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Did Hamas Win the Last War?

Israel and its supporters have spent most of the weeks since the conclusion of the latest round of fighting with Hamas pointing to the great success of the Iron Dome missile defense system. The improved ability of Israel’s Defense Forces to render harmless the bulk of the rockets launched from the terrorist enclave in Gaza has enhanced the country’s security, even if the spectacle of a sizable portion of the population cowering in shelters cheered Palestinians. But the notion that the prolonged exchange of fire in November that saw hundreds of missiles fired into Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense was an unalloyed success is being undermined by the concessions that Israel has made since the cease-fire.

In the days following the dustup, it was clear that Gaza fishing craft were being allowed to sail further into the Mediterranean by the Israeli Navy, but this might have been dismissed as unimportant since the blockade of the region was still intact. However, the news that Israel is now allowing in construction materials that it had heretofore prevented from entering Gaza must be regarded as yet another indication that Hamas’s own claims of victory were not empty boasts. Though it may be argued that neither of these measures seriously degrades Israel’s security, they both make it clear that Israel paid a not insignificant price for the cease-fire brokered by the Obama administration and the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt.

At the time the cease-fire was arranged, both the Israelis and the Americans issued statements that were aimed at making it seem as if the shooting was ended with no concessions made by either side. But the looser naval blockade and the end of the ban on construction material gives the lie to the notion that Israel didn’t pay a ransom in order to get the Islamist terrorist group to stop shooting.

Given the flow of all sorts of material into Gaza via smuggling tunnels linked to Egypt, it’s not clear that the ban on gravel and cement meant much anymore. The rationale for the measure was that Hamas was using these products to rebuild the reinforced tunnels and hardened bunkers that make up the warren of defensive positions that had been destroyed in the fighting during the last big Israeli counter-offensive in 2008. While Israel did great damage to Hamas’s arsenal of missiles imported from Iran during the recent fighting, the maze of terrorist hideouts appears to be still intact.

Seen in that light, these concessions may be dismissed as meaningless in a military context. But they are one more indication that Israel has conceded what became obvious a long time ago: The Hamas regime in Gaza is an independent Palestinian state in all but name that no IDF offensive or defensive measures are going to erase.

If Hamas really did win the last war, or at least didn’t lose it as Israel had claimed, it is understandable that there will be consequences from this that will affect Israeli policy as well as public opinion. It may be that Prime Minister Netanyahu had no choice but to accept the deal that called for these concessions if he was to stop the shooting. But these revelations help explain why so many Israelis have not only given up hope for peace with moderate Palestinians but are also prepared to vote for parties to Netanyahu’s right in this month’s Knesset election.


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