(photo credit: AP)
Israel is feeling "no real pressure" from the world to end the operation in the Gaza Strip, and the amount of time the international community will sit relatively quietly on the sidelines depends on how things develop, senior diplomatic officials said Sunday.
According to the officials, one errant IDF shell could bring to a dramatic end what has been described as "greater understating than you can imagine" for Israel's actions.
The officials' comments came even as Syria said it was calling off indirect talks with Israel as a result of the operation, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan referred to the operation as "crimes against humanity" and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the UK supported an "urgent cease-fire and immediate halt to all violence."
The seeming contradiction between the officials' comments about unprecedented international support, an assessment widely echoed throughout the diplomatic and security echelon on Sunday, and the harsh statements beginning to issue from capitals around the world was chalked up to a difference between what is being said in public and in private.
Publicly, Israeli officials maintain, some world leaders - especially leaders of Muslim states or countries with large Muslim populations - must harshly condemn Israel's actions to pacify public opinion, while privately they support them.
Israeli officials pointed to the tepid statement that emerged from the UN Security Council as proof that serious pressure on Israel to end the operation had not yet begun.
After more than four hours of deliberations on Saturday, the president of the Security Council read out a statement saying that the members of the body "expressed serious concern at the escalation of the situation in Gaza and called for an immediate halt to all violence. The members called on the parties to stop immediately all military activities."
One senior diplomatic official in Jerusalem said this was an extremely low-key statement, both in the manner in which it was delivered - as a press statement and not a resolution - and in the language.
Jerusalem was also taking solace from supportive comments that have come out of the US, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice holding Hamas responsible for the renewal of violence, and Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, saying that Israel "has a right, indeed a duty, to defend itself in response to the hundreds of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza over the past week."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, however, warned in Sunday's cabinet meeting that international understanding would not continue forever, and that the longer the operation continued, and the more civilians who were killed or wounded, the more the international community's efforts to put together a cease-fire would be stepped up.
Livni has spoken over the last two days with numerous counterparts from around the world, including those from the US, Russia, Britain, Italy, Spain, France and Turkey, as well as with EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana and Quartet envoy Tony Blair. She also spoke Sunday to some 60 ambassadors and representatives of embassies in Israel whom she took to Sderot.
The first concrete diplomatic casualty of the operation may be the indirect, Turkish-mediated talks with Syria. According to the Syrian press, Syria notified Turkey it was ceasing all indirect talks with Israel as a result of the operation.
One Syrian government official said "Israel's aggression closes all the doors" to any move toward a settlement in the region.
Neither officials in the Prime Minister's Office nor Turkish diplomatic officials contacted by The Jerusalem Post could confirm the message. In any event, the last round of indirect talks between Israel and Syria was held in July, although in recent weeks there had been some talk of a move in the near future to direct talks.
Turkey's prime minister on Sunday denounced Israel's air assault on Hamas targets as a "crime against humanity" and called for it to end.
Erdogan, meanwhile, accused Israel of using "disproportionate force" and said the attacks were a "blow to peace."
"To go and bomb these defenseless people, and to openly say that this operation will be a long-lasting one, that it will be this or that, to me, is a serious crime against humanity," Erdogan said at a meeting of his Islamic-rooted party.
Meanwhile, protesters turned out across Europe Sunday to demonstrate against the operation. About 700 protesters descended on the Israeli embassy in London.
About 1,000 demonstrators turned out for a protest in Paris, in Barbes, which has a large Arab population.
Shelly Paz and AP contributed to this report.