A War Without A Winner, Ctd

by Dish Staff

Juan Cole casts doubt on how much of a victory the Gaza ceasefire really is for Israel:

[W]hat the Israeli military was going for was a result similar to its 2006 war on Hizbullah in Lebanon; since that conflict Hizbullah has not fired any rockets into Israel or Israeli-occupied territories like the Shebaa Farms (which belong to Lebanese farmers). It is not at all clear that the war produced any such similar cessation of hostilities between Gaza and Israel. In part, there are undisciplined small groups in Gaza perfectly able and willing to construct some flying pipe bombs and send them over to Beersheva and Sderot (former Palestinian cities from which Gaza refugees hail that are now Israeli cities). One drawback of Israel reducing Hamas’s capabilities is that it also reduced its ability to police the Strip. Hamas itself has in the past honored cease-fires as long as Israel has observed their terms. In part, that 70% of Palestinians in Gaza are refugee families from what is now Israel and that 40% still live in squalid refugee camps means that they are very unlike the Shiites of southern Lebanon, who are farmers with their own land.

The Dish looked at the hazy definition of “victory” in Gaza during the previous ceasefire earlier this month. Mitchell Plitnick observes how Netanyahu failed to achieve his strategic goals:

Netanyahu is now going to face international pressure to seriously engage in peace talks through Egyptian mediation. His preference, and that of his right flank in Israel, will be to stall on such talks, but with the United States and Europe increasing their support for a resolution to the issue of Gaza, Netanyahu will find himself in the middle of a tug o’ war battle. With that same right flank becoming increasingly alienated from and hostile to him, he may be forced to the table. That table will house yet another massive failure on Bibi’s part. … Bibi’s purpose in all of this was to rend asunder the Palestinian unity government. Now the United Nations, the European Union, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and crucially, the United States, are pushing for that same unity government—currently composed of technocrats led by Mahmoud Abbas—to take over in Gaza.

But Hamas didn’t exactly “win” either, Adam Chandler remarks:

Hamas made many promises that they did not deliver. The group said they would fight until the blockade of Gaza ended. Despite some cosmetic shifts, the blockade is still in effect. They demanded that Israel release the prisoners it rearrested, pay its salaries, and establish a seaport. None of those things have happened, although some discussions are set to take place next month. As many have pointed out, after 50 days, Hamas ultimately accepted a ceasefire proposal that is almost identical to one proffered by Egypt on the war’s eighth day. Hamas rejected that proposal. And the wages for all this bluster was death. A lot of Palestinian death and misery, including 100,000 homeless.

Ed Krayweski suggests that the ceasefire might have come thanks to America’s stepping back from the negotiations, demonstrating that we’re not as indispensable in the Middle East as we think we are:

Reserving judgment on Kerry’s skills as a negotiator, his attempt to negotiate a truce was doomed from the start. The U.S. plays too active a role, yet is not vested enough in the situation in Israel, to have acted as an effective negotiator. Egypt, with which the Gaza strip also shares a tightly controlled border, which sends aid to Gaza, and which has a 35 year old peace deal with Israel, was far better positioned to negotiate a truce than the U.S. America’s participation in negotiations may have also made them harder to succeed by drawing so much public and press attention to the process. In those conditions, Israeli and Hamas negotiators might have been more interested in not appearing weak in the court of public opinion.

Keating looks ahead:

I don’t think a brief return to fighting is out of the question, but a return to the level of carnage we saw in July seems improbable. It’s likely that Israel will agree to ease but not entirely lift the travel and trade blockade on the territory. This could involve some opening of the checkpoints on the territory’s borders, the construction of a port and expanding of fishing rights, the expansion of humanitarian aid, and talks on prisoner releases. It’s been obvious for weeks that this is what a final settlement would look like, which raises the question of why it couldn’t be reached earlier. … The talks will continue and will get messy, and they may be punctuated by renewed bursts of violence, but things are slowly returning to normal. Which is to say that things are returning to an intolerable situation that is unsustainable in the long run for both parties.

But Noah Efron thinks the aftermath of the war offers some opportunities to both Israel and the Palestinians:

Likely, the Palestinian Authority will have renewed influence in Gaza. Possibly, the reach and power of Hamas is diminished. The project of rebuilding all that was destroyed in Gaza may offer opportunities for world leaders who have little sympathy for Hamas to develop alternative civic leadership in the region. The greater involvement of Egyptian leaders, also untrusting of Hamas, suggests as well that a future can be hewn for Gaza that is different from its recent past. All of these things, taken together, are not enough to make one optimistic about future relations between Gaza and Israel. But they do show that, rather than disengage, Israel needs to engage with Gaza. If we are smart, energetic, creative and, above all, lucky (all things at which Israelis, at our best, excel), this war may prove to be a turning point toward a Gaza that we can live with and, perhaps, towards a Palestine that we can live beside.