Cross-posted from Gush Shalom
When the Israeli army entered the Gaza strip and found there an astounding system of underground tunnels, an idea made the rounds: Why not invite Hamas to build the Tel Aviv metro? They have the expertise, the technology, the planners, the manpower.
But this war is no joke. It is a terrible tragedy.
AFTER 29 DAYS of fighting (until now), who has won?
It is, of course, much too early to draw final conclusions. The ceasefire has blown up. It will take months and years to sum up all the consequences. But Israeli popular wisdom has already drawn its own conclusions: it is a draw.
This conclusion, by itself, is a kind of miracle. For an entire month, Israeli citizens have been bombarded by a barrage of propaganda. Daily, hourly, they were subject to an endless stream of brainwashing.
The political and military leaders dictated a picture of victory. Tanks and troop carriers coming out of the Gaza Strip have been ordered to fly large flags. All photos of troops leaving the Strip showed happily smiling soldiers. (In my imagination I see the troops training for the exit, with the sergeant-major shouting: "You there, Private Cohen, correct your smile!")
According to the official line, our glorious army has achieved all its goals. Mission accomplished. Hamas has been beaten. As one of the tame "military correspondents" put it: "Hamas is crawling on all fours to the ceasefire!"
It is therefore a great surprise that in the first poll after the fighting, 51% of the Israeli Jewish public responded that the war has ended in a draw. Only 36% answered that we have won, while 6% believe that it ended in a victory for Hamas.
WHEN A guerrilla organization with at most 10,000 fighters achieves a draw with one of the mightiest armies in the world, equipped with the most ultra-modern weapons, that is by itself a kind of victory.
Hamas has not only shown a lot of courage during the fighting, but also surprising ingenuity in preparing for this campaign. It is still standing upright.
The Israeli army, on the other hand, has shown very little imagination. It was quite unprepared for the maze of tunnels. The vastly successful "Iron Dome" anti-rocket defense was invented by civilians and installed eight years ago by a civilian Minister of Defense against the express wishes of the army. Without this defense, the war would have looked very different.
Indeed, as a commentator dared to write, the army has become a heavy, cumbersome, conservative machine. It followed its established routine, without employing special forces. Its doctrine was, in essence, to pound the civilian population into submission, causing as much killing and destruction as possible, so as to deter the "resistance" as much and as long as possible. In Israel, the terrible pictures of death and destruction did not evoke compassion. On the contrary. People were proud of it.
In the end, both sides were thoroughly exhausted. Yet in the Cairo ceasefire negotiations, Hamas did not surrender.
For the Israeli leadership, the only alternative to retreat was the conquest of the entire Gaza Strip. This would have enabled it to exterminate Hamas physically and dismantle its infrastructure. But the army strenuously objected and convinced the political leadership, too. An estimated thousand Israeli soldiers would have been killed, the entire Strip would have been turned into ruins.
Thirty-two years ago, the Begin-Sharon duo was faced with the same dilemma. The conquest of Western Beirut would have cost an estimated 800 Israeli soldiers. Like the Netanyahu-Ya'alon duo now, they decided against it.