It’s hard to discern it through the tears that are being shed over the soldiers who have been killed and despite the fact that Hamas has continued to fight, but the IDF’s Protective Edge operation in Gaza is a clear victory for this country.
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There are those who think that as long as Hamas has not surrendered, we’ve failed. Actually, however, Hamas’ insistence on continuing to fight demonstrates the extent to which it is dissatisfied with the current results.
Israel is winning because it has not embarked on a war to eliminate Hamas, but rather on an operation to deal a harsh blow to three Hamas assets: the attack tunnels leading from Gaza into Israeli territory, the arsenal of rockets that it has been firing into Israel, and its capacity to frighten people and disrupt life in Israel.
Most of the tunnels have been located. Some have been destroyed at this point; the others will be. There is no such thing as 100 percent in life. Those who have been demanding an inquiry as to why action hadn’t been taken earlier against the tunnels ignore the fact that Israel cannot undertake a military operation without a domestic consensus, and without a rationale that can be shown to the world. It’s easy to imagine how the Israeli public would have reacted, let alone the world, if on one fine summer day the Israel Defense Forces had gone into Gaza simply on the basis of intelligence information.
Hamas has lost about half of its rocket arsenal, and in any event the rocket fire has been a failure. Because the 2006 Second Lebanon War remains the psychological standard for both sides, it appears that the threats by the Hezbollah leader during that war to shoot rockets further and further motivated Hamas to get the entire country within range. Not only has Israel’s Iron Dome rocket interception system almost completely prevented casualties and destruction on the Israeli side, but as Hamas gave more and more Israelis firsthand experience of what it’s like to take cover from rocket fire, it solidified the consensus that the fight against Hamas must be pursued. The bravery of the soldiers and the demonstrations of mutual responsibility are moving and impressive. And even if there are expressions of harsh anti-Arab rhetoric among members of the public, one needs to make a distinction between that and the frightful murder of Arab Jerusalem teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir early this month following the killing of the three yeshiva students. During wartime, people’s emotions run high, and not every word that is uttered needs to be taken seriously, certainly not in the social media, which serves as a vehicle for emotional release.
I follow the content on Qatar-based Al Jazeera television’s English-language website to understand the other side, but also try not to look at the grisly pictures. The number of dead and the destruction in Gaza are immense. We should not minimize the effect that this will have on the development of negative attitudes toward Hamas. As the French writer Simone de Beauvoir said in connection with the massacres at Sabra and Chatila by Israel’s Phalangist Lebanese Christian allies in 1982, those who sought to place the blame on Israel alone think in effect that the Arabs are uncivilized. What Israel is doing will indeed intensify the anger against this country, but it will also strengthen recognition by the residents of Gaza that they derive no benefit from the confrontation that Hamas is waging with Israel.
Even reports over the crisis in Israel’s relations with U.S. President Barack Obama over his demand for an immediate cease-fire should be approached with some skepticism. A glance at how things unfolded with respect to prior IDF military operations in recent years shows that the international community allows about a month for them in any event. And the fact that the European Union has called for the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip is an accomplishment for Israel.
We have won, even if Hamas won’t admit it, and we don’t need to really care about such an admission. Now is the time to relate to the demands of a weakened Hamas and look at a solution that will bring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in to lead efforts to rehabilitate Gaza. That would complete the victory of a policy that would reduce the risk of an additional confrontation.