A welcome cease fire, but no winners

As Scott wrote earlier this morning, Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease fire that essentially mirrors the one Hamas rejected in July, before the real fighting, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, began.

I welcome the cease fire for personal reasons. My wife and one of my daughters are in Israel now. No one knows how long the cease fire will last, but it should hold for ten days — the remaining duration of their stay in Israel.

The cease fire is also good news for Israel, Gaza, and Hamas. Israel wasn’t going to send troops back into Gaza, and there was little to be gained from more missile attacks. Now Israelis can get on with their lives.

Gazans have less to celebrate when it comes to getting on with their mostly impoverished lives, but at least they will no longer face the danger and destruction of Israeli air attacks. And Hamas’ leadership can come up of hiding and claim “victory.”

Who won the war? No one, as things stand now. Israel comes out ahead by virtue of having destroyed so many terror tunnels. But unless Hamas is overthrown in Gaza — which seems unlikely — more tunnels will be built and the security threat will persist.

Hamas is declaring victory, but if anything it is marginally worse off than before the war. Under the current cease fire, it gains virtually nothing (a few more miles of rights for Gaza fisherman, and that’s about it).

As for who lost, there is no doubt. The people of Gaza. And even though they chose, as a group, to ride with Hamas, I find it impossible not to sympathize with them.

Hamas will be the winner if Israel agrees to a “peace plan” that substantially loosens Gaza’s economic isolation. And it’s possible that Israel will agree to this in exchange for this or that “guarantee.”

But after discovering the extent of Hamas’ tunneling and seeing Ben Gurion airport threatened, I don’t expect Netanyahu to make meaningful concessions. Even if he wanted to, and there’s little reason to think he does, Netanyahu is constrained. His cabinet, reportedly, was deeply divided on whether to agree even to this cease fire. Nor will Israelis in general be clamoring to make concessions as life returns to normal.

As negotiations with Hamas drag on, the terror group will face a difficult decision. Does it settle for, in essence, the pre-war status quo or does it break the cease fire?

Hamas’ decision will help us evaluate how it really views its “victory.”

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