Petering out, or not?


For some time on Saturday and Sunday it was not clear if there was a cease fire.

A cease fire for humanitarian purposes (i.e., getting the bodies out of destroyed buildings) held, but then when Israel agreed to an extension Hamas did not. Several rockets and mortars were fired until early Sunday, and one Israeli soldier was killed. During the 8 AM news on Sunday morning there was a barrage of missiles, coming too fast for the radio announcer to keep up with the locations being warned.
Then Israel renewed its attacks.
Netanyahu had been forthcoming with respect to UN requests for cease fires, perhaps to enhance Israel''s international standing, until that rain of missiles at 8 AM on Sunday.
By Sunday evening, Hamas had requested a cease fire to carry through the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr, that marks the end of Ramadan. Israel did not respond clearly, except to say that it would not continue firing once Hamas had stopped.
John Kerry has not done well. Israeli politicians are furious at what they describe as his duplicity, i.e., indicating a reasonable arrangement for a cease fire extending for several days, and then including items in the final proposal that looked pretty much like what Hamas wanted.
That explains a unanimous rejection by Israel''s Cabinet, comprised of a limited number of ministers who make crucial security decisions.
Hamas is also expressing anger. It claims that the American Secretary of State talked to everyone but them.
Hamas itself may be falling apart under the pressure. It never was a united organization that ran smoothly. Now the external leadership located in Qatar may not be on the same page as Gaza''s political leadership, and Gaza''s political leadership is facing increased divisions between itself and local military commanders, who may no longer be answering to a unified military command.
What that means for the survival of Hamas, or whatever becomes the effective governing mechanism of Gaza when the fighting stops, is anybody''s guess.
The Fatah regime of the West Bank appears to be working with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, against the efforts of Turkey and Qatar. Fatah supports the Egyptian cease fire initiative, most likely to gain a role in the post war management of Gaza. Fatah personnel have also said some nasty things about John Kerry.
Chaos within Hamas, as well as the competition among peacemakers may explain the lack of traction toward a cease fire that has worked.
This has been the most costly of Israel''s Gaza operations in terms of military casualties, and is coming close to being the most costly for the Palestinians. An operation in 2012 resulted in four Israeli civilian and two military deaths, and 159 Palestinian deaths. A three-week operation that spanned 2008 and 2009 killed somewhere between 1100 and 1400 Palestinians, depending on whose numbers you accept, plus ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians. 
Currently there have been nearly 50 Israeli military and civilian deaths, and more than 1,000 Palestinian deaths. Palestinian estimates are that there are another 150 or so bodies under the rubble.
The number of missiles per day have declined, from close to 200 to 40-80.
Optimists see those numbers as showing that the end is in sight. Pessimists see them as showing the persistence of Hamas and its allies.
Support in Israel for continuing the operation remains strong. In contrast to every war and military operation since the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the public is close to united in viewing this as a war of no choice (בליט ברירה). Polls show public opinion close to 90 percent in favor of continuing or even expanding the operation. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya''alon have been more reluctant than the public. They have been promoting a modest policy of continuing the operation against the tunnels, but accepting a cease fire if Hamas stops its attacks.
The cease fire that did hold on much of Saturday, was an occasion for the IDF to invite a military journalist from each of Israel''s major media outlets, who recorded interviews with soldiers in Gaza. On every other day, those journalists have broadcast from the Israel side of the border, often against the background of smoke and dust plumes.  
46,000 Israelis participated in the program of one supermarket chain along with one newspaper to organize parcels for the soldiers. There were campaigns by other organizers, as well as an increase in financial contributions to the IDF affiliated Association for the Wellbeing of Israel''s Soldiers.
We received via WhatsAP a photo of two packages of sweets assembled for the soldiers by one of our young relatives, along with the note that she composed.

Take care of yourself and return home quickly

Thank you for protecting us and endangering yourself for us.

You will be victorious because you are strong; IDF is the stronger army.

I hope that the war will end quickly


She signed off with her name, address, telephone number, and that she will be in 3rd grade when school starts.

Less attractive was the neighbor we often see on our neighborhood walks. Saturday evening he yelled at us from across the street, "How many Arabs have you killed today?" He continued with tales of his role as a soldier in 1967, and his desire to join this fight and kill more Arabs. I urged him to lower his voice to avoid offending the Arabs living in French Hill, which brought forth another racist barrage. Then I reminded him that he is no longer a military asset. He cannot walk a hundred meters without sitting on a bench or leaning against a tree.


Opposition is muted, but not absent. Saturday night an estimated 5,000 people demonstrated against the fighting in Tel Aviv, despite police having banned any demonstration due to the possibility of missile attacks. Several hundred people also appeared at the site for a counter demonstration in favor of the war, with the police positioned between the groups.
The standard of comparison is the 400,000 who gathered at the same site in 1982 to protest Israel''s complicity in the killing of Palestinian civilians by Christian militia in the Beirut neighborhoods of Sabra and Shatilla.
As I was writing this on Sunday evening, my computer was warning me of missiles heading for Israeli villages near Gaza and the city of Ashkelon. There was also the sound of gunfire, most likely the work of the Border Police to keep angry Isaweeans away from us.
Monday morning was quieter, until 7:15 AM, when my computer announced a missile heading toward Ashkelon.
Maybe from a local commander wanting status. Or from someone claiming that Hamas is still on top.
Barack Obama asked Israel to accept an immediate cease fire without conditions, expressed his increasing concern about civilian casualties, and indicated that the de-militarization of Gaza would have to wait for the kind of peace treaty promoted by his Secretary of State.
That sounds like something that might be appropriate for Obama''s grandchildren and ours.
Israel''s Cabinet met for several hours to figure out the meaning of Obama''s remarks, and what would be an appropriate response.