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Reflections on the war on Gaza

First: For the people of Gaza, the recent ceasefire deal between the resistance and Israel did not accomplish all they were seeking. Yet, at the same time, it achieved none of what the Israelis were hoping for. Perhaps the reason the two sides managed to agree, finally, on a ceasefire, was their conviction that there was no way any of them could achieve more under the prevalent circumstances.

It is true that the Israelis have enjoyed unprecedented Arab support in their war against Gaza and continuous encouragement from certain Arab quarters to inflict as much damage as they could on Gaza to pressure Hamas into capitulation. Yet, they have not been able to cripple the resistance or force it to surrender. As for the resistance, it has indeed enjoyed the full and unconditional backing of the people of Gaza, despite the siege and the pain, in the hope that this latest round of conflict would led to lifting the siege that has been imposed on the Strip for nearly eight years. Yet, it has not been possible for the resistance to obtain guarantees that the siege would finally be ended.

Second: The artillery and the rockets have gone silent and the annoying buzzing and whizzing of Israeli warplanes in Gaza's skies is no longer there, yet the propaganda warfare will continue for some time to come. Each side will seek to prove it came out victorious having achieved its objectives.

The Israelis consider the continuation of the siege a sign of their success whereas the resistance considers the failure of the Israelis to impose demilitarisation a sign of victory. However, one can see a marked difference between the two sides. As soon as the ceasefire deal went into effect, the masses in Gaza took to the streets to celebrate and express joy over what they truly believed was victory.

On the other side, the Israeli masses seemed confused and even distressed. Few Israelis believe that the war has accomplished much for them. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started the offensive against Gaza with high expectations. He promised his public that he would dismantle the military infrastructure of Hamas and the other resistance factions, that he would destroy the tunnels and that he would put an end to the firing of the rockets from Gaza. However, none of this was achieved.

Not only that, but by August 24, Israel's primary objective had become persuading Hamas to accept a ceasefire. To achieve just that, Netanyahu's war machine started targeting residential tower blocks right at the centre of Gaza city, inflicting maximum damage, in the hope that this would force Hamas back to the negotiating table in Cairo. It is now clear that this tactic was resorted to after Hamas fulfilled its promise, in the aftermath of a failed assassination attempt on its commander in chief Mohammed Deif, to enforce an evacuation of the Israeli towns across the border from Gaza.

Furthermore, the continuation of the war threatened to disrupt the new school year, not to mention the huge damage it had so far inflicted on Israel's economy and tourism sector, as well as the high cost to Israel's international reputation.

Third: Despite the considerable difference between the two sides' military capabilities, the resistance in Gaza did very well indeed. Future assessments may show that the Palestinian resistance factions surpassed the Israelis in the battlefield. This is what enraged the Israelis who, having failed to score points against the military on the other side, went on targeting the civilian infrastructure across the Gaza Strip perpetrating massacre after massacre among civilians.

It would seem, thus far, that the military capabilities of the resistance factions, and especially those of Hamas, have remained largely unscathed. This proves that, despite the siege, the resistance managed to develop its capabilities to a level that shocked the Israelis and pleasantly surprised the supporters of Palestine around the globe. This recent war has seen some unprecedented talents and tactics including improved rocket technology and the development of drones and sophisticated tunnels warfare.

Fourth: There are no guarantees that Israel will fulfil its obligations or that it will observe the ceasefire. On all previous occasions, it was the Israelis who – for different pretexts each time – breached the agreed truce. Furthermore, the continuation of the blockade in anticipation of the promised round of negotiations one month from the ceasefire date will only perpetuate the causes of the tension that led to the eruption of conflict. Not forgetting, of course, the causes of tension that exist in the occupied West Bank, whose affairs could no longer be ignored by the Palestinians of Gaza or Palestinians elsewhere.

A solid long-term ceasefire deal may only be possible through a negotiated package, with international guarantees, that would end the occupation of the West Bank and the siege over Gaza in exchange for security arrangements for Israel. The failure to achieve this will inevitably lead to the resumption of fighting sooner or later.

Fifth: The role performed by Egypt as a mediator in the last round of conflict is, from a Palestinian resistance perspective, far from satisfactory. This role was actually assigned to the Egyptians by none other than Netanyahu himself who could not trust anyone but Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and his military authority to guarantee Israel's best interests while negotiating a ceasefire deal with the Palestinians. It was not surprising, therefore, that the Israelis turned down all offers of mediation from Qatar, Turkey, the European Union and even the United States.

The Egyptian role was not performed in isolation from an unprecedented Arab-Israeli pact that saw Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and, to some extent, Jordan agree on the necessity of dealing a crippling blow to Hamas. Egypt's mediating role this time was more aligned with Israel and in its favour than the role played by the US in all previous mediation efforts exerted whenever conflicts between the Palestinians and the Israelis erupted in the past.

Clearly, the Egyptian role is informed and motivated by a profound hatred for Hamas in particular and for the Palestinian resistance in general. The current Egyptian regime, which came to power via a military coup staged against Dr Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected civilian president in the history of Egypt, in July 2013, does not really practice politics in the conventional, internationally recognised and practiced manner. It is not Egypt's interests that drive their politics but utter hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood and those they deem to be affiliated with them or who sympathy with them. In the last hours of the recent round of conflict, some Israelis voiced concern that the Egyptian mediator was deliberately stalling to prolong the war in the hope that more damage would be inflicted upon Hamas. It seemed to these Israelis that the Egyptian military rulers were keener on perpetuating the war than anyone inside Israel was.

Sixth: The future remains uncertain. Yet, it is likely that the ramifications of the war will include some direct impact on Israeli domestic politics and these in turn will affect future events. The ceasefire deal stipulates that negotiations over the seaport, the airport and the prisoners will resume in a month's time. However, this will very much depend on the fate of the current Israeli government and where politics will be heading.

As for Gaza and its people, they have no choice but to remain steadfast and continue the struggle until the siege is completely lifted and the sanctions are removed. The people of Gaza do not only seek an end to the blockade from Israel's side but also from the Egyptian side. Another possibility that may have an immediate impact on this matter will be the fate of the Arab-Israeli pact that provided cover for Israel in this recent conflict. Should such a pact be crushed by the hammer of popular uprisings in the culprit countries, the chances of the resistance in Palestine will undoubtedly be markedly improved and its capabilities considerably enhanced.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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