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NYT Jerusalem bureau chief: Israelis feel ‘this is a war of no choice’

July 26, 2014 at 6:30 PM EDT
Israel agreed Saturday to extend a humanitarian truce in the Gaza strip by four hours. But Hamas rejected the four-hour truce extension, and Israel's military reported three rockets fired from Gaza. How do Israelis feel about the ongoing military conflict?

HARI SREENIVASAN: What’s the public opinion on the street now about what’s been happening?

JODI RUDOREN: Yeah, people here are really behind this operation. They are terrified of these tunnels, they feel that this is a war of no choice. They feel they were attacked and some people are really kind of a little bit blind to the death toll on the other side, others I think are quite sympathetic to it. But they really, really blame Hamas for those deaths.

They think that Hamas has caused or was complicit in those deaths by not allowing people to leave, by hiding ammunitions in civilian neighborhoods, etc., and the fact that Israel is increasingly kind of isolated around the world and there’ve been all these demonstrations and calls for a cease fire. I think it has had a backlash here. People are getting angrier than ever and really, you know just feel that nobody understands them and they want to get the job done.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the recent protest in the West Bank that we’ve seen in the past few days. Is there increasing concern?

JODI RUDOREN: I mean, absolutely. The West Bank, is, you know, closer to most Israelis than Gaza is, and people have been talking and worrying about a third intifada here for as long as I’ve been here, which is two years. However, I think that Israelis are pretty confident and have a reason to be that their security forces are also well deployed in the West Bank,and they basically kind of stopped the security threat from the West Bank with the separation barrier.

I mean, I think you know some people really want and believe in a solution with the Palestinians and therefore I think feel awful about especially the unrest in the West Bank and the killings in the West Bank. I think a lot of people, though, are quite hopeless about it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Just to give us a snapshot, if you can, what’s it like in different parts of Israel? Is life different closer to the border with Gaza than other cities?

JODI RUDOREN: Absolutely. The rockets have gone to quite a bit of Israel, and I think you’ll hear Israeli leaders talk about 70 percent or something. But, you know it’s one or two or three a day sirens in lots of the country, and then in the South it‘ll be dozens and dozens a day. So in the South around Gaza a lot of the small community’s people have evacuated. They’ve moved to relatives in other parts of the country or to hotels. Otherwise, they basically stay at home. Most of the stores are closed. Today people have left and went during the pause down to the beach or to the cafes that had been closed and they were kind of cautiously venturing out.

But in the rest of Israel and Jerusalem where I’m based life is mostly as normal, it’s a little slower a little less traffic and people are certainly on the edge. It’s kind of all anyone talks about and a lot, a lot of people here have soldiers or reservist who are In Gaza or about to go in. So everybody kind of carrying their phones around at every minute. Some people are afraid to leave their houses lest someone comes and tells them that someone has been killed. People are canceling their vacations. None of that compares to what’s happening in Gaza where people are getting killed by the hundreds.

But it is not life as normal here by any means, but it is certainly better here than in the south and better in the south than in Gaza.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times, thanks so much.

JODI RUDOREN: Thank you.