Tel Aviv Diary: 'Israel Has Consistently Misjudged Hamas in This War'

Israeli soldiers patrol outside the northern Gaza Strip July 28, 2014. Amir Cohen/Reuters

It has been a very disappointing day here in Israel. In the morning, it looked as if we might be heading into a ceasefire. While neither side had officially accepted the ceasefire, Israel had made it clear since yesterday that it would not engage in any offensive action.

In the morning, there was a bit of missile fire, but there was also the sense that it would slowly wind down, at least for the balance of the Islamic Feast of Eid al-Fitr. My son asked me what the chances were of this war being over; I told him 60 percent.

Israel clearly was interested in the end of the conflict and Prime Minister Netanyahu was willing to head in this direction, despite the opposition of many of his cabinet members as well as the overwhelming percentage of the population. (In a snap internet poll, 87 percent answered that they did not want a ceasefire until Israel reached its goals.)

As the day went on, however, it became clear that, instead of a ceasefire, the situation was getting worse. Hamas increased its attacks. Late in the afternoon, there were reports that Israel had attacked the area of Shifa hospital in Gaza. Israel was immediately accused of the attack, but, as it turns out, the attack was, in fact, a misfire of a Hamas rocket.

One hour later, Hamas fired a series of mortars on a kibbutz near the Gaza border. The mortars landed in the midst of a group of soldiers, killing four and wounding a larger group. If there was any question whether there might be a ceasefire, Hamas used an undiscovered tunnel to infiltrate Israel near Kibbutz Nachal Oz. One of the infiltrators was killed, while the others managed to flee back into the tunnel to Gaza. Hamas also fired a rocket tonight, towards the North in the direction of Haifa.

The Israeli government is facing a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, the people of Israel are demanding that, once and for all, the threat of Hamas be removed. That translates into Israel going much deeper into Gaza. Going much deeper into Gaza means only one thing: much greater civilian casualties in Gaza. This action will result in more photos of dead women and children and additional accusations of Israeli war crimes, even if Israel's actions follow all of the laws of war.

The Israeli government has been misjudging Hamas consistently in this war. From day one, Israelis believed that Hamas did not want a war. But, it is now clear that this is exactly what they want. Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to the Israeli people tonight, but gave very little new information. Many were expecting him to announce an expansion of Israel's attacks and were disappointed when he did not. He might, of course, just been misleading Hamas and we may see some surprising actions overnight.

There was a great deal of discussion in Israel today about the telephone call between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu last night. Obama called, among other things, for the "strategic need for an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire." This was seen as pressure on Israel to end the attacks. Tonight, this statement seems absurd to Israelis, especially considering the fact that it requires two parties to agree to a ceasefire, and, as of the moment, Hamas seems uninterested.

There continues to be mutual accusations between Israel and the American government over the attacks on Secretary of State John Kerry in the Israeli press over the weekend. Many American commentators are accusing the Israeli government of directing those attacks.

However, as someone who wrote my first article a week ago critical of Kerry's visit, I can say I have spoken to no one in the government. It only requires an understanding of history and diplomacy to understand how unsuccessful and unhelpful Kerry's efforts were.

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.