First of all, the war with Gaza, operation "Guardian of the Walls," as it has been named by Israel, or whatever you want to call it, is continuing at a relatively high intensity. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are firing rockets at Israel, hundreds a day, and Israel is responding with drone and missile strikes as well as air raids. Israel has been relying heavily on its Iron Dome defence system to intercept the Hamas rockets. But the system is not infallible and a certain percentage of rockets are able to get through. Some of these have landed directly on people's homes. Yesterday a rocket hit a house in Petach Tikvah. The day before, a bus was hit directly in Holon. 7 Israelis have been killed and quite a number have been injured from these rockets and their debris.
In response, Israel has targeted senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants. According to several reports yesterday, more than 10 members of the Hamas senior leadership were killed in one air strike. Israel has continued to carry out a variety of strategies for fighting Hamas though, for obvious reasons, much of this information is not being publicized.
Looking purely at the Israel-Gaza conflict, it is possible, perhaps even likely, that some form of cease fire will be reached within a week, if not sooner. But as with previous cease fire deals, it is unclear how long any such deal will last. It is likely to be viewed by Hamas as an opportunity to restock its weapons arsenal. Without any efforts from either side at reaching some sort of longer term political arrangement, this conflict seems destined to go on endlessly.
And even though the pattern has been that these disputes have generally come to a cease fire within a relatively short time frame, it is possible that this particular fight will continue to escalate more broadly. According to some reports, Israel was preparing to send ground troops into Gaza. Hard to say whether these are tactical reports - intended to bring about better cease fire conditions - or whether Israel has determined that this is a necessary step in this conflict. I guess we are going to find out in the coming days.
Since this current Israel-Gaza conflict began, Israel has seen something that it has not witnessed since 2000 - extensive violence between Israeli-Arabs and Israeli-Jews.
Violence has flared up in several Israeli cities and towns that have significant Arab populations - in Lod, Acre (Akko), Nazareth and Haifa as well as others. In Lod, mobs of Arab hoodlums have firebombed two synagogues and been involved in lootings, attacks on civilians and several shootings. In Akko, a number of Jewish owned business were burned down, an Israeli Jew was pulled out of his car and severely beaten and there have been several other incidents of violence by angry Arabs.
Violence has also flared up against Israeli Arabs in several towns - including Bat Yam, Lod, Haifa and other places. In Bat Yam, an Israeli Arab driver was dragged out of his car and severely beaten by a mob of Jewish hoodlums. In Lod and some other cities, mobs of angry Israelis shouted "death to Arabs" and attacked several Arab civilians.
Although the police have become involved in some of these cases, and have made some arrests, they are apparently outmanned, overwhelmed and incapable of controlling the situation.
Extremist groups on both sides are using social media to create mass gatherings which are quickly becoming violent.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is talking about depolying the army in some cities to try and restore peace - but the army is not generally intended, equipped or trained to perform policing work. Soldiers have no power to arrest anyone - and they are not trained for these types of disputes.
Events of the past few days have really opened up a long festering wound between Arabs and Jews in Israel - though it is only a minority on each side causing all of these disturbances. But the fallout could be devastating for Arab-Jewish relations in Israel and for civility in general.
As I have discussed recently, the potential "Change Coalition" that was about to sign a coalition deal - was a government that was going to depend, at least initially, on some Arab Knesset members. With the outbreak of this latest Gaza War (Entitled Operation "Protect The Walls" by Israel), the Arab Israeli Knesset members announced that they could not support any Israeli government. As violence began to break out in Israel between Jews and Arabs - the leader of Yamina, Naftali Bennettt announced that he could no longer support the "Change Coalition." Instead he has begun negotiating with Netanyahu once more. It may well be that the violent attacks by Israeli Arabs on Jewish sites in Lod, Akko, Haifa and other places - will shift the Israeli voting population to the right. Netanyahu is pushing for a fifth consecutive election - and perhaps hoping that as a result of this round of violence, he and his right wing partners will gain a few more seats and be able to form the "fully right wing" government that they have been dreaming about. This would be a government filled with Knesset members who wish to increase the conflict level with the Palestinians and take a variety of provocotive steps including limiting the power of the Israeli Supreme Court to intervene in human rights cases, adding more nationlistic language to the Israeli constitution, sending military troops to Arab populated towns in Israel to "bring calm" and taking a variety of other actions.
There is no done deal yet but certainly the events of the, past few days seem to be putting Netanyahu in a much stronger position to retain his leadership position, likely bolstered by a hard-right coalition. With talk from Netanyahu and his coalition partners and supporters about increasing the military presence in civilian areas, limiting the powers of the Supreme Court, and other steps that they are considering, we are, unfortunately, inching closer to Turkey in terms of leadership style and system. It will be a signficant blow to Israel's democracy. Hopefully something will prevent or change this trajectory.
Yair Lapid, leader of the Change Coalition, and the Knesset member currently holding the "mandate" has 19 days left to try and form a government. After Bennett's announcement yesterday that Bennett would be supporting Netanyahu, Lapid took to the airwaves and to social media urging calm, calling on Arabs and Jews to take a step back from internal conflict, pushing the notion that it is precisely in challenging times that people have to be creative and come up with workable long term, stable, political solutions. It was an impassioned address but one that may have fallen on deaf ears. Given the events of the past few days, Lapid's chances of ousting Netanyahu and forming a Change Coalition government have become ever smaller.
Last night, three rockets were fired from Lebanon towards Israel. Hezbollah was fairly quick to state that this was an "accident" or it wasn't them but it is unclear whether that was a taste of things to come or a small mistep. Needless to stay, things will become completely crazy if Hezbollah becomes involved in this war and begins firing rockets at Israel. Hezbollah has huge storage facilities with a massive supply of long range rockets. Hezbollah is supported by Syria, Iran and, indirectly by China, which recently signed extensive long terms deals to support Iran. Hopefully, the people of Lebanon will be able to prevent any kind of Hezbollah escalation or involvement in this conflict, but it is a serious concern.
As I write this, Israel has been massing tanks at the Gaza border. It is quite possible that the IDF will enter Gaza with ground troops, tanks, special forces and other units. As discussed earlier, it is unclear whether this will happen but if it does, it could signify a very large escalation of this operation.
When you combine all of this, I think it is fair to say that there is a feeling that the situation, overall, has deteriorated quite significantly in many different ways over the past two or three days. I am really not sure where this is all headed but if a cease fire is not arranged shortly, this could well become a large scale, extensive military operation that will result in significant loss of life on both sides.
Wishing everyone best of health, peace and security and hoping that things improve dramatically soon.