Dateline November 2012: It was a humiliating spectacle. All of Israel, not to mention the thousands of reservist soldiers amassed along the Gazan border, was waiting anxiously for the IDF ground offensive that would stop the Hamas rocket fire once and for all, but an unexpected press conference was held at which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced their acceptance of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire arrangement before the ground operation had even begun. Meanwhile,the streets of Gaza were filled with the haters of Israel celebrating the Israeli retreat with "victory candy" being handed out in the streets.
Is history repeating itself in 2014? Did we miss another opportunity to win a decisive victory, just like in 2012?
Now that it's clear that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet have decided to end Operation Protective Edge after several weeks on the battlefield, the attempts by the political echelon to post a victory sign on an inconclusive war will soon be clear and visible to all. In the coming days, we will be hearing political spin from all of the familiar spokespeople, which of course will include the PM himself, as well as his Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Netanyahu's loyal political ally, Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinetz, telling us that Hamas suffered a crushing defeat.
When one looks at the stats, it appears that they are correct. On the battlefield, this was no replay of Israel's embarrassing retreat in 2012. In this year's war, the ground troops were sent in and performed heroically, and far more Gaza fighters and residents were killed than were Israelis. There also was extensive damage to thousands of terror targets and infrastructure in Gaza, far more than there was to Israeli towns and cities. Thirty-two known cross-border terror tunnels were destroyed.
Nonetheless, and the recent polls leave no doubt, the Israeli public was hoping for a decisive victory that would finish off Hamas and Islamic Jihad once and for all. At the height of the war, the calls for Israel to "demilitarize Gaza" and to "disarm the terrorists" were fast and furious and Bibi was among those making this a central political aim of the operation. Minister Steinetz spoke repeatedly about the need to retake control of Gaza, at least for an extended period of time in order to stop the rocket fire and to demilitarize Gaza.
That isn't what happened on the ground. Here are ten of the real results that indicate a pathetic lack of follow-through, which translates into a terrible failure at the political level:
1. Rather than suffering a knockout, Hamas remains on its feet - injured, but able to regroup, rearm, and prepare for the next battle.
2. Many tunnels remain intact, if not the 32 known ones that were "neutralized" near the Israeli border.
3. At least a third of the rockets, as well as many other weapons remain in the hands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
4. Once the supply lines into Gaza are opened as part of the long-term ceasefire deal, the flow of construction materials into Gaza will help to rebuild the terror tunnels.
5. The Hezbollah terrorist organization, which controls Lebanon, which has greater firepower than Hamas, and which is already reported to be building terror tunnels under the northern Israeli town of Metullah, will be greatly emboldened by our lack of political will to disarm Hamas.
6. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are receiving worldwide political legitimacy as a negotiating partner with Israel in Cairo.
7. US Secretary of State John Kerry will use the long-term ceasefire talks in Cairo as a springboard for "peace talks" with the Hamas-Fatah Palestinian Authority unity government.
8. The Hamas-Fatah Palestinian Authority will continue its push in international bodies to charge Israel with war crimes.
9. Israel will be investigated for war crimes at the UN, even though it is the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the UN itself who should be charged with war crimes - for using and enabling the use of children as human shields.
10. Allowing Hamas and Islamic Jihad to remain on its feet will virtually ensure that we will be looking at a third Gaza war, approximately in another two years.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government missed a great opportunity, with massive public support, to finally destroy the monster that is Hamas and Islamic Jihad and to eliminate the danger from Gaza to Israel's citizens. Sadly, it has once again turned what could have been a great military victory into a political failure. Will we learn the lessons for next time?