At the end of the day, however, the operation confirms the contention I have voiced in these virtual pages repeatedly over recent weeks and months: neither Israel nor anyone else has a long-term workable strategy for dealing with Hamas in Gaza. This is a militant terrorist organization that has taken over a piece of Palestinian territory but refuses to behave like a sovereign power and, ultimately, glories in the victimhood or martyrdom of its people. Terms like victory, defeat and peace negotiations are irrelevant here. At its best, operation “Cast Lead” (the Hebrew term relates to the current Hanukah holiday, besides sounding appropriate in military terms) will deliver a few more months of ceasefire and tenuous coexistence between Islamist Gaza and its surroundings. Indeed, the operation apparently doesn’t aspire to achieve more than that.
In spite of the heavy material and human losses, the Israeli attack on Gaza is strengthening Hamas politically and increasing public support and sympathy for the movement. Hamas is using this momentum to achieve an end to the closure of Gaza, not by Israel opening the crossings it controls but by Egypt opening Rafah. The irony here is that if Rafah is opened on Hamas’ terms, it will also secure a significant Israeli strategic objective, namely handing over effective responsibility for Gaza to Egypt.