It is an interesting and sad time to be in Tel Aviv. Tonight we were returning from dinner via taxi and we had to get out and walk because the pro-Israel rally outside of the Turkish embassy had become so large that the police were forced to close down traffic. People young and old were walking the streets with Israeli flags. There seems to be an increase in the number of armed IDF members roaming the city, automatic rifles at the ready. (Surprisingly, I saw no coverage of this demonstration on CNN International, but I might have missed it).
Two of the gentlemen we had dinner with (academics from Tel Aviv University) had attended a protest against the boarding of the flotilla, and they estimated that the number of protesters ranged between 600 and 1000. The anti-Turkish protest seemed much larger.
There was a real sense of frustration among the academics who were uniformly on the Left. Some of their observations:
- The political Left in Israel has collapsed since the Second Intifada (or more correctly, it has moved dramatically to the Right). As a result, there is far greater unity among Israelis than before.
- There is a real sense that so many foreigners who critique Israel have no sense of what things were like on the ground (rockets and mortars out of Gaza, etc) and the sense of insecurity it created on a daily basis.
- As much as one might want a negotiated solution, there is agreement that any such efforts would be futile. There are no bargaining partners. There is little sense that the US is playing a positive role. There is only frustration, insecurity, and anger that past efforts were so thoroughly rebuffed and the press (and external critics) has agreed on a narrative that will be pressed regardless of whether it matches the empirical record.
On to Jerusalem tomorrow…