee houses were crowded with people whose sleep had been disturbed.
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke tonight to the Israeli people. Most commentators were expecting him to announce the end of the mission. Instead, he stated that Israel will continue until it brings about quiet to the South and the country at large. He stated that almost all of the tunnels have been destroyed and the last ones will soon be destroyed. Thus, Israel will begin redeploying its troops and will not be withdrawing them. Israel will deploy its troops to positions that meet the country’s security needs. Netanyahu’s remarks, and those of Defense Minister Ya’alon, reflect the decision made last night by the the security cabinet, which met for five hours to discuss the next steps. It was decided not to change the goals of the “operation” as the government is still calling it (instead of war). On the other hand, it was decided not to enter any negotiations with Hamas regarding a ceasefire. Israel is no longer interested in reaching any ceasefire agreements with Hamas, since Hamas has violated every agreement to date. Netanyahu is clearly saying to Hamas that they are not going to get anything politically,since we can live with War of Attrition.
The Israeli army has officialy declared Lieutenant Goldin dead. Forensic evidence found at the scene proved that he was dead before his body was taken. A committee of Rabbis agreed with the army findings and officially declared him dead, and the family was notified tonight. When the attack took place the deputy commander of the unit ignored standing orders and entered the tunnel to try to stop the Hamas fighters. But, they were not able to capture them and realized that his men in the unknown tunnel were essentially sitting ducks, and pulled back. Hamas claims to have no knowledge of the status of Goldin. The Israeli army believes Hamas is lying.
Israelis are very divided on what the next steps should be. 70% of Israelis believe that Netanyahu is doing a good job. 32% of Israelis believe that Israel should go all the way and topple Hamas. 60% of Israelis believe that if the war ends with the destruction of the tunnels, then we will have won.
The problem facing Israel is that its two choices are very difficult. Toppling Hamas is a major effort that will cost many lives. Israelis are very divided about whether that price is worth paying. There are those who say that there is no way to topple Hamas, and only a political solution can solve the problem. But, there are others who believe that no political solution can be found as long as Hamas is in power at all. Beyond that, there remains the fact that the cost on both side will be very high. In the last week, the support in Israel to go all the way has gone down. The general sense is that this will end and both sides will prepare for the next round. More then sixty years of unwanted wars have made Israelis fatalistic.