Understandably, many Israelis are dissatisfied with the outcome of Operation
Pillar of Defense. As was the case in previous clashes with the Hamas and the
other terrorist organizations operating in Gaza Strip, there was no clear-cut
Israeli victory. The official cease-fire document – which remains unsigned – is
There is nothing in it, for instance, that obligates Hamas – as
the de facto government in Gaza – to maintain the quiet. Theoretically, Hamas
bears no responsibility if one of the smaller terrorist organizations – the
Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, the Salafists, the Popular Resistance Committees
and others – were to launch a rocket attack on Israel.
And as Ashdod
Mayor Yehiel Lasri pointed out Thursday, Hamas gained a certain level of
legitimacy by negotiating a cease-fire agreement in an international
It is important, however, not to lose sight of the many
positive developments that have come to light in the aftermath of Operation
Pillar of Defense.
The launching of the operation posed the first serious
test of the effects of the Arab uprisings – and Israel appears to have passed
the exam. There was real concern ahead of the decision to launch Operation
Pillar of Defense that the IDF’s ability to stage large military operations
would be more constrained in the wake of the Arab uprisings.
was strikingly little popular mobilization in the Arab and Muslim world against
Israel for defending itself against Hamas’s aggression. Admittedly, there were
small and relatively contained demonstrations in Turkey, Tunisia, Malaysia,
Yemen and elsewhere. Even in Cairo, where the ruling Muslim Brotherhood made an
effort to mobilize the populace, demonstrations succeeded in attracting no more
than a few thousand.
If anything, Egypt turned out to be a responsible
regional power that was instrumental in bringing about a quick end to the
conflict. True, President Mohamad Morsi threatened Israel in the first days of
the operation, declaring “Egypt is different from yesterday.”
fiery rhetoric did not translate into deeds. The Muslim Brotherhood leader has
not so far changed core foreign policy positions undertaken by Hosni
Significantly, Cairo, which also has an interest in
demilitarizing the Gaza Strip, has reportedly taken upon itself the
responsibility for preventing the smuggling of arms via the Philadelphi Route.
Time will tell if Egypt will truly stand by its promise. In addition, US
President Barack Obama’s unequivocal support for Israel’s right to defend itself
provided an opportunity for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to reset his
sometimes tense relations with the American
Particularly encouraging was the strong backing for
Israel coming from Europe. While visiting Jerusalem, German Foreign Minister
Guido Westerwelle, speaking for the entire EU, placed the blame for the conflict
squarely on Hamas’s shoulders and supported Israel’s right to do what was
necessary to defend its citizens.
The resilience of the residents of the
South was truly inspiring. Israelis in Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderot and
other communities that bore the brunt of the rocket and mortar barrage did not
give in to the intimidation and the scare tactics of Hamas and the other
murderous terrorist organizations. Residents of the South strongly supported the
government’s decision to launch Operation Pillar of Defense, though it resulted
in a sharp rise in rockets and mortar shells fired at their
The courage of the residents of the South was buttressed by
the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. With a nearly 90 percent success rate, Iron
Dome provided crucial protection to Israelis while the IDF had the breathing
room to carefully and accurately target terrorists and arms
Despite all of their throaty declarations of victory against the
“Zionist entity,” Hamas and the other terrorist organizations were hurt badly by
the latest round of clashes.
In coming weeks Hamas-controlled Gaza’s
population will come to grips with the tremendous price they have been forced to
pay because their leaders have chosen the path of terrorism. Undoubtedly, a
certain amount of deterrence was restored.
While Operation Pillar of
Defense may not have achieved a clear-cut victory against the terrorists in
Gaza, and sooner or later there will be another round of violence – at least as
long as Hamas is in control – we should be encouraged by the many positive
developments that emerged in the past eight days.