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A Respite, Not a Resolution, on Gaza Border

If the cease-fire holds, the second Gaza war produced two clear winners: Mohamed Morsi and Barack Obama. Together, they brought peace after just eight days of fighting, thus showing their diplomatic clout. Morsi behaved not like a Muslim Brotherhood hothead but like a statesman–in fact playing much the same role as his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, did in (somewhat) reining in Hamas and serving as a bridge between the Palestinians and Israel.

Morsi did not use this new round of fighting to break relations with Israel, as many had feared, but rather cooperated constructively with President Obama to bring peace. Obama, for his part, avoided his first-term mistake of publicly criticizing Israel; he seems to have learned that his ability to press Israel for concessions (in this case, to avoid a ground incursion into Gaza that Israeli hard-liners thought was needed to enhance their country’s long-term security) increases when he shows no daylight between himself and Israel’s leader.

And how did the actual combatants–Israel and Hamas–fare? Normally war is seen as a zero-sum game: one side loses, the other side wins. This is a relatively rare case where both sides may be said to have won. Assuming that the truce holds, Israel won at least a temporary cessation of rocket attacks on its soil. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now faces the voters having been seen to adroitly walk the tightrope between too little a response and too much of a response to Hamas’s terror–too little would have been avoiding military action altogether, too much would have been (at least in the eyes of many Israelis) ordering a ground attack into Gaza.

Significantly, Israel avoided criticism from Europe or the U.S. and Netanyahu worked well with Obama despite their earlier tensions. But Hamas won too, because it was able to keep firing rockets until the ceasefire. It will be seen by the Palestinians to have stood up to Israeli “aggression” and walked away unbowed, ready to fight another round.

In sum, the second Gaza war–just like the first one in 2008-2009–resolved nothing. Both sides will rearm and, even in the best case, are likely to resume hostilities at some point in the future. The only question is whether we will see a few days of peace or a few years. But it is hard to imagine any other outcome, unless Israel were willing to reoccupy the Gaza Strip–which it is not. A temporary ground incursion by Israel would not have altered the fundamental balance of power and would have left the Jewish State open to international disapprobation.

The bottom line is that the cease-fire did bring a respite, however temporary, for long-suffering Palestinians and Israelis from the ravages of war. Israelis will not go to bed tonight worried about rockets thudding into their house; Palestinians will not go to bed fearing Israeli bombs and missiles. That is something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.


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