Hamas lost this war, despite its claims of victory.
Israel did not win, but there has been no clear winner of any war since 1945.
Hamas suffered more than 2,100 deaths, 11,000 injuries and a shortage of medical facilities, as well as massive destruction. The cease fire provided nothing more than Hamas had before it began the violence. Israel has agreed to allow the import of humanitarian supplies and construction materials.
Insofar as Egypt remains as steadfast against Hamas as Israel, there may be serious monitoring of what flows into Gaza. The reconstruction may not get very far before the onset of winter''s rain and cold.
Israel suffered 70 deaths and perhaps 200 people hospitalized, destruction due more to mortars that fell near Gaza than missiles that evaded Iron Dome.
The lack of victory is apparent in Israel''s dissatisfaction. Polls asking about the public''s support of the Prime Minister''s conduct of the operation showed a decline from more than 80 percent support at the beginning to less than 40 percent recently. It is not clear how many unhappy Israelis wanted a more aggressive pursuit of the operation, and how many wanted an more concerted pursuit of a cease fire. The Prime Minister avoided a vote in the Security Cabinet to the cease fire, and half its members have expressed their opposition.
Isaweeans endorsed Hamas'' claims of victory with fireworks late into the night.
West Bank Palestinians as well as some Americans and Europeans are seeing this as an opportunity to restart a peace process. Mahmoud Abbas has proposed international resolutions to push Israel back to its pre-1967 borders.
Israel''s actions over the previous seven weeks should caution against any excessive optimism with respect to its trust of Palestinians, or its vulnerability to pressure.
The most recent few days showed Israel''s willingness to keep escalating, and may have brought Hamas and its Jihadist allies to accept what they had rejected several times earlier. The IDF killed three of Hamas senior military commanders, the wife and children of the most senior commander, perhaps the senior commander himself, and several lesser figures. When the air force exploded the car carrying a senior finance official the result was not only a spread of body parts but of currency. After warning that any facility being used by Hamas or its allies would be a target, the air force attacked a UNRWA school and one clinic, and brought down several multi-story apartment blocks.
The cease fire is scheduled to last for one month, after which there will be negotiations.
At this point, there has been several hours without rocket or mortar attacks. Optimism is not rampant with respect to continued quiet, given the chaos within Hamas and among its allies, and their earlier violation of 11 agreements for cease fire. This one did not begin well, with Israel having to post warnings at least 15 minutes beyond the time which Abbas proclaimed for its onset.
There remain some difficult issues on Israel''s agenda. The most pressing are those kept alive by distrust of Hamas.
Most prominent is the extreme discomfort of Israelis in the small settlements within mortar range of Gaza. The mortars, while of the lowest of military tech, caused the greatest damage within something like six kilometers of Gaza. They drop virtually without warning, and are not vulnerable to the defenses against missiles.
Many, perhaps most of the residents, especially those with small children, left home during the fighting. Some returned when advised to do so by senior IDF personnel at the onset of an earlier cease fire. One family that returned included four year old Daniel, whose death became an icon for the region''s suffering. Following that tragedy, many more left, with some demanding an official evacuation of border settlements.
The government refused to evacuate settlements, while offering various kinds of help (money, refuge in protected building, transport away from the area) to individuals wanting to leave. As Finance Minister Lapid explained, the government could not uproot settlements. If it began with small kibbutzim alongside Gaza, next in line will be Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and eventually Tel Aviv. It''s a principle that should be preserved, even if some individuals suffer great tension or even the loss of life.
Coming up is the beginning of the school year, scheduled for September 1. Most school rooms are not fortified against missiles or mortars. Schools like other public buildings have sheltered areas, but the media has shown what happens when hundreds of kids have to move from classroom to shelter in 15-90 seconds, depending on location.
Somewhere on the tables of those planning things in the Ministry of Education and IDF''s Homeland Defense are notions for transporting kids from alongside Gaza; or providing lessons via the Internet.
Given the distrust of Hamas and the onset of the school year, the issue is most relevant up to a radius that includes Ashdod and Beer Sheva, and includes more than one million residents.
Some political leaders of the settlements near Gaza are urging their residents to stay away for at least a few more days, pending what happens with this cease fire.
Still in the air is the frustration of near-Gaza residents due to their feeling of being hostage to occasional and unpredictable attacks of missiles or mortars, depending on maneuvers within and between Hamas and other Islamic fanatics.
Beyond the prime issue of Hamas honoring this cease fire and what happens when Israel most likely rejects its demands for completely open borders, an airport and seaport, Israelis can expect their usual commotion to focus on a return to domestic conflict after a war-time lull of unusual unity. There will be demands for the resignation of the Prime Minister and his government, either for not pursuing the war aggressively enough or delaying an agreement for a cease fire. The left is sure to demand investigations into the actions of the IDF, either collectively or in the case of individual units and commanders said to be responsible for excessive casualties among the Palestinians. International calls for investigations and sanctions will spur domestic responses in one direction or another. Hamas'' initiation of the violence, as well as its use of civilians to protect its fighters and munitions and the summary public executions of those said to be collaborators will figure prominently in Israel''s defense against political aggression.
The multiplicity of worthies wanting to shape UN and other actions--and the competition between them--may delay or defeat the aspirations of one and all. Those itching to influence include clusters of Palestinians, the governments of several Muslim countries, as well as the US, European governments, the European Union, and several components of the UN.
Likely to impact on what happens are the ongoing reactions of international media and numerous governments to the barbarism of Daish and Boko Haram, and renewed violence in Libya. The concern of some western leaders as well as Saudi Arabia and Egypt for the radical Emir of Qatar and his financing for much of the extremism may occupy us for some time, and compete with whatever concern the Palestinians and their friends can generate in behalf of Gaza and against Israel.
There is little hope for peace with Hamas or any other Palestinian group. Best achievable is a period of relative quiet, like that with the West Bank since 2005 or so. Death and destruction throughout Gaza should have as much effect as anything feasible. It probably does not make any difference exactly when the violence stopped. By agreeing to a cease fire, Hamas said Uncle without pronouncing the word.
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