We''re at a junction, as complex as any where two or three major highways come together, with too many signs to be anything other than confusing,
On Tuesday we were still in a limping forward cease-fire, with confusing signals from Palestinians and Israelis about their willingness to accept the imperfect, along with threats about what could happen.
Mahmoud Abbas has been maneuvering for a role in Gaza. He is the most prominent of Palestinians saying that the unity Palestine National Authority must accept what the the Egyptians have offered, and continue to negotiate within its framework.
Among what is muddled is the status of the united Palestine Authority. It came together a month before the onset of violence that brought us to this point, and the role of Hamas in the unity never was certain.
Abbas sees an opening for him, his Fatah party, and security forces loyal to him in monitoring the borders between Gaza, Israel, and Egypt.
Various spokesmen of Hamas have indicated their acceptance of such a role, but Palestinian history cautions against any expectations.
Involved here is a report about a wave of Israeli arrests in the West Bank meant to frustrate a Hamas plot to seize control from Abbas and his colleagues.
Khalid Mashal, who sits in Qatar and claims to be the supreme leader of Hamas, along with some Hamas figures located in Gaza, have indicated their rejection of anything that does not give them open borders and the early development of air- and seaports.
Other prominent Hamas figures, and some claiming leadership of various Jihadist organizations, have signaled their recognition of being weakened by the IDF, their need of an extended cease fire.
However, some have spoken of replenishing their missiles and tunnels, saying that "all options are on the table." This threatens renewed bombardment of Israeli cities. Some have claimed that new missiles will know how to evade Israel''s Iron Dome.
Israelis are no more united than Palestinians.
The most recent demonstration at Tel Aviv''s central square, named from Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated there at the close of a rally in 1995, was said to have attracted "thousands" in opposition to any continued violence. Meretz and Peace Now organized it, with Labor Party leaders conspicuous by their absence.
Specific estimates at 5,000 indicate the weakness of the left, in comparison with the estimated 30,000 who appeared at an earlier rally in the same place in behalf of doing what would be necessary to assure continued quiet for the people living near Gaza.
The Israeli government as well as its inner Security Cabinet are divided. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya''alon are the centrists, who have resisted demands for an all-out conquest of Gaza and destruction of Hamas. Tsipi Livni, who failed to reach an accord with the Palestinians in the negotiations sponsored by John Kerry, continues to promote Mahmoud Abbas as a partner for peace. She has spoken forcefully against negotiations with, or concessions to Hamas. Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) and Gilad Erdan (Likud) are the hawks in the Security Cabinet, speaking in support of further actions against Hamas. Yair Lapid demands quiet for the people living near Gaza, and has been critical of the Prime Minister for endangering relations with the United States. He has proposed a conference that would give roles to influence the future of Gaza and Israel to Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as Egypt and Palestine (West Bank) along with the US, UN, and the EU. No other member of the Security Cabinet has responded positively to this proposal.
The Prime Minister''s moderate posture (against demands for more extensive military action, and standing against party colleagues within the government, and even extreme demands from Likud back benchers in the Knesset) is far removed from demands to drag him to an international judiciary dealing with charges of war crimes, as heard from the man chosen by the UN Council on Human Rights to assess Israel''s (but not Hamas'') actions.
The cartoonist of Ha''aretz is not in Netanyahu''s corner. He is showing the Prime Minister riding an elephant, and performing a Hannibal action, which destroyed much of Rafah in southern Gaza in order to foil Hamas efforts to seize an Israeli soldier. In this cartoon, the Prime Minister is making a mess of Israel and its relations with the United States.
Not at the center of things while most attention is on Gaza, but not too far away are worries about increased Arab violence in the West Bank, neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and northern Israel. The IDF, police, and other security services have arrested hundreds, Arab demonstrators have been injured and killed. None with standing has yet declared the onset of a Third Intifada, but the possibility is in the air.
Along with this, one of the most outspoken of Israel''s soldiers is a senior commander, a Druze from the north, who was injured, hospitalized, and went against physicians'' orders to leave the hospital and go back to Gaza. We have also heard expressions of loyalty from young people who describe themselves as Arabic speaking, Israeli Christians, who are proud to serve in the IDF in defense of their country.
Prominent in the media for several days were demands of extremist Jews--religious and nationalists--to halt the marriage of a Jewish woman with an Arab. The wedding occurred to the noise of competing demonstrations, police protection, and threats of a boycott against the hall where the celebration occurred.
The couple has been together for five years. The woman converted to Islam (far easier than the man converting to Judaism), which permitted a marriage in this country of convoluted regulations.
In a spirit that the public should stay away from private decisions, we should wish the young couple success and happiness, and hope for the same from those charged with making decisions on the public agenda.