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Israeli left divided over Lebanon clashes

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In a front-page newspaper ad taken out this week, prominent left-wing literary laureates Amos Oz, David Grossman, and A.B. Yehoshua defended the government's initial military response, but said Israel now should agree to a cease-fire."It's difficult to explain that you're against Hizbullah and the war," says Mr. Segev. "It's too sophisticated a position to take."

But Labor parliamentarians such as Colette Avital seem to have taken up a similar position, arguing that Israel has a better chance of getting its kidnapped soldiers back, disarming Hizbullah, and demilitarizing southern Lebanon through a UN-brokered cease-fire rather than a broadened military operation. And yet Ms. Avital says the protests are unproductive.

"I don't think the time is now for demonstrations," she says. "Too many people are fighting now. There's a war going on and I don't wish to get involved in something that is going to be demoralizing."

Israel's left fractured noisily Thursday as some 200 demonstrators carrying Israeli flags chanted "Peace, yes. War, no" outside Israel's defense ministry to protest the cabinet's decision to widen the army's ground offensive against Hizbullah.

After a month of silence, Thursday's protest reflects a small but growing criticism of the war effort among Israeli left-wing intellectuals and political activists.

Israel's Security Cabinet approved Wednesday an expanded ground operation in south Lebanon, but has put it off to give the international community time to pursue diplomacy. Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that if American and French cease-fire efforts succeed, "We'll see the military operation as having created the diplomatic climate and a new situation.... If not, we'll use all of the tools."

But with the left-of-center Labor Party in the government and its dovish leader, Mr. Peretz, overseeing the war effort, the left's divisions seem likely to hinder the development of the kind of mass antiwar protests that took place during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

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