This morning’s Ynet carried an AFP banner photograph of a Palestinian child brandishing a semi-automatic weapon as Gaza celebrated its “victory” over Israel in the recent war of attrition.
In its never ending campaign of deception, Hamas seeks to persuade war weary Gazans that it was all worthwhile, that the borders will now be open to free trade and that an airport and seaport will be constructed.
The inability of the Palestinian leadership to face facts and come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East will continue to lead them down a path paved with delusion, frustration and disappointment.
Gazans have paid an incredibly high price for having once again chosen to rain rockets down on Israel’s cities and kibbutzim. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed and much larger numbers injured. They and their families will bear the physical and emotional scars of this war for the rest of their lives.
They say it will take up to 10 years to repair the damage caused to infrastructure, homes and commercial properties in a war that lasted just 50 days.
Meanwhile, the mood in Israel is not one of celebration. While the rockets and the mortars have ceased and air raid sirens are no longer sending us rushing to our shelters, there is nevertheless a sense that the outcome of Operation Defensive Edge was not clear-cut or decisive and that this could have been just another round in a never ending conflict.
People are looking at Israel’s military and civilian casualties and are wondering what has really been achieved and at what a price in both human and material terms. Hamas was not forced to surrender unilaterally much to the disappointment not only of many in Israel but also of Egypt’s military rulers.
Israel cannot afford to return to the status quo ante. Next time Hamas will have more sophisticated rockets and other weaponry and will be better placed to target Israel’s civilian population.
Had not Amir Peretz faced down skeptics and pushed for the development of the Iron Dome rocket interceptor system during his term as Minister of Defence, the current war would have turned out very differently. Israel would have had no alternative other than to launch a ground offensive and many more soldiers would have lost their lives.
It is significant that Prime Minister Netanyahu did not bring the proposed current ceasefire to his Cabinet for approval. Had he done so, he would not have found the majority he needed.
Now all will depend upon the outcome of indirect negotiations scheduled for next month. Israel cannot afford to accede to Hamas’ demands for an airport and seaport without placing the nation in serious danger. Were the Palestinians to agree to Israel’s demand for a demilitarized Gaza Strip, it would be another matter. However, that isn’t about to happen.
If any progress is to be made, it will have to take place in a much broader political context in which the Palestinian aspiration for statehood is addressed and Israel’s legitimate security concerns are met.