Op-Ed: To Win Or Not To Win; This Is The Question!
It transpired after the second Lebanon war. At its conclusion, Israel did not look like winner. Hezbollah came out chanting triumphant tunes. The UN blamed Israel for war crimes. Dan Halutz, the IDF chief of staff was pushed out and forced to resign. Accusing fingers were pointed at government leaders. The conflict is believed to have killed at least 1,191–1,300 Lebanese people, and 165 Israelis. It severely damaged Lebanese civil infrastructure, and displaced approximately one million Lebanese and 300,000–500,000 Israelis while it was being waged.
Israelis were bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the war. The IDF with the exception of its air force failed to impress the Jewish nation. It performed far below expectations, and failed to deliver a fatal blow to the enemy, or so it seemed at the time.
Then again, looking back judiciously, devoid of the emotions and the negative adrenalin stemmed from the frustrating experience, it does seem that the outcome of the second Lebanon war has produced eight years of tranquility for Northern Israel. The IDF was able to focus all its vigor on the Hamas front during the three Gaza wars that have taken place during that 8-year period with no need to dilute its focus and spread its energies along the Lebanese border at the same time.
Hezbollah did not offer any military support to Hamas; they shied away from taking advantage of Israel’s stressful condition. The second Lebanon war had dampened down its ambitions. Hezbollah had been deterred, its newly equipped array of more powerful missiles and more advanced military gear notwithstanding. It did not feel like challenging Israel for one more round of violence that would inflict severe damage on its people, on its organization, and on its political clout.
And then, the Israeli economy took off and maintained its momentum even in the face of a worldwide great recession.
It’s a lesson worth paying attention to. Operation Protective Edge offers great similarities to the second Lebanon war. There are bad feelings all around—we did not win - or did we? Hamas did not wave the white flag; Gaza is still ruled by the same terrorist organization, whose ultimate objective is the destruction of Israel and the extermination of its resident Jews. PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s favorable ratings have plunged dramatically following his acceptance of the latest Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
Half of his Cabinet members came out against his decision. Hamas leaders emerged out of their hiding places to lead the “victory” celebrations; Israeli residents of the Gaza belt region refuse to return to their homes, lest Hamas breaches the ceasefire, and morale in Israel has turned lower as the economy has taken a temporary hit in consequence of the war.
But wait a minute. Let’s not rush to judgment. There is a good chance that this time the ceasefire will hold, the Gaza residents will sober up once they wake up, stir away from the false joy of their fictitious victory and face the sad reality of their self-made devastation. They will ask hard questions: Why? What have we accomplished?
Hamas, despite their macho talk, crawled to the cease fire, practically, begging Egypt to make it happen, Hamas’s leaders in Gaza effected an internal coup by overruling their Qatar-based chief, Khaled Meshaal who was hunting for significant Israeli concessions before agreeing to a ceasefire; they were fulfilled with minor improvements they had deemed dismal just a few weeks earlier.
Did anybody win?
Hamas did not win; Hamas must have been deterred.
If the outcome of the second Lebanon war serves us any lesson, it is that Israel has not yet won.
Time will tell whether or not Operation Protective Edge culminated in an Israeli victory. Chances are that it actually did, although it is not a certainty. Still, the difference in price between a definite victory and a potential victory over Hamas would have been too high for PM Netanyahu to bear.
And he might have been right.