Israelis Broadly Support Military's Operation In Gaza

Recent polls show more than 8 in 10 Jewish Israelis support the military operation, even as the death tolls climb. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ratings are soaring.

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The U.N. Security Council overnight called for an immediate, unconditional, humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. Israel says it's begun what it calls a limitless halt to its strikes in Gaza, but will respond if attacked and will continue to destroy the tunnels Hamas built from Gaza into Israel. This morning, Palestinian militants fired a rocket into Israel, and Israel answered with an artillery barrage. Despite international pressure for a cease-fire, including from President Obama, Israeli citizens broadly support their military operations in Gaza. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Jerusalem.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: It's rare for Israelis to agree on how best to deal with Palestinians. But these days, most here in the Jewish state are in lockstep with their government about its actions in the Gaza Strip. Recent polls show more than eight in ten Jewish Israelis support the military operation, even as the death tolls climb. Netanyahu's ratings are soaring.

DORE GOLD: Well, right now it appears that Israel has reached a kind of national consensus on this war. In fact, it is a level of consensus that we have not seen in Israel for decades.

NELSON: Dore Gold is a senior advisor to the Prime Minister.

GOLD: With rockets coming out of the Gaza Strip after Israel fully withdrew from Gaza and expected any violence from that quarter to drop, people understand that Israel has no choice.

NELSON: But it's clear some Israelis feel there is a choice. There have been several antiwar protests, including one in Tel Aviv captured in this video by Israel's Channel 2 Saturday night.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

NELSON: Counter-protesters disrupted the demonstration that was attended by several thousand people. Funerals for Israeli soldiers, on the other hand, have been far better attended. The one held for a California-born Sergeant who first came to Israel two years ago, drew more than 30,000 people last week. Also galvanizing the Israeli public was a revelation of an elaborate tunnel network Hamas built from Gaza into Israel. Heavily armed militants who used those tunnels to get into Israel last week were intercepted and killed by Israeli forces. Analysts here say the tunnels and rocket fire are fueling public demands for some sort of guarantee of security before any lasting cease-fire is put into effect. Yaron Ezrachi is a prominent left-leaning analyst who teaches political science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

YARON EZRACHI: Just a half solution with the prospect of another cycle of missiles and tunnels - which Hamas is very adept in digging - in a year and a half or two, I don't think will be acceptable to the Israelis.

NELSON: David Horowitz, who was the founding editor of the center-right Times of Israel, agrees.

DAVID HOROWITZ: Can you imagine the hours and the money and the expense that went into building these tunnels, dug under the border for as far as a mile, tens of yards down beneath the surface in order to be able to attack inside Israel? That discovery for Israelis has been really shocking.

NELSON: Growing international condemnation is unlikely to make the Israeli public waiver, Hebrew University's Ezrachi says.

EZRACHI: In Israel, it is very easy to trigger the post-Holocaust syndrome of the trauma of the threat to the existence of Jews. The extreme Israeli political parties are cultivating that memory, that syndrome.

NELSON: But the left-leaning Ezrachi says that as the death tolls climbs, it could spark a renewed public push for a lasting settlement with the Palestinians. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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