… good? Worrisome? Doomed to fail? A few hours after both Hamas and Israel suspended hostilities, the hostility remains readily apparent. Also in common — both sides are declaring victory, as usual:
As a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants held into Friday afternoon, attention shifted from the 11-day conflict to its immediate aftermath, which includes a dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and expected political fallout in Jerusalem.
International leaders including President Biden welcomed news of the agreement and pledged support for reconstruction in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes aimed at Hamas have damaged electricity and water systems, according to aid agencies. Gaza’s fishing zone has remained closed since May 9, according to the Israeli army.
Both Israel and Hamas claimed success after the cease-fire.
In the video above, the Associated Press shows widespread demolition in Gaza along with the note that “many” consider Hamas successful in its war. If that’s what passes for a win in Gaza, then Hamas is clearly benefiting from reduced expectations. Meanwhile in Israel, both Benjamin Netanyahu and one-time opposition leader Benny Gantz insisted that Israel did significant damage to Hamas:
Netanyahu said in a televised statement Friday that in six calls with Biden over the past week, the White House expressed “clear, unequivocal and unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself.”
“In an operation like this, there’s always international pressure, but I want to say that something has changed. This time, we received enormous international support, from dozens of countries around the world. I want to thank my friend Joe Biden … who is committed to continuing cooperation with us in strengthening the application of the Iron Dome,” said Netanyahu, referring to Israel’s partially U.S.-funded antimissile system that has intercepted some 90 percent of rockets fired into Israel during the latest conflict.
“We have an opportunity to change. We have damaged Hamas’s assets, and now is the time to strengthen the moderate forces around us,” Gantz said Friday. The defense minister said he has held discussions with a number of Israel’s new Arab partners in the region.
Netanyahu’s declaration will help Joe Biden rebuff criticism from Republicans over his calls for a cease fire, which was all but certain anyway. Israel had done about as much damage to Hamas as they could do without a full-on urban assault. The rule of diminishing returns starts to apply in an air war against a city; all of the easy targets come first, and then the choices get tougher and the odds get longer for mission success. Netanyahu talked about a “conquest” of Gaza at one point, but Israel doesn’t want responsibility for two million Palestinians in that enclave — which is one reason why Ariel Sharon pulled out in 2005. The cost in casualties for such an assault, in both Palestinian and IDF lives, would make this a worst-case scenario for both sides.
So again, the two sides have reached a cease-fire with no real change in the status quo. Just how long will this cease-fire last? This report from CBS News paints a grim picture, with disputes right off the bat over the nature of the agreement itself:
On the streets of Gaza and other Palestinian enclaves, there was jubilation as Hamas and its supporters claimed victory. But after more than 240 Palestinians were killed and parts of the tiny Gaza Strip were reduced to piles of twisted steel and crumbled concrete, the victory was a hollow one. …
The exact terms of the cease-fire haven’t been made public, but Hamas claimed it had received assurances that Israeli security forces would not enter the revered al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem again, and that the looming eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem by Israeli settlers wouldn’t happen.
Gantz called the claims “completely false,” and he warned that Israel’s military remained “prepared to protect Israeli civilians, and our security forces and the IDF are on the ground, across the different fronts, positioned for offense and defense. The reality on the ground will determine how we move forward.”
There are already reports about violent protests at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is what prompted the attacks from Hamas in the first place:
The truce, which came into effect 2 a.m. Friday, brought a halt to the worst bout of violence between Israelis and Palestinians since 2014. Both Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza claimed victory.
But in a sign that the grievances at the heart of the conflict have not been resolved, violent faceoffs were reported during Friday prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian worshipers, in a rerun of the unrest that helped spark the war’s start May 10.
In other words, this is less a cease-fire and more a return to business as usual. And it’s likely not to last very long, either.