Did Hamas win?Hamas may have just won the war.
[I]f, under a long-term deal, Hamas is able to replicate Hezbollah’s strategy in Lebanon — to retain full or significant control of Gaza, to re-arm, to build a still more potent killing mechanism — then its claims of victory, appallingly, will be justified.
Only if a long-term mechanism can be fashioned that denies Hamas the capacity to fight and kill another day will the Israeli leadership be justified in asserting that its goal — ensuring sustained calm and security for the people of Israel — has been met.
The early word is that Israel has made no commitment to meeting any of the central, long-standing Hamas demands — for a lifting of the security blockade, and for the opening of a seaport and an airport. These are concessions that, if agreed in the absence of an effective supervisory mechanism, would give Hamas the ready means to strengthen itself militarily. But it is extremely hard to imagine how such an effective supervisory mechanism could be constructed. And one can only wonder whether Hamas, if it is denied concessions on those issues in the coming weeks of negotiations, will refrain from renewing the conflict.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s popularity has nosedived in recent weeks as the war has continued, as the rockets have pounded on, and as residents of the south have learned to their bloody cost that the political and military leadership were wrong in assuring them three weeks ago that it was safe for them to return to their homes. Support for Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict will rise again if time, and the long-term ceasefire terms, prove that Hamas has been marginalized and de-fanged. Many Israelis, indeed, will come to hail him for not having ordered a far more extensive ground offensive into the treacherous heart of Gaza, where Hamas lay in wait, with the consequent likely loss of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of soldiers’ lives.
I would guess that Hamas will start shooting again when (not if, but when) they don't get what they want at the negotiating table. Of course, it's possible that Netanyahu will just give them what they want anyway.But if Hamas is not marginalized, if it proves capable of rebuilding its tunnels, restocking its rocket arsenals, and plotting new strategies toward its goal of Israel’s annihilation, the Israeli strategy for handling this conflict will have been a failure, and the popularity of the prime minister will be far from the most central of Israel’s concerns.
What could go wrong?