Assuming that the latest truce in the Gaza war holds, the future remains murky, and “peace” is still far away. Several weeks ago, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams correctly predicted that the war “will end with pledges from many parties to help the people of Gaza and rebuild Gaza, but not allow Hamas to rebuild. That will be a neat trick. The problem of course is that Hamas will still be ruling Gaza, so how will it be possible to assure that money and materials do not get diverted to rebuilding Hamas militarily? And how will it be possible to prevent Hamas from rebuilding politically, especially if the economic situation in Gaza is improving?” His answer is: There is no good answer. Israel doesn’t want to reoccupy Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority is too weak to replace Hamas in Gaza. In the short run, he recommends:
Israel should enhance its anti-tunnel technology programs and seek a remedy as good as Iron Dome is against rockets. It should seek the closest security cooperation it can get with the PA, and act to strengthen the West Bank economy. The United States and other Western nations, and responsible Arab states, should do what we can to strengthen the PA security forces and push hard (since we are the aid donors to the PA) against corruption and for decent governance. But these steps are no “solution.” Islamic terrorism is a plague now throughout the region, and Hamas is the localized version of that plague.
Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies is likewise skeptical that the end of the war means that peace is around the corner. He tells Right Turn via e-mail: “Hamas is forced to accept a deal that it rejected repeatedly throughout this long summer. Israel is forced to accept a deal that leaves rockets in the hands of Hamas.” As we have seen already in the celebratory gunfire, “Hamas, as always, will spin this as a victory, primarily because it survived,” Schanzer says. “But it will be interesting to see whether the people of Gaza hold the group to account after the dust settles.”
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can claim a victory with caveats. On one hand, as Schanzer points out, “the [Israel Defense Forces] proved that it is able to conduct a ground war after a rather disastrous showing against Hezbollah.” Nevertheless, Hamas will retain some rockets and is no less committed to Israel’s destruction. Meanwhile, Netanyahu will have to keep his coalition together, making certain parties to his right don’t break away.
One thing, despite all the concerns about an incomplete and imperfect end, has changed. Israel (with diplomatic assistance from Egypt) has taken the fight to Iran’s surrogate and crippled it badly. It has shown it is not going to crumble in the face of American kibitzing or to international media bias. That lesson is not lost on Iran and its surrogates, either. The will to fight, not the vain attempt to “end wars” without victory, is the key to convincing Islamist enemies that the price for aggression is very high. But in the end, it is not the will to fight that will change the equation; it is the reality of victory over Islamist radicals. Perhaps the president’s ordering surveillance over Syria is a sign he finally gets it. But don’t bet on it.