Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who won?

Who won the war in Gaza?  The conventional wisdom would say that no-one won, because both sides took casualties that to each were excessive.  But, a more sober analysis would indicate that Israel won, notwithstanding the spurious victory celebration in Gaza.  Here are the reasons,
1. Hamas was forced to accept a ceasefire without conditions after 50 days.  Hamas vowed that they would not accept any ceasefire without their conditions being met, namely a lifting of the Israeli blockade, opening of all borders to free movement, a new sea port and a new airport and release of rearrested prisoners.  Although some of these conditions might be subject to negotiation, Hamas has so far achieved none of them. 
2. The Iron Dome anti-missile system worked amazingly well and intercepted 90% of the missiles targeted on populated areas. Only 4 people were killed by ca. 4,500 missiles and mortars that Hamas and its affiliates (Islamic Jihad, Popular Committees, Fatah) fired at Israel.   This is an abject failure, instead of causing mass casualties, they only scored one death per thousand missiles, not an effective weapon. 
3. Israel detected and destroyed 32 attack tunnels, that opened into Israeli territory.  This prevented a mass attack of terrorists that was planned for later in the year, and destroyed the work of millions of dollars and the strategy of Hamas to inflict mass casualties on Israel. 
4. Hamas received heavy losses, including ca. 1,000 fighters (usually counted a civilians by the media) killed in the fighting and bombing, as well as numerous leaders of the organization who will be very hard to replace.   Also, many if not most of their construction facilities for missiles and their control centers, some located in basements and others in high towers, that they did not expect the IDF to destroy (partly because of the civilians living there and partly because of the difficulty).
However, notwithstanding the losses of Hamas, the victory of Israel was not clear-cut, for the following reasons; 1
1. The stated aim of Operation Defensive Edge was to bring lasting peace and quiet to southern Israel, but there is no guarantee that this has been achieved.   Up to the last minute Hamas was still firing missiles into southern Israel at roughly the same rate that it was at the beginning of the campaign.
2. Hamas has not been demilitarized.  This can only be achieved if, after the negotiations to follow a month of quiet, the international community agrees with Israel that Hamas must be prevented from replacing the missiles and arms it lost.  In other word that Hamas must be disarmed.  This will require that Israeli maintain the blockade of Gaza, or that it be partially lifted, but with sufficient international guarantees for Israel. 
3. Hamas is still functional. Contrary to many commentators it was not one of Israel's war aims to totally destroy Hamas, rather to defeat its objectives.  But, the question is, will Hamas still be strong enough to not only remain in control of Gaza, but to continue in the future to threaten Israel.
4. The IDF lost 64 soldiers.  This is not a huge number, but is very demoralizing for the small country of Israel, where everyone knows someone who lost a son.
5. PM Netanyahu was too cautious. This is the view of many on the right in Israel.  They felt that once the IDF went into Gaza on the ground, the focus on destroying the tunnels and then withdrawing was a mistake.  They should have gone all the way.  In this view, Netanyahu failed to use the full might of the IDF to Israel's advantage, even though it would have resulted in more Israeli casualties.
Although we cannot come up with a final tally of relative achievements at this juncture, with the current ceasefire we see that the IDF is still poised to invade Gaza and that could lead to the destruction of Hamas.  This must be a deterrence for Hamas, but on the other hand, PM Netanyahu is cautious, for two reasons, first he does not want to be blamed for further losses to the IDF and second he does not want to be blamed by sections of his coalition as well as the international community for expanding the war.  Yet if, after 30 days of the ceasefire, the indirect negotiations do not achieve an agreement, then there is little doubt that the war will go on.


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