By Tuesday afternoon it appeared a 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was holding, as the two sides negotiated a more lasting truce in Cairo.
But amidst the tense quiet, serious questions were raised as to whether or not Israel had achieved the stated aims of the war by creating the kind of deterrence that would prevent Hamas from starting another war a year or two from now.
Without question, Israel failed to reach the lofty objective of Gaza’s disarmament, and no one expects Hamas to voluntarily throw down its arms.
The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says 900 Hamas and allied terrorists were killed, 32 terror tunnels were found and destroyed, and Gaza’s arsenal of missiles was significantly reduced over the past month of fighting.
Nevertheless, a great many Israelis, particularly those who live in the vicinity of Gaza, say they feel no more secure than they did at the start of Operation Protective Edge.
“They say when the war is over we can return home,” Salait Feter told Israel’s Ynet news portal. “But I can’t say that I feel we’re returning to a safe place. It’s not a safe place to raise my children.”
“It’s not right to start an operation and then suddenly fold, while telling us everything is now OK,” Feter continued. “What about the rest of the tunnels? What about the regular rocket attacks?”
“They keep saying the mission against the tunnels is almost complete, but we know that’s not true,” added Inbal Hamoui. “We don’t want to return to a situation where they tell us the problem is taken care of, only to have Hamas prove them wrong.”
Even if the IDF did manage to severely impede the terrorists’ ability to attack Israelis for the time being, there is little doubt that as soon as the war is officially over, Hamas will immediately return to digging terror tunnels and building missiles.
“The deterrence power of the Israeli army has eroded dramatically. During the last 26 days, the army carried out air, ground and naval attack against Hamas, but it did not succeed to treat [the problem],” said Tourism Minister Uzi Landau.
Pulling out of Gaza prematurely had, according to Landau, sent a “destructive message regarding Israeli deterrence.”
“The destruction of Israeli deterrence” was one of the primary outcomes of the war, declared Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “The Palestinian people now have confidence in their ability to stand firm and fight.”
But Netanyahu, under tremendous international pressure to stop warring against the Gaza terrorist infrastructure, stood by his decision to withdraw all Israeli ground forces from the coastal enclave ahead of the current ceasefire.
“We did everything to make the most of it,” Netanyahu told reporters, acknowledging that there was no way to guarantee all the terror tunnels had been destroyed. “This is a complicated mission done by heroic soldiers under harsh fighting conditions.”