“After a 50-day conflict in Gaza that ended with inconclusive results, leaders of Israel and Hamas are struggling to convince their war-weary constituents that the costly campaign has brought them real achievements. But analysts say that the ultimate outcome of the fighting is yet to be determined, with talks on substantial points of contention deferred for up to a month as an indefinite cease-fire takes hold. At a news conference on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel had emerged from the campaign with “a great military achievement and a great diplomatic achievement.”………..”
“Poll: Israel didn’t win Gaza war, Netanyahu still best choice for PM” Haaretz Headline (8/27/14)
Palestinians did not hesitate to call the Battle of Gaza a victory. One militia leader was even talking about reconquering Jerusalem yesterday. Israelis, if they could respond in Arabic, would have been excused for saying in Arabic Bil Mishmish (بالمشمش = in the apricot (lol) = ForgetAboutIt). Many Arab potentates from the Nile to the Persian Gulf would love to agree with that Israeli assessment. Not because they are patriotic Zionists or Likudniks, but because they want Hamas of the Muslim Brotherhood dislodged from Gaza at any price. Just as they dreamed wildly a few years ago of Israeli help in dislodging Hezbollah from Lebanon, an even more unrealistic goal.
Arab leaders seem like an overly optimistic lot. They have rarely hesitated to call a battle a victory, no matter what the actual outcome. Saddam Hussein famously claimed victories after his wars with Iran (1980-88) and with the international community (1990-91). At the beginning of the 1967 War, Arab governments were famously proclaiming that their forces were approaching Tel Aviv even as the IDF were smashing their armies on all fronts. And let’s not revisit the 1973 War.
But then again, this was not a conventional battle in Gaza. In such a murky semi-urban warfare, if a regular better-armed force does not achieve its goals, then it can be seen as the loser. If the Israelis are seen as having “not won” and Hamas is seen as having “not lost”, then the balance tips to Hamas. It is probably too early to make that judgment, assuming we know what the initial goals were. But it is telling that some Israeli politicians are already criticizing Netanyahu for conceding too much in Cairo.
The next few weeks will tell.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum