More questions than answers after latest Gaza battle

This war — actually the latest round in a long-running conflict — appears to be winding down. It leaves many questions, starting with “Why is this war different from all other wars?” Answer: It isn’t.

Here are several other questions to ponder:

As Israel withdraws its ground forces without a formal cease-fire with Hamas, will the threat of massive retaliation be sufficient to keep Gaza calm without any agreement filled with empty promises by each side?

The casualty toll in Gaza is nearing 2,000 dead and another 8,200 wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, but how accurate is that since it comes from a branch of the Hamas government? Will it ever be possible to get accurate data about the number of women and children casualties, and the number of men of fighting age? Why have the international media been so unquestioning in quoting Hamas’ numbers?

Of the thousands of rockets and missiles launched at Israel, how many of them fell in Gaza and how many casualties did they cause? Will we ever know?

When UNRWA reported it found Hamas rockets and other munitions in its facilities and turned them over to “local authorities,” did they really think no one knew the local authority in Gaza is Hamas?

Why have international media failed to report intimidation of their reporters and photographers by Hamas? Is it because of threats if they don’t toe the Hamas line? Have reports of this pressure gotten little coverage because the news outfits are more concerned about access than accuracy (remember CNN in Saddam’s Iraq)?

Is a new regional order taking shape, with moderate Sunni Muslim states such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE lining up on one side with Israel; and Islamists like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood along with Qatar, Turkey and Iran on the other?

In view of Qatar and Turkey’s increasingly close relationship with Hamas, should the United States re-examine its security and intelligence cooperation with them? Is it safe to have so many American personnel and defense facilities based in those countries?

Did the IDF underestimate Hamas’ fighting skills, discipline and determination?

Was the IDF too lax in following its own rules for avoiding civilian casualties?

Who really won the war?

Was it Hamas because Israel failed to achieve its announced goal of putting it out of business, and its leadership is still alive?

Was Israel the winner because Iron Dome prevented any major missile strikes, Hamas took such a devastating beating, and the Jewish state strengthened ties with Egypt while making openings to the Gulf states?

Who really lost the war?

Was Hamas the loser because none of its missiles hit Israeli population centers, it failed to grab any hostages, its only Arab ally is Qatar, many Arab states effectively sided with Israel, Hamas’ financial condition has gone from bad to worse and there is growing support for handing over control of Gaza to its archrival Fatah and the Palestinian Authority?

Was it Israel because it failed in its stated goals of disarming Hamas and demilitarizing Gaza, because the war sparked widespread anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations and because of international indignation over the killing of so many civilians?

Will failure to win any concessions from Israel damage Hamas’ capacity to govern and its ability to raise foreign capital to rebuild and to pay government salaries?

How much did Israel know about the tunnel network beneath its borders? Why was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu willing to accept two unconditional Egyptian cease-fires without going after them until Hamas refused to stop shooting? Was he so focused on his military and political buildup against the Iranian nuclear threat that he didn’t pay enough attention to the more immediate tunnel problem literally on Israel’s doorstep?

Was Secretary of State John Kerry naive and uninformed in his reading of Hamas by depending on Qatar and Turkey to negotiate a cease-fire, when they apparently spoke only to the political leaders in exile but not the military commanders on the ground?

Did Kerry offend both Israel and the PA by conceding too much to Hamas and sidelining the PA in his negotiations, rewarding Hamas with concessions that will strengthen the Islamists’ hand in relation to the PA? If so, what will be the impact on the U.S. role as Mideast peacemaker?

Will the outcome of this war, with Hamas seriously weakened politically, militarily and financially, make it easier or tougher for Kerry to persuade Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas to return to the peace table any time soon?

Does French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius have the right idea when he says the Israelis and Palestinians have proven themselves incapable of concluding an agreement, so a two-state solution “should be imposed by the international community”?

What can and should Israel do to deal with rising anti-Semitism in Europe?

How long can Israel treat America as a subordinate ally whose job is to mind its own business, keep forking over more than $3 billlion a year in foreign aid and, as Netanyahu said, never second-guess the prime minister?

Finally, a multiple-choice question: When does the next round of fighting begin? A) in a few days; B) in a few months; C) in a few years; D) No one knows.

Douglas M. Bloomfield is the president of Bloomfield Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C., lobbying and consulting firm. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.