As we go to press, Hamas and Israel are inching toward a negotiated cease-fire that we hope will avert an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. While we give thanks that the open hostilities might cease — for now— a truce in no way ends the real conflict.
Rather, it simply allows both sides to tally the price of war. At least five Israelis died this past week, with scores more injured. More than 100 Palestinians died. Israel did everything possible to minimize civilian casualties, while Hamas terrorists did the opposite, deliberately aiming for civilian centers. On Nov. 20, Israel even sent 24 trucks of food and medical supplies to Gaza; Hamas prevented another 98 trucks from entering.
This latest round of fighting revealed much that is new in the military capabilities on both sides and the geopolitical forces at play.
Perhaps the biggest shock has been Hamas’ targeting of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Gaza-based terrorists can now reach Israel’s populous center, a disturbing development that cannot be allowed to stand.
At the same time, the world witnessed Israel’s extraordinary pinpoint targeting as its air force took out scores of Gaza-based arms depots, Hamas offices, smuggling tunnels and rocket launchers.
And then there was the miraculous performance of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which intercepted hundreds of rockets that otherwise could have caused mass casualties. Iron Dome scored a nearly 90 percent success rate.
Add it up, and Israel has advanced markedly in intelligence gathering and protecting the homeland. On the other hand, Hamas’ long-range rocket arsenal alters the security equation for Israel. Factor in the close ties between Hamas and the Islamist government of Egypt, and Israel has an untenable problem on its hands.
We seem to have reached a stalemate. Each side wants something the other is unwilling to give. Hamas won’t stop waging war until Israel lifts the blockade of Gaza. Israel won’t lift the blockade until Hamas stops the rockets.
Because of political changes in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, Israel is in a weaker position internationally than it was four years ago after its last Gaza incursion. At the same time, Hamas can claim greater international legitimacy and more support from the Arab world. This is a harsh new reality, one that threatens to hamper Israel’s position in future negotiations.
Two decades ago, Israel recognized that a negotiated two-state solution is the only way forward to peace. This past week, Hamas has paid a steep price for its refusal to give up armed terror and accept its Jewish neighbor. It’s time for the world to press them to do so.