Though it survived the assassination of its military chief and managed to bombard Israel with 1,500 rockets and mortar rounds, Hamas once again demonstrated that it lacks the means to do more than frighten or inconvenience Israelis. On the contrary: The success of the U.S.-funded Iron Dome anti-missile system suggests that missiles will be a decreasingly credible threat.
Meanwhile, both Gaza and Egypt continue to face major domestic problems. Much of Hamas’s governing infrastructure has been destroyed, including tunnels that supply Gaza’s economy as well as weapons. In Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi, lionized on Wednesday for brokering the cease-fire, was facing on Friday a violent domestic backlash against his attempt to further concentrate power. Having just signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to prop up the teetering Egyptian economy, Morsi literally cannot afford to challenge Israel or the West anytime soon. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is similarly tied down by the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Though the Middle East is more unpredictable than ever, it’s reasonable to forecast that the Islamists will grow still weaker in the next several years. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood will be no more able to sustain an autocracy than was Hosni Mubarak, and it will be blamed for its inevitable failure to meet post-revolutionary expectations. Iran’s ability to supply Gaza militants with rockets likely will wane because of economic sanctions and the crumbling of the allied Syrian regime.