The Biggest Loser In The Gaza War

Hussein Ibish nominates the Palestinian Authority for the dubious distinction:

There is no question that Abbas and the PA were suffering a crisis of legitimacy in recent months, at the same time that Hamas was enduring an even greater crisis at virtually every register. But now, at least, Hamas has seized the initiative, albeit at a hideous cost. It alone appears to wave the Palestinian flag, however speciously. It alone claims to have a strategy for national liberation — armed struggle and “resistance” — no matter how implausible.

The danger is that the bloody and reckless hostilities between Israel and Hamas at least constitute something, which a PA armed with nothing may find difficult to counter politically. With each successive flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group has taken more blame from both Palestinian and broader Arab public opinion for the deaths and destruction. Hamas’s political “bounce” from nationalist sentiment against Israel has been more fleeting. But if the PA still appears ineffective, marginal, and irrelevant, even the heaping of public blame on Hamas might not stop it from gaining significant ground in the Palestinian political landscape.

But the PA has taken some action – namely, appealing to the UN Security Council and attempting to leverage its longstanding threat to seek an ICC investigation of Israel:

“We call on the Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemns the Israeli military aggression against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip, calls for its immediate cessation, calls for the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza Strip, and calls for protection of the Palestinian people,” Palestine’s U.N. envoy, Riyad Mansour, told the Security Council in an emergency session on Gaza.

Mansour said that if the Security Council failed to respond to his government’s appeals, the Palestinian Authority would “have no recourse but to turn to the judicial bodies of the United Nations and the international system.” The remark appeared to be a veiled warning that the Palestinians were prepared to ask the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe Israel’s military conduct. The Palestinians had previously agreed to hold off on asking for an ICC investigation into Israeli conduct as long as U.S.-brokered peace talks showed signs of progress.

Hamas now says it has captured an Israeli soldier, which Ishaan Tharoor says could further strengthen the group’s position relative to the PA:

[F]or militant groups like Hamas, one captured Israeli soldier is vital currency. Israel rebukes Hamas for not accepting the offer of ceasefires brokered by outside parties, but the ceasefires on offer did nothing to satisfy Hamas’s longstanding demands regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners (including some who were re-arrested after being freed in the exchange for Shalit), the loosening of border controls in heavily blockaded Gaza and the payment of salaries to some 40,000 public employees in Gaza. …

Hamas was not in a particularly strong position to win any of its demands — that is, until it claimed to have captured another Israeli soldier. If that proves true, then it could be a game changer. Still, the biggest loser in the wake of the Shalit release was neither Israel nor Hamas, but the Palestinian government of President Mahmoud Abbas, who has long been at odds with the Islamists. In one fell swoop, Hamas won a real victory — the release of over 1,000 Palestinians — when years of Abbas’s diplomatic wrangling and quixotic missions for U.N. recognition have achieved little to improve the lot of Palestinians.