Who won?

We should be encouraged by the many positive developments that emerged in the past eight days.

Gazans celebrate after cease-fire 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Gazans celebrate after cease-fire 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
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 opaque.
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 framework.
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.
Yet, there 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.”
But the fiery rhetoric did not translate into deeds. The Muslim Brotherhood leader has not so far changed core foreign policy positions undertaken by Hosni Mubarak.
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 commander-in-chief.
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 communities.
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 caches.
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.