Last night at about 9 p.m, Israeli time, after 8 days of rockets being fired into Israel, and Israel targeting Hamas terror sites, a cease fire was accepted between Israel and Hamas. (Despite Hamas still firing rockets into Israel after the agreed upon time)
Today, the dust has settled, and quiet has finally been achieved. The lull has provided a moment for both to step back and see the results of the Operation. As usual, both sides are claiming victory. In Gaza, Palestinians crowded the streets in a show of victory, claiming that they brought fear into the hearts of Israelis and that they "changed the rules of the games" because Israel did not invade Gaza, as they did last time during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead.
Israel is claiming victory because they targeted all possible terror sites within Gaza.
So who did win? It was certainly not the citizens of the south of Israel, who for over 8 days have been running in and out of bomb shelters, every time Hamas, and other terrorist groups within Gaza fired a rocket into Israel. And it was not the citizens of Gaza, who suffered from Israeli targeting, just because Hamas placed their terror sites within civilian populated areas. A cease-fire is not a peace treaty, and it's not the end of a war, rather- it's a temporary fix in the context of a much larger problem. And within this temporal moment- no one wins.
During Operation Cast Lead, which saw more causalities on both sides, there was also a cease-fire. Just four years later, we have found ourselves in the same situation. We're participating in a circular dance, that cannot be fixed with a piece of paper that guarantees some quiet, for some time. Hamas, a classified terrorist group, has no intention of making peace with Israel. According to Hamas's charter, the only solution for "peace" is by militant Jihad. Therefore, Israel has no partner for peace in Gaza. Therefore, for the past four years, Israel has ignored Hamas. As long as the number of rockets fired into Israel was kept at a low level, Israel ignored it. Only when the number of rockets escalated last week, did Israel target Ahmad Jabari, the second in command of Hamas's military wing, and begin Operation Pillar of Defense. Between the two Operations, Hamas and other militant groups have had sufficient time to amass enough rockets, even those big enough to reach both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Will this time be any different? In another few years, when the number of rockets fired into Israel, reaches an unacceptable level, will Israel begin another Operation? Is this just more time for Hamas to reload?
Where is the solution then?
Perhaps the solution can be found on the other side of the country: in the West Bank. Just before tensions rose between Hamas and Israel, Palestinian President of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, stated in an interview with Israel's Channel 2 on November 1, that as long as he was President, there would be no third Intifada: Palestinians would achieve a two state solution, not through violence, but rather by diplomatic and peaceful means. Abbas, a refugee from Safed, in the north of Israel, also stated that he would like to return to his hometown, not as a resident, but as a tourist- therefore hinting that he is willing to compromise on the Palestinian Right of Return, a huge point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In essence Abbas is reaching his hand to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Instead, Netanyahu looked the other way- down south, where the situation is much simpler to deal with.
For Israel, Gaza is black and white. There is no negotiating with a terrorist group that is trying to destroy Israel. There are temporary lulls, but there is no long-term solution that doesn't include complete defeat for Israel, or the re-occupation of Gaza: both options the Israeli government would not consider. So, Israel, destroys it's terrorist cells, and then backs away, so that there is relief from rockets in the South of Israel. Therefore, the circular dance has no way but to continue. However, the situation in the West Bank is different: the conflict in relation to the PLO is multicolored: it's layered and complicated. The PLO is a potential partner in peace; Israel can talk to the PLO as it has in the past. Yet, this option means compromise- for both sides. It means making hard decisions, that are likely to be unpopular. It means, potentially hurting oneself politically, something that Netanyahu may not be quite ready for, just before an election, or perhaps ever.
However, if a two state solution is reached, and the Palestinians finally had self-determination, at least in the West Bank, it would cause Hamas to be irrelevant. It would prove diplomacy and peaceful deliberation is the answer. International, Israeli and Palestinian pressure could help free the citizens of Gaza from Hamas, and perhaps bring peace there as well. However, while Israel continues to not turn all their efforts to Abbas and the peace process, Hamas causes both Abbas and the PLO to be irrelevant. It proves that both diplomacy and peaceful negotiations can do nothing to help the situation. It reinforces Hamas's argument that violence and Jihad are the only answer- and it continues the cycle of violence and hate. Therefore, as long as there is no progression in the peace process, we will find ourselves right back where we are today- Israel being attacked by rockets, and Israel going back into Gaza to destroy terrorist cells that will only build themselves back up once there is another cease-fire.