Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday waxed eloquent over Israel’s achievements in the summer’s Gaza war, a confrontation he insisted the Jewish state had won, and suggested the cessation of hostilities could lead to renewed peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu rejected assertions from both Hamas and many Israeli officials that the Palestinian terror group had won the war. “The blow that Hamas has now taken is unprecedented since it was founded, a very hard blow. I must say that it also took a diplomatic hit,” the prime minister stated. “It did not receive any of the conditions that it set.”
But Israeli critics noted that Israel had also failed to meet its goal of a demilitarized Gaza Strip, and that in truth, all a terror group like Hamas needs to do in order to “win” is survive a prolonged firefight with a superior power like Israel.
Netanyahu was certain that despite Hamas remaining an armed threat, the group had lost whatever legitimacy it possessed, and the world was now more inclined to accept Israel’s definition of Hamas as a brutal jihadist movement in the same vain as ISIS.
This new understanding between Israel, several leading Arab states and the international community could result in new opportunities for peace, according to Netanyahu.
“I’d like to explore is to see if we can translate this understanding of our common challenges into cooperation in common opportunities, and yes including the pursuit and development and achievement of a peace between Israel and our Palestinian neighbors,” he said.
But many in Israel remained unconvinced.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid reiterated on Thursday that achieving a ceasefire with Hamas was insufficient. “We must work for the demilitarization of Gaza. This war cannot end with just a ceasefire,” Lapid told Israel’s Ynet news portal.
While the government and the IDF have told the residents of southern Israel it is safe to return home, community leaders are saying the opposite.
“Apparently in Jerusalem there’s a ceasefire, and there’s no doubt that also in Gaza they feel secure to go into the street because they know that the IDF will not attack,” Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yellin told Israel National News, noting that as Hamas could resume the rocket fire at any time, “no one is returning here - I don’t care what Hamas or the government says - until I know that there is a true ceasefire.”
The mayor of the hard-hit coastal city of Ashkelon, Itamar Shimoni, was similarly displeased.
“Residents of Israel and the south wanted to see [Hamas] subdued in this campaign, but apparently that won’t happen,” he said. “Not for this ‘achievement’ did we lose 64 warriors and four citizens, …sit almost two months in shelters, …[and] absorb a severe financial blow. We expected a lot more than this.”