(1) Hamas gained on two fronts: (a) it re-established co-equal status with the Palestine Authority, and (b) it may win recognition as a negotiating party without surrendering its terrorist goals;
(2) Hamas failed, however, to get Egypt to back its move, as Egypt opted for Western financial aid & rejected war with Israel;
(3) Egypt won by Cairo being once again the center of Arab diplomacy. acing out Turkey & Qatar;
(4) Israel gained in three ways: (a) by shoring up its diplomatic position with the US & Europe, in agreeing to a ceasefire, (b) destroying Hamas's inventory of longer-range Iranian rockets & obtaining a commitment from Egypt to prevent resupply, and (c) stopping short of a ground war, which would have been very sanguinary & of uncertain outcome;
(5) Within Israel, PM Netanyahu gained in three ways: (a) by managing the crisis congruent with Israeli public opinion--defending without apology while avoiding a ground war, (b) restoring a working relationship with President Obama despite their lack of personal chemistry, and (c) thus making his re-election on Jan. 22 all but a given.
Barry Rubin sees Israel having won the maximum victory permissible within the existing international & regional order. The WSJ editors are less sanguine, seeing Israel caving to international pressure.
All of which tees up what Abrams rightly sees as 2013's big challenge: dealing with Iran's nuclear program. If Iran is stopped or at least delayed in its efforts to join the nuclear club, Hamas's unprovoked aggression will have backfired. But if Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, any future Hamas - Israel war will be backed by a nuclear Iran, raising risks for Israel & the region.
One final possible winner, I would add: missile defense. Nothing like TV pictures of intercepts of cities & civilians scrambling for shelter in basements to remind us of the benefits of missile defense.
Gaza is forbidding military terrain. One learns from the CIA Factbook Gaza webpage several intriguing facts: (1) Gaza is about twice the size of Washington, DC; (2) its population is about 1-3/4 million; (3) the media age of the population is 18; (4) average life expectancy is 74 years; (5) overall literacy tops 90 percent; (5) unemployment is 40 percent, in a generally sluggish economy; (6) nearly 1.2 million Gazans--about 2/3 of Gaza's total population, live in UN-sponsored refugee camps.
One harsh lesson, writes Bret Stephens, is that Israel should not have pulled out of Gaza in 2005, a move intended to ease Israel's myriad burden of defending itself in Gaza, and to conduct a market test of the land for peace route. (Stephens confesses he supported the pullout, a mistake I also made.) The upshot: Hamas won the Palestinian election, months after Israel's pullout, and Israel got serial wars. Charles Krauthammer recounts the depressing history of Israel's pullout in 2005 & the wars that followed.
A Jerusalem Post editorial, reprinted in the New York Sun, goes further, arguing that to pacify Gaza the Israeli Defense Forces must reoccupy it. The editorial recalls Natan Sharansky's prescient warning in a Knesset debate, as to what would happen if Israel decamped from Gaza:
Just as at Oslo, they are deluding us, as though one can solve the conflict between us and the Palestinians at the cost of withdrawal, with a quick solution. And just as at Oslo, so too now the result will be the same: blood and more blood, war and more war.
It is not possible to disengage from the terror and hatred of Gaza without Gaza following and pursuing us.
Worse, under Barack Obama Israel found itself serially shoved into making pre-emptive concessions to the Palestinians, and the 2004 Bush security guarantees given Ariel Sharon to exit Gaza; incredibly, Team Obama considers Gaza "occupied territory" despite Israel's Gaza exit--a position not even taken by Hamas.
The latest Gaza conflict takes place in a new emerging Mideast, writes Elliott Abrams. The fallout from the Arab Spring, the continued march of Iran towards a nuclear weapon and other instabilities that could affect US Arab allies will make for a turbulent year. On the upside the Wall Street Journal editors see the performance of Israel's Iron Dome antimissile system as vindicating investment in missile defense systems, and the Israeli companies that drove the technology & procurement pace. And Israel has destroyed most of its priority targets, including the Iranian Fajr-5 rockets shipped from Iran via Sudan. Israeli ingenuity played a role as well: an Israeli teen invented a mobile "app" called "Color Red" (video: 2:24) to alert users who might not hear the sirens.
But Eli Lake at the Daily Beast reported that on Nov. 17, in the midst of the air war, Netanyahu gave private assurances to Obama (h/t New York Sun) that Israel would not launch a ground war in Gaza unless Hamas escalated. This was in accord with the Israeli public's view against Israel launching a ground offensive certain to inflict major casualties on Israeli forces. Yet it is troubling, as a New York Sun editorial recently observed, that the administration sought such assurances in the first place, which it would only need if it flatly opposed an Israeli ground war. Only Israel's leaders had the requisite knowledge of the odds to acutely judge whether it made sense to launch a ground war.Bottom Line. Israel faces in 2013 a new Mideast, whose outlines were shaped by the Arab Spring and evolving Western responses. Also, the re-election of President Obama limits Israel's options to pursue transformative goals. Managing a difficult set of relationships remains Israel's challenge, as it prepares to confront the Iranian existential threat.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, National Security, Foreign Policy, WMD, Nuclear Proliferation, Conservative Politics