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August 20, 2014 Groundhog Day

by Marc Schulman

In many ways, I feel like we are living in Ground Hog's day. Everything in Tel Aviv (and in Israel in general) seems to have turned back five weeks – to the way things were at the beginning of the war. For one week there was silence. For one week television had returned to its normal broadcast schedule. Tonight, my favorite television channel is once again broadcasting from the roof of the city hall (where there is an excellent view of all of Tel Aviv, along with any Iron Dome missile interception that might happen.)

Until now Tel Aviv itself has been spared from any direct attacks and the sirens have not gone off. There was a missile launched toward Tel Aviv a little after 6PM tonight. The intercept was clearly visible from the porch of my apartment. Though had that missile landed it would have hit Tel Aviv, so the red alert sirens were not activated. There seems to be a policy to limit the use of the sirens, (at least in the center of the country), in attempts to limit the psychological effects on residents. Other parts of Israel have not been as fortunate. The South has been living under a constant barrage of missiles. As of 8PM, 170 rockets had been fired on Israel. Israel has responded with a continued series of air attacks on military targets in Gaza.

Economically, however, for business owners, things have gone back to the bad day of the early part of the war. I spoke to Assaf, owner of a restaurant on Dizengoff Street (one of Tel Aviv's main avenues). He confirmed what other business owner had told me – that business was down 50% this July. However, he pointed out that usually business normally grows 100% in July. Therefore, the true loss was 150%. Assaf blamed Prime Minister Netanyahu for not taking more vigorous actions. Whether they blame the Prime Minister or not, tonight most Israelis are confused and concerned. Nobody seems to be providing a clear answer on how, or when, this is going to end.

Netanyahu held a press conference tonight in Tel Aviv. I have rarely seen the Prime Minister as agitated as he was during tonight's conference. He spent an inordinate amount of time attacking his cabinet ministers for publicly criticizing him during the war. Israel has a rather unique political system, where important ministers are often political opponents from other parties (not that of the Prime Minister). During this war we have seen an unprecedented number of verbal assaults of Prime Minister Netanyahu by Foreign Minister Lieberman and by Economics Minister Bennett for not attacking Hamas more vigorously. Even a leading member of Netanyahu's own party, who is also a cabinet minister, felt it was appropriate to attack the Prime Minister tonight – during a live interview, on one of the evening news programs. In the rest of his brief statement and followup questions Netanyahu did not go beyond platitudes.

Much of the news media today was caught up with the question of whether or not Israel successfully assassinated Mohammed Deif, the military commander of the Hamas. Deif, who Israel has previously attempted to kill four other times, is the inventor of the suicide bus bombings, as well as a long list of other horrific terrorist methods. As of tonight, it is still not at all clear whether or not Deif is alive. Hamas claims that he is alive. However, tonight there are a number of indications, (including a slip by the Hamas spokesman who briefly referred to Deif as "a martyr", and the fact that the six 1 ton bombs landed on the house where Deff was thought to have been) that the mission was accomplished and Deif was most likely killed. This targeted bombing took place at around 9PM occurred hours after the ceasefire had been broken. Israel hoped that killing Deif would significantly impact Hamas. Many observers question whether that, in fact, will be true.

On a personal level, today was different in a number of ways. The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to check if there was a text from my son's school – to see if he was going to have a "missile day" (in contrast to the "snow days" he had known in the past). Since there was no such message, he went off to catch the bus to school early this morning. On a very different note, the soldier who I have mentioned a few times in this diary, and who lives with us part of the time, was supposed to get a 4-day leave starting yesterday. By the time he was let out yesterday it was too late to make it to Tel Aviv. Today, as he was heading here, he was informed he needs to report back to the South tomorrow morning. His leave is over, and once again he may soon be in harms way.

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