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Hamas Won?

6:27 PM, Nov 28, 2012 • By LEE SMITH
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A week after the ceasefire concluding Israel’s eight day campaign against Hamas, Operation Pillar of Defense, there is some debate as to who came out on top. The way one judges the outcome seems to depend on: one, what you make of the ceasefire agreement; two, what role you think that Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi played; and, three, other less tangible factors.

Hamas terrorists burn American and Israeli flags.

Hamas terrorists burn American and Israeli flags.

Not surprisingly, Hamas and its allies, especially Iran, say that the Islamic resistance won this latest round. And on the other side, senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and army chief of staff Benny Gantz all believe that Israel won a clear, if perhaps temporary, battle with Hamas, killing its top commanders and degrading its long-range missile arsenal, all without sending in the 30,000 troops that had been poised on the Gaza border. Moreover, with a success rate of shooting down 84 percent of the missiles destined for inhabited or security-sensitive areas, Iron Dome may have tipped the regional balance of power even further in favor of Israel.

Israeli officials appear to put little weight on the actual agreement, which called for cessation of fire and included vague language about relaxing restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Gaza and Israel. As Ehud Barak remarked, “The right to self-defense trumps any piece of paper.” That is, if Hamas doesn’t abide by an agreement that is virtually identical to the one that followed Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2009, Jerusalem will decide when to renew its campaign against Palestine’s Islamic Resistance. Therefore, the only question that matters for Jerusalem is whether or not Pillar of Defense will have won Israel quiet on its southern border, a question that will be answered in the weeks and months ahead.

Others, however, argue that the ceasefire agreement represents a win for Hamas. Gaza residents are pleased that “Israel has allowed Palestinian fishermen to fish in Gaza's waters at a distance of 6 miles, up from 3 miles,” but surely the free enterprise of Gazan fishermen was not one of Hamas’s primary war aims. If boatmen believe it will be easier to smuggle arms into Gaza from 6 miles out instead of 3, Israel has already shown it can and will cut off Iran’s weapons supply route in two places, Sudan and Gaza.

Others who believe that Hamas won contend that the latest conflict ended Hamas’s isolation, and won the organization domestic, regional, and international recognition and respect. It’s true that a number of Arab foreign ministers as well as Turkey’s top diplomat Ahmet Davutoglu visited Gaza to show support. But if the presence of Arab foreign ministers is an index of international legitimacy it’s telling that the Arab super power, Saudi Arabia, didn’t send anyone—nor did European governments.

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