The Return of Hamas Rockets Turns Israelis Against Netanyahu

Gaza City crater
People look at a crater on the ground and damaged buildings, that witnesses said was caused by an Israeli air strike, in the Zeitoun neighbourhood in Gaza City August 8, 2014. Siegfried Modola/Reuters

Tel Aviv — I stirred a few moments before 8 am wondering what the day was going to bring. Would Hamas resume firing as they threatened? A quick check of my iPad showed that mortars had been fired about four hours before. And yes, a very few minutes later, at 8 on the dot, Red Alerts started appearing.

Rockets were being fired from Gaza at Ashkelon, as well as at towns and kibbutzim around Gaza. The missiles continued to be fired all morning, wounding three people. At 10 am, the Israeli government gave the word to start returning fire and the air force subsequently began attacking a number of targets in Gaza. In reality, however, there were really no new targets to hit.

Tel Aviv streets this morning were empty. I went in to my favorite coffee shop and, at first, was the only customer. The owner told me that business was down 50 percent this month.

As of 9pm tonight, Hamas has not fired on Tel Aviv or other parts of central Israel. The major question that Israel faces tonight is whether Hamas was firing just to try to improve their negotiating position, or are they really committing to enter into a long-term war of attrition? No Israeli commentator seems willing to hazard a guess as to the intentions of Hamas.

Clearly, Hamas was surprised that its demands were not met and it still seems to be having a hard time fully accepting the fact that the Egyptian government is not sympathetic in the least to Hamas's demands. It's not clear what will come next. Hamas seems unwilling to compromise and Israel is not likely to give in to Hamas demands anyway.

For the first time, criticism in Israel is being voiced against the government. Throughout the crisis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given high points for his management of the war. Until now, only the right wing had criticized the government for not being aggressive enough and not mounting an all-out effort to overthrow Hamas.

Now, criticism is more widespread. Why was the country told it was over? Those who returned in the last two days to kibbutzim situated near Gaza are furious that they came back with their families and now the rockets are falling again. Cities around the country had to order their air raid shelters reopened after closing them once the ceasefire went into effect.

The realization is dawning that the government is continuing to misread Hamas. There is clear disappointment in the apparent failure on the part of the government to have any attainable goals. All of this has been brought into sharper focus when, in the last two days, the highest representatives of the government spoke and stated that "Hamas would not dare restart the war, and if they did, we will hit them hard."

Instead, Israelis woke this morning to missile fire on the southern part of the country and watched as the military's only reaction was to initiate the same response as before: retaliatory air strikes. Far from the overwhelming force so casually promised by the government.

It is now clear that the government has failed to understand the goals of Hamas from the beginning. Revealed tonight was that intelligence had been obtained to suggest that Hamas was planning a July War to fight what they call the blockade of Gaza. In a chilling replay of events before the 1973 Yom Kippur War -- when the intelligence that Egypt planned to attack existed but was ignored because it did not fit what strategists thought was going on -- it appears that Israel ignored the intelligence because the decision-makers believed Hamas was weak and uninterested in fighting.

In truth, however, Hamas carefully planned this war. While it may not have achieved its goals, the evidence suggests that Israel's government never developed its own set of strategic goals and that its actions reflect that lack.

Political historian Marc Schulman is the editor of An archive of his recent daily reports from Tel-Aviv can be found here. He is also a columnist for the Times of Israel.