The long-term ceasefire that took effect Tuesday, after a surprise Egyptian-brokered agreement between Israel and Hamas, is being hailed by the terror group as a “victory.” In this case, the claim is more than propaganda. According to the details of the agreement, the Gaza border crossings are to be opened, the fishing zone is to be widened, and talks are to commence soon about air and sea ports. No wonder half Israel’s Cabinet is opposed.
Israel certainly has achieved military gains. It wiped out most of Hamas’s rocket arsenal, and destroyed almost all of its terror tunnels before those could be used to carry out a planned large-scale attack. It killed hundreds of Hamas fighters, took out several of the group’s senior leaders, and thwarted a Hamas coup of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hamas failed to achieve much except the needless closure of Ben-Gurion Airport.
And yet Hamas will now claim that the war was worth the devastation. It has something concrete to show for weeks of attacking Israeli civilians and exposing Palestinian civilians to death and disability. Israeli politicians are scrambling to find ways to explain that the deal is not a win for Hamas, but the cold fact is that along with letting the group survive to fight another day, Israel has once again given Hamas an incentive to stick with war.
What saves this deal may be the long-term achievements Israel has made. The deal cements Egypt as the leader in the region and freezes out Hamas allies Turkey and Qatar, which the Obama administration had courted. It also bolsters Egypt’s alliance with Israel–and even Saudi Arabia–as Iran moves back into focus. And it returns the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, at the border. Still, Netanyahu’s gamble may take a long time to pay off.