An uneventful day. Thank god.
Arrived at Ben Gurion Airport about 5PM. The flight from Newark was 60% full. Not much English being spoken. There is always something magical to me when I first spot the green fields – a product of modern irrigation technology – poking through the clouds that always seem to be hanging over the coast line. I am not sure what it is – but there is some energy in the air that is special. It makes people want to be in this land. And to possess it.
This time, we approached from the North. To avoid any potential rockets from Gaza of course. The lines for Foreign Passport Control were non-existent. The cabby complained that “there are no tourists. Now, I have to wait three hours at the airport for a fare.”
I look for signs of the war – but frankly, here, there aren’t many. The beach is still filled with bathers, folks are jogging along the Tayelet, and the matkot players are still smacking the balls back and forth. But there is a noticeable quiet. Traffic is light. The hotel lobby is empty. The people are still.
I am here with a group of J Street leaders to show our support for Israel in this time of war. To try to support all of those suffering during the latest chapter in this long conflict. We also want to connect with those Israelis who we really are working for and with – those who see that there is no military solution to this conflict. That the only way to break the cycle is with a negotiated agreement ending in two states for two peoples. Then, perhaps, there will be a chance for real security.
We heard over dinner from Gadi Baltinski, Director of the Geneva Initiative, that 85% of Israelis support this operation. They support the military and the government (for the time being – nothing like a war to increase an incumbent’s popularity), BUT they also don’t think that this will solve the ultimate problem. Never the less, they back the government because they see this war as being the fault of Hamas. And, now, all of a sudden, people are seeing Abu Mazen as the “good” guy. Where were they when he really needed support during the negotiations? “No partner for peace…”
Akiva Eldar, writer for Haaretz and Al-Monitor and, ironically, head of the first annual Haaretz Peace Conference held July 9 just as the rockets began firing, told us that the only solution is a regional one. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia actually wrote a piece in Haaretz a few weeks ago reiterating that the Arab Peace Initiative is still on the table. He implored us to go back to the US and talk with politicians and tell that nothing is more bi-partisan than ending this conflict. After all he said, the idea that ending this conflict was in America’s best interest really took root when George H.W. and James Baker challenged Yitzhak Shamir on building settlements. That was hundreds of thousands of settlers ago.
Tomorrow we head to Jerusalem to hear the take of several MK’s, meet with the US Consul General, and visit some victims of the violence in Hadassah hospital.
So far, no sirens. But last night, I was told, they came about 2 AM.