In the South, Support for Gaza Op Is Far From Unanimous

Most public opinion supports the Gaza campaign, but those holding fast to the opposite opinion are scorned.

At the end of an interview with him, Fredo Goldfarb of Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak in the Eshkol region asked that people "take into account that in any democratic country, thinking differently does not mean we are traitors; it doesn't mean we don't love our country and care about its future. Our political analysis is different."

He has good reason to make that statement. These days, as it seems that most public opinion strongly supports the Gaza operation, those holding fast to the opposite opinion are scorned.

"As someone who has lived for the past eight years with my family under the threat of Qassams, explosive charges and tunnels [dug by terrorists] that might pop up in the middle of the kibbutz, I know what I'm saying - only agreements with the other side will bring an end to these threats," Goldfarb said. "I am afraid for my family and those around me. But does that give me the right to kill 400 Palestinians? What do I get out of this? Only more families that come into the circle of enmity."

Goldfarb's opinion is not one often heard these days in the south. But a significant number of people feel that way. Some did not want to say so publicly yesterday, especially after reports came to light that a soldier was killed and others were wounded.

Na'amika Tzion, who has lived in Sderot for 22 years, said the first time she felt secure after eight years of bombardment was when the cease-fire agreement was signed with Hamas. No matter what the army did, "we always got hit back."

"A channel of communication has to be found that will lead to an extension of the cease-fire and to the problem of [kidnapped soldier Gilad] Shalit and to the crossings," she said.

Tzion herself talks on the phone to people in Gaza.

"For me they have names and identities. There are catastrophic things happening there," she said.

Tzion agreed with Goldfarb that Hamas is extreme, "but I want to be sure our leadership has done everything to extend the cease-fire through a third party and I have major doubts, she says.