After 50 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the guns of August have been silenced with the signing this week of a long-term cease-fire agreement.
Now the two sides are duking it out with competing claims of victory.
Those who argue that Israel won this round point out that Hamas has been severely degraded as a fighting force, with hundreds of its militants killed, including top commanders; its infiltration tunnels destroyed; its store of rockets decimated.
Along those lines, the cease-fire agreement met very few of Hamas’ “nonnegotiable” demands. While land crossings with Israel and Egypt are reopening, the truce does not include a seaport, an airport or freeing of prisoners. Some of these may be discussed in the future, but the truce was signed without those guarantees.
Despite attempts by Hamas to spin the agreement in its favor, no one can argue that Gazans are better off today than before the war began. Gaza is in ruins, more than 2,000 of its people dead. It’s hard to fathom why there was dancing in the streets of Gaza City on Tuesday night.
On the other hand, Israel also paid a steep price — in blood, money and reputation. Sixty-four IDF soldiers and six civilians lost their lives. Israelis were subjected to relentless rocket fire that only through the grace of God and Iron Dome did not kill more. Tens of thousands of Israelis left their homes along the border to escape the violence and only now are beginning to return. The economic damage in the south has yet to be assessed.
Most of the world has condemned Israel for using disproportionate force in Gaza. From Paris to Sydney, anti-Israel protests have morphed into vicious anti-Jewish actions. The BDS movement is flexing its muscles, from supermarkets in Great Britain to the Port of Oakland.
So who really won? In truth, the war resolved nothing. Quiet is not the same as peace. Battered as it may be, Hamas remains in power in Gaza. It will rearm. It will rebuild. It will remake tunnels.
Recent polls show a steep drop in support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israelis apparently soured on his war strategy, which was intended merely to contain, not topple, Hamas. Though the sirens have stopped, Hamas has survived and will one day fight again.
Repairing the Israeli homes damaged by Hamas rocket fire will take only a few weeks. Restoring Israelis’ confidence that its government can keep them safe may take much longer.