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August 25, 2014 Seven Weeks of War with Hamas

by Marc Schulman

It has been another day of something between war and peace in Tel Aviv. This war began seven weeks ago tonight. Yesterday came and went without any sirens on Tel Aviv. One missile was fired in our general direction, but it fell in an open area. Last night my daughter (who finished her army service earlier in the year) returned after four months abroad. We all hoped that she would bring the good luck that would end the war. As a matter of fact, as I was waiting for her to emerge from customs, in the wee hours of the morning, my twitter feed became full of Palestinian sources claiming that a ceasefire agreement was imminent. Of course these seemed to be the same sources who claimed that an agreement was on verge of being signed last week. This morning at around 8:00 am alert sirens went off twice in Tel Aviv. They both turned out to be just a false alarm. This evening, as I was writing this piece, Hamas tried firing in the general direction of Ben-Gurion Airport, which they seem to have missed. That rocket was heading toward the suburbs of Tel Aviv. It was intercepted by Iron Dome. Since this is a small country, I could hear the missile interception from my bedroom window in downtown Tel Aviv. Tonight another missile fell on Nothern Israel from Lebanon. When it happened a few days ago Israel decided not to retaliate leaving to the Lebanese, since they were not effective in stopping the new rocket fire, Israel has responded with artillery fire on Lebanon.

The people in Tel Aviv went about their business today. They have long internalized the realities of having to possibly run for cover. However, as the number of missiles fired keeps decreasing, the intermittent need to quickly find shelter seems to have become – slowly, but surely – a minor nuisance in life. Needless to say, what is a minor nuisance in Tel Aviv, dominates the life of those who live near Gaza. As Hamas has been running low on its long range missiles, and even depleting its reserve of medium range missiles, it is turning more and more to launching its short range mortars.

Hamas has been firing on the settlements around Gaza in larger and larger numbers. As of 9 PM this evening, Hamas launched 130 rockets Israel today – the overwhelming majority of these missiles landed in the area immediately surrounding Gaza. Most of the Israelis living near Gaza have decided to take extended vacations until the fighting ends. While there has been some controversy regarding this issue, almost all of the country understands the decisions of these fellow Israelis. If anything, there has been anger at the government for not doing a better job providing for these residents. Israel knows where most of the mortars are located. Many are located in schools and refugee camps. Tonight, Israel warned those currently in the school in which the mortars that killed Daniel Tregerman were located to leave the building (since it is planning to bomb the mortar stockpile.)

Israel has been engaging in what appears to be a contradictory policy in the past few days. On one hand, it has been more aggressive in its attacks on Hamas targets. It seems to be doing its best – successfully – to limit civilian deaths. This translates into fewer attacks, but attacks on higher value targets (including more attacks on the leadership of Hamas and the other military organizations in Gaza.) One the other hand, with this strategy the chances of something going wrong are high, and Hamas is hoping that Israel will accidentally kill a large number of civilians.

There continue to be reports of a ceasefire being imminent. The Egyptian plan calls for a one month ceasefire, followed by discussions on the major issues – e.g. a port and disarmament. So far, everyone but Hamas seems to have accepted the plan. As of now, Hamas has not insisted on guarantees that its demands on issue such as the port be met up front. It is very hard to analyze what chances exist for a successful ceasefire. From the very beginning of this offensive, the accepted wisdom in Israel was that Hamas did not want this war, and as such, that it would accept the first ceasefire ... then, the second ceasefire ... then, the third ceasefire; Will Hamas accept this one? ...

One clear victim of this war has been the popularity of Prime Minister Netanyahu. President Obama can no longer be jealous, as he seemed in the interview with Jeffery Goldberg with regard to his counterpart's popularity. On July 23rd 2014, 82% of those polled were satisfied with the performance of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Tonight that figure stands at 38%, representing a 44% drop in one month. Netanyahu joins the long list of Israeli Prime Minsters whose popularity was very high when a war began, and plummeted by the end.

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