Truth about the truce

Ha­mas has gained noth­ing — it re­mains iso­lated and its mil­i­tary is crip­pled. But Is­rael is not cel­e­brat­ing

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

THERE ARE no win­ners at the end of the 50 days of war­fare which cul­mi­nated on Tues­day night in a month-long cease­fire.

The truce promised lit­tle for Gaza or Is­rael, just a re­turn to the sta­tus quo af­ter the deaths of 71 Is­raelis — seven of them civil­ians — and at least 2,000 Pales­tini­ans.

With eight pre­vi­ous cease­fires bro­ken by Ha­mas, the ter­ror group ap­pears to have be­come frus­trated at its fail­ure to achieve any tan­gi­ble re­sult or carry out a sig­na­ture strike on an Is­raeli tar­get.

It seems that both sides are re­signed to a tem­po­rary calm and the vague prom­ise of more com­pre­hen­sive ne­go­ti­a­tions in a month, if the cease­fire holds.

From the start of the con­flict, Ha­mas and other Pales­tinian or­gan­i­sa­tions in Gaza launched 4,591 rock­ets and mor­tar shells at Is­raeli tar­gets. Around 200 of th­ese fell within the Gaza Strip, caus­ing con­sid­er­able ca­su­al­ties.

The great ma­jor­ity of Ha­mas rock­ets fell in “open ar­eas” with­out caus­ing ca­su­al­ties or dam­age. The Iron Dome mis­sile de­fence sys­tem suc­cess­fully in­ter­cepted 735 rock­ets; 225 projectiles, mainly short-range mor­tar shells, fell in built-up ar­eas. The IDF at­tacked 5,262 tar­gets in the Strip dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge.

On a tac­ti­cal and strate­gic level, Ha­mas suf­fered a mas­sive blow. Around two-thirds of its mid-range rocket arse­nal was ei­ther de­stroyed or used up with­out caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant dam­age within Is­rael.

Over 30 tun­nels were de­stroyed. Ha­mas had in­vested heav­ily in the un­der­ground net­work, in­clud­ing a large pro­por­tion of the build­ing ma­te­ri­als meant for civil­ian hous­ing and in­fra­struc­ture in Gaza.

In the last week of the op­er­a­tion, at least three se­nior Ha­mas mil­i­tary lead­ers were killed in air strikes. The fate of its chief of staff, Mo­hammed Deif, re­mains un­clear, and he could also be dead.

At the same time, Ha­mas suc­ceeded in keep­ing up a high rate of fire through­out the seven weeks of fight­ing, in­clud­ing fre­quent salvoes to­wards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

While th­ese rock­ets failed to cause any ca­su­al­ties in Is­rael’s main cities, they forced res­i­dents to bomb shel­ters and, for one two-day pe­riod, caused a large num­ber of in­ter­na­tional air­lines to cease op­er­at­ing from Ben Gu­rion Air­port.

The bar­rages from Gaza also

high­lighted Iron Dome’s lim­i­ta­tions, and the dif­fi­culty in block­ing mor­tar fire at tar­gets close to Gaza’s bor­ders. At least ten sol­diers and six civil­ians were killed by th­ese shells — two of them in the hours be­fore the cease­fire — and life in the kib­butzim sur­round­ing the Strip was brought to a near­stand­still.

For all this, Ha­mas ul­ti­mately was forced to ac­cede to a cease­fire agree­ment that guar­an­teed it lit­tle more than the as­sur­ances it re­ceived fol­low­ing the pre­vi­ous round of war­fare in 2012 — that the cross­ings from Is­rael and Egypt would be opened for sup­plies to en­ter.

All the move­ment’s other de­mands — for sea­port and an air­port to be built, for the pris­on­ers ar­rested two months ago in the West Bank to be re­leased and for the salaries of Ha­mas em­ploy­ees to be paid — will be dis­cussed when talks re­sume next week.

This did not stop Ha­mas lead­ers from declar­ing vic­tory. The cel­e­bra­tions amid the ru­ined streets of Gaza may seem hol­low, but so far there seems lit­tle ap­petite for a revo­lu­tion.

A poll con­ducted by the Pales­tinian Cen­tre for Public Opin­ion found that 88.9 per cent of Pales­tini­ans sup­port rocket at­tacks on Is­rael and that 75.4 per cent be­lieve that Is­rael has been de­terred by them.

In the diplo­matic arena, how­ever, Ha­mas has been fur­ther iso­lated. The Egypt­drafted agree­ment that it has been forced to ac­cept gives no role to the move­ment’s sole re­main­ing sup­port­ers, Qatar and Tur­key.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, who re­sisted pres­sure from right-wing cabi­net min­is­ters to ex­pand the op­er­a­tion and com­pletely top­ple Ha­mas, has suf­fered in the polls. Only a month ago, at the height of the op­er­a­tion, over 80 per cent of Is­raelis were ex­press­ing sup­port for his con­duct.

A poll car­ried out on Tues­day by Chan­nel Two found that sat­is­fac­tion with the PM was down to 38 per cent, while 50 per cent are now ex­press­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the way the Gaza op­er­a­tion has been han­dled.

The lack of a clear achieve­ment for Is­rael has been un­der­lined by the fact that the cease­fire agree­ment con­tains no ref­er­ence to plans to demilitarise Gaza or change the se­cu­rity ar­range­ments on its fron­tiers.

Th­ese wild fluc­tu­a­tions in Mr Ne­tanyahu’s pop­u­lar­ity do not spell an im­me­di­ate po­lit­i­cal emer­gency and are more a re­flec­tion of the public’s frus­tra­tion with how the fight­ing dragged on for nearly two months.

What is more wor­ry­ing for him at this stage is the state of near-open re­bel­lion within his cabi­net and coali­tion, with many mem­bers crit­i­cis­ing him for ac­cept­ing a cease­fire while Ha­mas is still stand­ing.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Pales­tini­ans walk through a ru­ined street in Gaza

A Pales­tinian youth stands on the rub­ble of Gaza’s Basha Tower, hit in an Is­raeli air­stirke

Aaron Sofer

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