News of Israeli ground troops advancing across the Gaza border as Hamas continued its rocket fire into the Jewish state didn't seem to have changed the minds of local leaders interviewed yesterday.
Israel's supporters called the incursion necessary to protect its citizens; foes slammed it as a disproportionate power grab.
Phil Rosen of Lawrence, past chairman of American Friends of Likud, which supports the right-wing of Israeli politics, paraphrased President-elect Barack Obama, who said during a visit this summer to Israel that if the place his daughters lived were under attack, Obama would "do everything to stop that."
"Israel is taking the advice of many people, including the president-elect, in defending its citizens," Rosen said.
Middle East expert Rashid Khalidi, a longtime defender of the Palestinian cause, said the latest incursion was all but expected after several days of bombings failed to deter Hamas.
"It's pretty clear that whatever end game they had hoped for from aerial bombardments wasn't working," said Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. "They bombed everything that they could have bombed and they still hadn't been able to affect anything. Hamas was still able to fire rockets. They [Hamas] would be able to claim victory by just surviving."
What the incursion means for peace talks and stability in the Mideast will be determined by the Arab world's reaction, how it affects the upcoming Israeli election and how long Israeli troops are in Gaza, Khalidi said. "I think it will increase the pressure on Arab governments to take a position in line with their public opinion, which has been very unhappy with the situation," he said.
Nayyar Imam, president of the Islamic Association of Long Island, said he doesn't believe the United States, or even Arabic and Islamic nations, are doing enough to help resolve the conflict. For him, the war and ground invasion that began yesterday underscores the need for negotiations that include all the stakeholders, including Israel and Hamas.
"This is terrible," Imam said yesterday. "The worst part is that no one is doing anything."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights), who chairs the U.S. House subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia are in Israel today for meetings with high-level officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bloomberg's office said.
Rabbi Ronald Brown of Temple Beth Am in Merrick said while he wholeheartedly supported Israel's actions yesterday, he won't let the dispute tar his friendships with people who disagree with him politically.
"We know that we have differences on certain issues, and yet we have learned how to put those issues aside," he said.
- Staff writer Matthew Chayes contributed to this story.