Tel Aviv—Today is the second day of the agreed upon three-day ceasefire in Gaza. Hamas has threatened not to renew the ceasefire when it expires unless there is an agreement in place.
I just heard Finance Minister Yair Lapid warn Hamas, once again, that they had better not resume firing – because this time (as opposed to last time) we will respond with great force. Of course, that is the same thing Lapid threatened last time.
Every Israeli commentator whom I have heard questioned today refused to predict whether or not firing would resume tomorrow at midnight. While visiting a Naval base earlier today, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “This war was not over.” I am also not willing to hazard a guess on whether or not we will be running for cover come tomorrow—once again.
Meanwhile, the community pool in the town of Sderot (a town on the Gaza border which has been on the receiving end of rocket fire since 2001) was crowded today for the first time this summer. The pool had been closed throughout the fighting.
I received two emails today from the school my son attends—one from the new superintendent, the other from the high school principal. His school is scheduled to begin this coming Monday. Both emails detailed the psychological services available for students who have been affected by the events of the past month.
The radio is also full of programs discussing what to do with children who have been negatively affected by sirens and rockets. A study conducted a few years ago concluded that 40 percent of the children living in Sderot suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
Israelis, myself included, tend to get very frustrated when observers from abroad make fun of the Hamas missile fire. I do not think any major western city has heard the sound of air raid sirens since World War II, (with the exception of Tel Aviv during the Gulf War). Since the start of this current war, we in Tel Aviv have heard those ground shaking blasts nearly 40 times, with the corresponding sounds of explosions.
I have no idea what the lasting effects of the events of the last month will be on the children of this country. I am sure it will be less than the effects on the children of Gaza—a tragic reality, compounded by the fact that we did not start this Gaza war.
Even as the resumption of hostilities remains a possibility, Israel is dealing with the consequences of the war. First, attention has being directed toward the appointment of a Board of Inquiry by the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate possible war crimes committed by the Israeli Defense Forces. There was particular anger—followed later by amusement—at the appointment of William Shabas to head the committee.
Shabas has called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be hauled before the Court of International Justice in the Hague to answer for crimes during Operation Cast Lead, The Gaza War in 2008-9. This statement belies both Shabas's lack of neutrality and his ignorance. Netanyahu was not in the government in 2008 during Operation Cast Lead; Ehud Olmert was prime minister at that time.
Israel plans to take steps to blunt any biased probe of its conduct by creating an independent commission (that will include internationally known jurists) to investigate all of the events that took place in the recent fighting.
Israel is also dealing with the economic consequences of the war. The Defense Ministry has demanded a $4 billion increase in its budget—over the next two years—because of the war. Before the war, discussion primarily focused on how to cut the defense budget.
One of the leading items in the news today in Israel was the scene from the Knesset Budget Committee. In one of the unique features of the Israeli political system, that committee has the ability to unilaterally approve the transfer of funds from one ministry to another. Today, when Stav Shafir, (who had been one of the key leaders of Israeli social protest movement 3 years ago, and is now a member of the Knesset Budget committee) objected to the transfer of approximately $800 million to the Defense Ministry from other budgets without any discussion, the chairman of the committee had her forcibly removed from the meeting.
The next few days should be anything but boring.
Political historian Marc Schulman is the editor of historycentral.com. An archive of his recent daily reports from Tel-Aviv can be found here. He is also a columnist for the Times of Israel.