An Israeli Merkava tank rolls back from the Gaza Strip to an army base at the Israeli-Gaza border
An Israeli Merkava tank rolls back from the Gaza Strip to an army base at the Israeli-Gaza border as the sun sets on August 3, 2014. Photo by AFP
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With Israeli and Palestinian delegations conducting cease-fire negotiations in Cairo, and as reports come in that Israel is ready to extend the truce under the current conditions, a selection of Haaretz writers and analysts look back at a month of war – while trying to undertand what lies ahead.

Who's the real politician?

Israeli army officials, writes Amos Harel, see a chance to seal a deal for Gaza that may have advantages for Israel: A coordinated Israeli-Egyptian effort to prevent the resumption of weapons smuggling through the tunnels, and to take more care inspecting incoming materials that could be used to make weapons.



But Hamas was not defeated, Harel cautions. The organization will remain in power in Gaza and the key partner in any future agreement. If the cease-fire leads to a lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip, Hamas may consider the heavy price it has paid worthwhile.

If the military sees the promise of diplomacy, Israel's political leadership completely failed to set diplomatic goals to the war. As Barak Ravid illustrates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could could have pursued creative and sophisticated diplomatic initiatives to end the war. Instead, he returned to the political passivity that he excels at.

"For an entire month," Ravid writes, "a war was conducted in Gaza without the prime minister and members of the security cabinet holding a single discussion on how Israel would want its relationship with Gaza to look once it was over."

Bibi gets an 'A'

Diplomatic opportunities squandered or not, a Haaretz poll found that Israelis are satisfied with Netanyahu's conduct during the war – to an extent Yossi Verter describes as "astonishing." They were less convinced by the leadersdhip's claim of victory, however, perhaps because, as Verter writes, Israelis "know the end of every such operation contains the seeds of the next round."

From the point of view of Israel’s international standing, a cease-fire couldn't have come a moment too soon, writes Chemi Shalev. "There can be no doubt that Israel was coming perilously close to the edge from the point of view of its international image and stature," Shalev writes. "A step or two farther and it would be facing the specter of the “Goldstonization” of Operation Protective Edge.

The big dig

And as Israelis and Palestinians hash it out Cairo, the hosts themselves are carving out a new role. "Egypt has accepted not only the role of mediator, but also the role of guarantor for Hamas’ conduct," according to Zvi Bar'el, who highlights the weight of responsibility now resting on Cairo's shoulders: "Any fire from Hamas or other Palestinian factions in Gaza will now be a black mark against Egypt."

If Israel is bound to prepare for future tunnels, what about the tunnels of the past? Those that, in the words of Amir Oren, were well-known but not acted on? The real digging these days, Oren adds, "is in army offices throughout the country. Clerks are digging through records in order to find who said what to whom, and when.



Finally, could it be that there are some Jews who are allies of Hamas? Peter Beinart says he's accused of being just that, every day on social media. But upon reflection, do their critics have a point?