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Latest Tensions Between Israel And Hamas Threaten Fragile Ceasefire

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Will a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel hold after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza Wednesday? Officials said they were in response to incendiary balloons launched by Hamas. Those followed a march of mostly ultranationalist Jewish Israelis that passed through Palestinian sectors of Jerusalem, some chanting death to Arabs. Palestinian protesters were forcibly dispersed. And all of this is happening when Israel's new coalition government hasn't even been in power a week. Joining us now to discuss the challenges ahead for this new government is Tamara Hermann. She's a senior fellow at the non-profit Israel Democracy Institute. Good morning.

TAMARA HERMANN: Good morning to you.

FADEL: So how much do these latest actions threaten the cease-fire reached just two weeks ago?

HERMANN: Well, actually, I think that both sides are not that interested in any deterioration in the situation. The actions on both sides, the Israeli bombing and the Hamas balloons, are more symbolic, I would say, some kind of theater in which both sides signal the one side that it will not tolerate acts like the flag march that took place the day before yesterday. And the Israeli government is signaling that the balloons will not be tolerated. But both sides are not interested right now in any inflammation in the area.

FADEL: Now, you're a public opinion expert. So how does this long list of events in - that happened in about 24 hours impact public opinion in Israel of this very new and ideologically diverse government?

HERMANN: Well, as you know, as Israelis, we are used to having even - on one day, we have this festival. On the other day, we have scandals.

FADEL: Yeah (laughter).

HERMANN: So we are really used to this very quick kind of developments.

FADEL: Right.

HERMANN: I think that the Israeli public is now waiting to see how the new government will function, because functioning is what will decide about its future. All parties that are involved in this coalition besides one are not sure that - if new elections are held in the foreseeable future, they are not sure that they will cross the threshold. So they will do their best in order to maintain the government intact. And public opinion is following very, very closely. How does the government operate on a daily basis? Thus far, the way that they face the flag march was quite impressive because it could have deteriorated and it didn't, on both sides. So I suppose that every citizen in Israel is now looking and saying to himself or herself, let's wait and see.

FADEL: Now, this is a, as I said, a diverse - the coalition is diverse ideologically. And some people joined concerned because there are competing ideologies. How likely is the coalition going to hang together under this kind of pressure?

HERMANN: Well, as I mentioned earlier, they have a strong incentive to stay together. And they already decided that they will not touch upon critical issues, like, for example, the occupation in the territories. So they will deal more with issues on which there are less of different opinions.

FADEL: Tamara Hermann of the Israel Democracy Institute. Thank you for joining us.

HERMANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.