The public consensus that had accompanied the current fighting in Lebanon from the first day officially dissolved yesterday afternoon, following the cabinet's decision to expand ground operations in Lebanon.
Meretz Knesset members, who had previously backed the Israeli military response, came out openly against expanding the ground offensive, with some warning of tragedy ahead.
Members of the "Zionist left" - as they describe themselves - began preparing yesterday for a series of protest activities against the expanded ground operation, with a first demonstration scheduled for this afternoon outside the Defense Ministry. Another demonstration is to take place in a few days outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem.
Until now, the anti-war protests have been led by the radical left and the Arab parties. Meretz and Peace Now had officially refrained from attending those demonstrations and backed the military response. But yesterday, the dam broke: Key figures from the mainstream left, including author David Grossman, Professor Galia Golan of Peace Now, former Meretz MKs Yael Dayan and Mussi Raz, and Meretz party whip Zahava Gal-On, announced that they would attend the demonstration today and stand at the forefront of opposition to expanding the military operation.
Organizers want to highlight the Zionist element of their protest and the fact that they do not rule out military activity. Demonstrators are being asked to dress in the colors of the Israeli flag, blue and white, to distinguish themselves from anarchist protesters.
Grossman, one of the protest leaders, said yesterday: "I supported the Israeli response because it is certainly justified to respond in a clear and powerful manner initially - a realization of the most basic right. But everything that happened afterward became very entangled."
Grossman, like the rest of the protesters, is calling for utilizing diplomatic channels and accepting Lebanon's offer to deploy its army in the south. "We are a group that cares deeply about Israel's security and sees the way to achieve that as not being by aggressive means," he said.
Gal-On said yesterday that the cabinet decision "will become a death trap for Israel Defense Forces soldiers and distance the chances of a cease-fire and recovery for residents of the north."
Meretz Chair Yossi Beilin termed the cabinet decision "a tragic mistake" and warned against "entering deep into Hezbollah's trap en route to a ground war of attrition."