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      Local professor talks conflict in Israel

      Dr. Kurt Jefferson of Westminster College talks about the conflict in Israel

      As tensions continue to escalate in Israel, one local professor shares how the conflict could have implications in the United States.

      "We can't put our heads in the sand and pretend that this is...an issue that doesn't affect us," Dr. Kurt Jefferson, professor and Assistant Dean for Global Initiatives at Westminster College, said.

      "This is an area that if we don't think it's important, we're fooling ourselves."

      The comments came Thursday, the same day air raid sirens wailed in Jerusalem signaling incoming rocketfire.

      Two of the four rockets headed for Jerusalem were intercepted by Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system, and the other two fell in open areas.

      Jefferson said that if rockets were able to consistantly reach high-population areas like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the approach to the conflict would change; the middle class would probably appeal for immediate peace because the airstrikes would interrupt their daily life.

      Jefferson said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to balance the desires of two extremes within Israel.

      "Some on the right who want more military action against the Palestinians and want to see them wiped out," Jefferson said.

      "Then on the far left...the far radical left wants peace at all costs."

      But the Israel conflict extends far beyond the Middle East, with possible implications hitting home in the United States.

      "Israel is a thriving economy, it affects the European economy directly...imports, exports...if affects the United States," Jefferson said.

      "American interests are affected by what's going on in the Middle East. I also think that what happens with the exportation of extremism and terrorism is tied to this as well."

      Israel's military has intercepted at least 70 rockets headed for major cities, but the Israeli military overnight hit more than 320 Hamas targets.

      Palestinians say the strikes also hit a home and beachside cafe, killing eight people at each place.

      Jefferson said in recent years, the Israeli government has focused on short-term solutions to combat militants, but it may take longer-term ideas and the help of allies, like the United States, to curb the violence.

      "Not necessarily inject our own military and our own situation into it, but we have to help guide it in a way and work with the leadership there so that stability will become part of the picture again," Jefferson said.