Will Rogers once said, “The United States never lost a war or won a [peace] conference.” That may more aptly describe Israel today in the wake of the latest installment of the Gaza war.
Each side is declaring victory and proclaiming the other the vanquished. Who really are the winners and losers? Here are some items to help you decide:
W – Iron Dome. The biggest winner and greatest hero of the 50-day war was Israel’s remarkable anti-missile system.
It saved many lives, showcased the country’s superior technology and had to be a sobering message not just for Hamas but also for Hezbollah, Iran and other potential enemies. And it is good for business; other countries are already lining up to buy their own Iron Dome.
L – Hamas. The Gaza-based terrorist group was forced to accept an Egyptian cease-fire agreement it had turned down five times – Israel accepted each time – and gained nothing for it but a higher casualty count and the destruction of tunnels that were not an original Israeli target and the loss of several top leaders.
W – Hamas. It won just by virtue of still being around after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared the goal of the war was to wipe them out. Most of its leaders won just by surviving and being able to show up in public without worrying about Israeli drones tracking them.
L – Washington. Egypt and Israel elbowed the United States out of the cease-fire talks. Secretary of State John Kerry managed to offend Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States by appearing overly concerned about making sure Hamas achieved something in the war. When he went around America’s allies to negotiate his own cease-fire by excluding them and meeting with Hamas’ allies, Qatar and Turkey, his plan was rejected and he was essentially told to go home and stop interfering.
W – Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The new Egyptian president skillfully brokered the truce and paved Egypt’s way back to Arab leadership after a long hiatus. He sought to reduce Hamas’ influence by refusing to deal with it directly and working instead through Mahmoud Abbas and his PA as the legitimate Palestinian representative.
Egypt had the support of Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf Arabs in blocking the influence of Qatar, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. He took control of negotiations, elbowing out Secretary Kerry.
L – Mahmoud Abbas. The PA president tried to look like a major player by announcing the Egyptian ceasefire and sitting in on the Cairo negotiations, but it was as an observer. Abbas wanted Hamas wiped out as much as Israel did so the PA could regain control of Gaza. That seems to have failed.
W – Israel-Egypt relations. Following the overthrow of the Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, relations between Cairo and Jerusalem were strengthened as both countries, by all accounts, worked well together to thwart the ambitions of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and to keep the United States on the outside looking in.
L – Binyamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister is being battered from all sides. He started out seeking calm for calm but soon shifted his goal to disarming Hamas and demilitarizing Gaza, but that proved elusive and he settled for calm for calm. His popularity had been on the rise until the shooting stopped. It’s been plunging ever since as Israelis on all sides are disappointed in the inconclusive outcome. The toughest criticism is coming from right inside his own security cabinet as his team of rivals jockey for opportunities to remove and replace him.
W – The IDF. The Israeli army is a big winner for its bravery, professionalism and effectiveness. No one on either side is buying Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s claim that IDF is a loser because it failed to wipe out Hamas. “No power on earth can disarm the resistance,” he declared.
L – Hamas leaders. When they began executing suspected Israeli collaborators it signaled panic and worry that they might have been infiltrated. Let’s hope they weren’t just being paranoid.
W – Hamas fighters. They showed more discipline, fought better than previously and didn’t panic and run as often happened in the past, although in encounters with the IDF the casualty rate was about 10:1.
L – US-Israel relations. The United States gave full backing to Israel’s right to defend itself but President Barack Obama was alarmed by the high civilian death toll and pressed for an early cease-fire, which neither side was ready for. The Israeli Right was quick to attack him as siding with Hamas, and a temperamental Netanyahu admonished Washington never to “second guess” him when it came to Gaza. Further strain was added when the White House slowed approval of the resupply of Hellfire missiles.
W – Hamas’ rocketeers. Their long-range rockets spread fear throughout Israel – and still do across the country’s south – and the group can boast of having forced the brief shutdown of Ben-Gurion Airport, halted a number of international flights, most notably from the United States, and damage to Israeli tourism.
L – Hamas. It got none of its demands like an airport, a harbor, open borders, free passage of goods, extended fishing limits and an end to the Israeli-Egyptian siege.
Many, maybe most, of its infiltration tunnels were destroyed and its rocket inventory is greatly depleted.
Egypt is still blowing up its smuggling tunnels on that border. Most troubling of all had to be how few Arab states came to its defense even rhetorically.
W – The Palestinian Authority. It can come out a winner if it gets credit for reconstruction and Hamas gets blamed for the destruction. Another victory would be getting Israel to return to the peace table and give it something to boast about, like a prisoner release that was denied Hamas. Resumption of diplomacy will help only if it shows more results than war.
L – The media that allowed itself to be intimidated by Hamas and failed to report – even after leaving Gaza – on the use of human shields and the use of private homes and other locations for firing rockets. Most knew that Hamas leaders were hiding in bunkers beneath Shifa Hospital, using the doctors, nurses, staff, patients and visitors as their unwitting human shields. Didn’t they suspect anything when Hamas spokesmen would use the hospital for their news conferences and other meetings? Many news outlets unquestioningly accepted Hamas Health Ministry casualty figures as accurate, oblivious to the obvious political motivations of the ministry’s reports.
W – Netanyahu claims victory because he didn’t cave into any of Hamas’ demands; Khaled Mashaal says the same thing about Israel’s demands.
So who really won? No one, of course.