Tel Aviv Diary: Israelis Grow Impatient With Obama and Kerry

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Light streaks and smoke trails are seen as rockets are launched from Gaza toward Israel on July 23, 2014. Amir Cohen/Reuters

Tel Aviv, ISRAEL—This was a day of reflection in Israel. The number of rockets falling on the nation's cities has lessened in the past few days. While Hamas has continued to send rockets toward the center of the country, the numbers of rockets have dropped off by 50 percent. One more person in Israel, however, has died—a Thai working in one of the hothouses at a moshav (agricultural settlement) not far from Gaza was killed by mortar fire.

In the field, three Israeli soldiers were killed when a building they were entering was blown up. Israel destroyed an empty hospital that was used as a command center by Hamas. The number of tunnels being dug to go into Israel has risen to 26, and the sense is that there are more.

Two both heartwarming and simultaneously sad events have occurred in the past two days. Two funerals were held for American citizens—two young people who decided to come to Israel and fight in the Israeli army. They were killed in the conflict and buried this week.

In both cases, the victims were considered lone soldiers—soldiers who are here without parents. And in both cases the word spread on social media for Israelis to attend the funerals so that the deceased would not be interred alone. As a result, 40,000 people showed up Monday in Haifa for the funeral of Texas native Sean Carmeli, and 30,000 showed up for the Wednesday funeral of Max Steinberg of Los Angeles on Mount Herzl.

Tuesday night, I came across two very interesting groups of people. Earlier in the evening, I briefly joined a group made up of Jewish and Palestinian victims of the conflict. They were clearly calling for an end to the fighting, without a very clear plan, of course. Much later in the evening, while I was on my nightly bicycle ride, I came across a large group holding what looked like a heated discussion in the middle of Rabin Square, the main public square in Tel Aviv.

I stopped to try to assess what was going on, and it turned out that it was the same group of leftists and rightists who, in the previous few days of the conflict, had come to blows over demonstrations against the war. This time, however, they decided that instead of pushing and shoving, they would sit down and talk.

The talking went on for hours. I stayed until 3:30 a.m. Can I say that they reached any understanding? No. The distance between the right and left in Israel is very large, with most of the country in the middle. But it was positive to see them talking and trying to understand each other instead of resorting to violence.

On a number of different levels, there is a growing sense of frustration with the Obama administration among average Israelis. First and foremost, there is the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's decision to stop flights to Israel. The sense is that maybe it was OK for an FAA bureaucrat to decide, based on certain rules, to stop flights to Israel by U.S. carriers.

But today's decision to extend the halting of flights should have been stopped by the White House. The FAA is, after all, an executive agency. Tonight (Israel time), a U.S. State Department spokesman spoke about the fact that there are missiles that can reach Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Why she had to state that is an interesting question.

There is also resentment regarding Secretary of State John Kerry decision to spend all of his efforts on reaching a cease-fire here. In this case, it looks as if his efforts are most likely in terms of putting pressure on Israel. Reports at the moment seem to indicate that he is pressuring Israel to accept a five-day temporary cease-fire. Until now, Israel has demanded a permanent cease-fire, fearing that five days will be used by Hamas to improve its tactical situation.

With so many complicated and difficult problems occurring in the world at the same time (especially the war in the Ukraine, not to mention the ongoing slaughter in Syria and Iraq, where hundreds are dying every day), the Israelis are asking themselves some major questions. Such as: Why have Kerry and the Obama administration decided that this is the one problem the U.S. needs to solve? And why is the U.S. trying to solve this problem by trying to pressure Israel in different ways?

Maybe it is because Obama seems to have no leverage over the Russians, the Iranians, the Syrians or the Iraqis and feels he can exert his limited powers in the one place that he has some leverage—namely, Israel.

Tonight, once again there are rumors that there will indeed be a cease-fire in the coming hours. However, the latest speech by Khaled Mashal, the head of Hamas, seems to indicate that while Kerry and others keep spinning ideas about producing a cease-fire, Hamas does not seem willing to compromise.

Mashal stated that Hamas is not stupid and will not agree to a temporary cease-fire without achieving its goals. Last night the Israeli security cabinet met and decided Hamas was not ready for a cease-fire. So the war continues.