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Introspective Israelis Await Obama

CBS News correspondent Richard Roth filed this report from Tel Aviv.


(AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israel's military said its soldiers in Gaza were fired on by Palestinian militants in two separate incidents today; in a third, it said a mortar round was fired from Gaza toward southern Israel but apparently fell short.

No injuries were reported, and none of it was serious enough to affect the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, which Israel planned to complete today — by around the time Barack Obama is inaugurated.

Reservists are already being demobilized; as they head home this evening, they'll see road signs – erected to inspire them as they headed into battle – which read, "Strong in the rear – Victory at the Front."

Much of the mood here, though, is less celebratory; more introspective.

In a front-page essay in the daily Haaretz, David Grossman, one of Israel's most celebrated novelists, writes of "Operation Cast Lead," Israel's name for the three-week Gaza offensive, as "a mirror in which we in Israel see the reflection of our own face – a face that, if we were looking in from the outside or saw it on another people – would leave us aghast." He concludes the offensive in Gaza has proved only that Israel is strong; not that it's right.

Interestingly, Gaza was hardly mentioned at all on the front pages of Israel's other two big dailies. Ma'ariv features a page-filling photo of Barack Obama with the headline, "Making History." Yedioth Ahronoth's photo is accompanied by a headline in English which reads, "Good Luck."

Inside Yedioth Ahronoth, columnist Eitan Haber – who was a speech-writer for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – makes that "good luck' message a fret as well as a greeting. He likens Israel to America's, "forward aircraft carrier in this bloody part of the world," and worries whether Mr. Obama, "will bequeath to us from the great abundance of America or will we be for you, heaven forbid, a nation like all other nations?"

With perhaps a bit more confidence than that, Israel, too, is waiting for the new American administration.