The two top headlines on The Jerusalem Post Web site this evening neatly summed up the dilemma of Israel’s 22-day military campaign in Gaza.
The first read: “Barak Declares Victory as IDF Completes Gaza Withdrawal,” noting that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Hamas was dealt a serious blow and “will be quiet now for a long time.”
The next headline read: “Gaza Smuggling Routes Operational Again.”
Welcome to the mysteries of the Middle East.
It’s difficult to judge now whether or not the Israeli effort was a success, since so much depends on what happens next.
On the one hand, Israel flexed its military muscles – and this deterrence factor cannot be overstated in terms of what it means in the Mideast, where power demands respect. The carefully planned incursion was overwhelmingly seen as justified and necessary by Israelis after their southern region endured thousands of rocket attacks over the last seven years. Something had to be done.
On the other hand, the people of Gaza continue to defy Western logic, seeming to side with the terror group that purposefully endangers and exploits its civilian population. And the rest of the world portrays Israel as disproportionately aggressive. Every Jew is a critic so now we are hearing: Should it have been quicker?
Less invasive in terms of the loss of human life in Gaza? Or should it have gone on until Hamas was more definitively routed?
Those remain open questions, as does the value of putting Egypt in such a pivotal political position now in controlling the tunnels, despite Cairo’s poor record in preventing weapon-smuggling through the Gaza tunnels until now.
Like so much of Mideast politics, future events will determine whether actions taken now were indeed wise and helpful. Considering that Israel helped create Hamas and Hezbollah as alternatives to Yasir Arafat and the PLO – the same PLO that now sides with Israel in regards to Hamas – it’s not at all certain that the law of unintended consequences has been suspended.