Deciphering the Ceasefire Israeli Press Declares Victory for Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to claim Wednesday's ceasefire deal as a personal success. But not many seem to agree. Influential commentators in Israel believe that Hamas came out ahead -- and that the Islamist group has now been elevated to the status of negotiating partner.


By in Beirut

If you believe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Gaza offensive, which just came to a halt as a result of the Wednesday evening ceasefire agreement, was the jewel in the crown of his political career. "We need to navigate this ship of a state in stormy waters with responsibility and wisdom, that's how a responsible government acts," he said in praise of himself during a statement to the nation on Wednesday. "We've executed a military action but also stayed open for a diplomatic solution."

His comments were anything but brief, but the message was not a complicated one: Israel won, in part due to the brilliance of the prime minister. A leader, the subtext continued, who deserves to be re-elected in the January 22 vote. His statement, wrote the Jerusalem Post, "effectively ended an eight-day military campaign and began an election one."

Unfortunately for him, however, the Israeli press is not joining Netanyahu in praising Netanyahu. To be sure, most analysts agree that the current ceasefire bringing the Israeli Gaza operation "Pillar of Defense" to a halt is a positive development due to the return of calm to southern Israel. But in the Israeli press, Netanyahu's name was not among the victors listed on Thursday morning. Rather, leading commentators in the country agree that the primary beneficiaries from the week-long clash are the Hamas leadership and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who negotiated the truce.

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi's summertime election had led to significant distrust in the West. Now, writes Anshel Pfeffer in the influential Israeli daily Haaretz, the crisis has propelled Mursi into the role of an important regional statesman. The proof: As the ceasefire was being finalized this week, US President Barack Obama telephoned with Morsi multiple times.

Minor Victories

Pfeffer emphasized that even Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman saw it necessary to thank Morsi for his role in bringing about a truce. Given Lieberman's hard-line stance, such a move counts as a mini-sensation in Israel. After all, the Israeli foreign minister is hardly a fan of Egypt or Hamas, having in the past called for the bombardment of the Aswan Dam and demanded that the Gaza Strip be treated as the Russians do Chechnya.

Hamas too has managed to extract minor victories from the conflict, according to analysts. For one, the Islamist leaders of the Gaza Strip inserted a clause in the ceasefire agreement which calls for at least a partial lifting of the blockade Israel imposed on the Palestinian area after Hamas came to power in 2006. Furthermore, the fact that the Hamas leadership didn't collapse in the face of heavy bombardment, along with the fact that their rockets continued to rain down on Israel throughout the conflict, has been interpreted as a success.

But even more important for the Islamists, according to Haaretz, is that their rockets were able to hit both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And they were able to position themselves as a negotiating partner for the Israeli leadership, guaranteeing them a role as an actor in the Middle East for at least the immediate future.

Indeed, one could argue that the Netanyahu administration has marginalized moderate voices in the Palestinian Territories in the last three years and prepared the groundwork for a Hamas resurgence. Simon Shiffer, the veteran writer for Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, writes that Hamas has now become the most influential Palestinian power because Netanyahu has undertaken negotiations with them while ignoring the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas.

A Failed Adventure?

Shiffer's colleague at Yedioth, Alex Fishman, would seem to agree. "Hamas has morphed from the enemy that must be brought down to the enemy that is the lesser of two evils," Fishman writes. Although Israel's official position remains that of not recognizing Hamas as a potential negotiating partner, he writes, Israeli leadership has now used the group to exert control over even more radical groups in the Gaza Strip. "Until just a few days ago, such ideas would have been considered blasphemy," Fishman writes.

The deal struck between Israel and the Islamists calls for an immediate stop to all aggression, to be followed by talks aimed at a lasting ceasefire. Border crossings into the Gaza Strip are also to be reopened soon. The goal is to make it easier for both goods and people to cross into the coastal territory following years of Israeli blockade. Hamas has said that the border crossings are to be opened within 24 hours of the beginning of the ceasefire. Egypt has been charged with monitoring the deal.

In the Gaza Strip, thousands took to the streets on Wednesday evening to celebrate what they see as a victory over Israel. Foreign journalists reported chaotic scenes of joy involving Hamas fighters firing machine guns into the air. Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, currently in Egypt, has also claimed victory. The government in Jerusalem, he said, had failed with its military "adventure."

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leonaks 11/22/2012
1. Building Solomon's 3RD Temple on Har Miron in Israel
The recent conflict with the Hamas could have been easily prevented. Destroying and flooding the weapon smuggling tunnels on the border between Egypt and Gaza would have prevented the recent conflict. I am of the opinion that placing a twelve Gun battery of American Vintage WWII 415 mm with 1500 kg projectiles next to the Gaza border would have been sufficient completely annihilate and flood those tunnels. These Big Guns are mounted on the Iowa Class Battleships but are also available as surplus guns from the American surplus weapons stock piles. The above suggestion can be a very economical cost effective way for Israel to subdue the Hamas.
leonaks 11/22/2012
2. Building Solomon's 3RD Temple on Har Miron in Israel
Mounting of 415mm Big Guns on Northern Mount Miron -Manara (above Kiryat Shemona) and Mount Hermon will provide coverage to the Beirut suburbs in the North. To the East coverage will extend to the Western outskirts of Damascus all the way to Bashir al Assad's Summer Palace. This artillery coverage will be immediately available without putting aircraft in harms way and keeping them in reserve for higher priority missions. All of the above can be very economically accomplished.
KhanZubair 11/23/2012
3. Deciphering the Ceasefire: Israeli Press Declares Victory for Hamas
Relative to Israel Cairo should feel happy as it seems more of its victory. Simialrly current ceasefire by Israel and to abstain from the planned ground offensive, to me, makes the prospect of an Israeli strike on Iran more distant; which may be some compensation for Tehran losing the spotlight to Cairo. Notably absent in whole picture are the Saudis and Gulf states, who must be wary of any Hamas success given that they are already engaged in a proxy war in Syria with Hamas's main backer, Iran. Egypt's rise will also ruffle Saudi feathers, as it is these two countries that have traditionally vied for dominance in the Arab world. One person who must be cursing the ceasefire is Bashar Al-Assad, who will have welcomed the Israeli attack for having distracted the world from his own daily massacres of the Syrian people. With that conflict ended, the focus will again be on Syria, where the survival of the regime seems unlikely. His fall will signal the final end of the Middle East that Israel knew and loved, and it seems that no one in Tel Aviv understands just how deeply its neighbourhood has changed. Still if press and its people want to enjoy the ceasefire as victory is up to them. Fcatually ground realities have totally been changed.
Inglenda2 11/26/2012
4. Only peace and co-operation would be victory
To believe anything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says is rather stupid. On the other hand, the Hamas also have a history of deceit and crime. Neither side can be trusted and both take no consideration for innocent victims caught up in this dispute. For either to claim victory, because blameless human-beings have been killed and maimed amongst civilians on the other side, is a sign of how low the intelligence of such fanatics is. The civilised world, especially the European leaders, for example Frau Merkel, should be ashamed of any support given to either of these brutal adversaries.
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