So who gets to claim victory in the just-completed conflict between Israel and Hamas?
Well, obviously Israel and Palestinian leaders are each saying they won — Israel because it stopped — for now — rocket attacks on its people; Hamas because it earned some respectability among Arab leaders, some of whom actually visited Gaza during the fighting.
But perhaps there are far more winners than those, and perhaps some of them may surprise you.
Winner: Iron Dome Missile defense system — No surprise here. During eight days of fighting, Iron Dome shot down 421 of some 1,500 rockets launched from Gaza, (the success rate could have been much higher, but the IDF chose not to fire at rockets on a trajectory to land harmlessly in open fields). While the cost of arming and operating these batteries was steep — as high as $30 million over the course of the fighting — the system proved its worth. The Defense Ministry hopes to have 13 to 15 batteries operational in five years, according to Haaretz. Clearly, Iron Dome has earned its keep.
Winner: Richard Goldstone — Now this is surprising. The South African jurist and author of the much-maligned Goldstone Report following Operation Cast Lead, who later recanted much of it, may have experienced a vindication of sorts. Forward reported that Israel apparently took some lessons from the report. To wit, the casualty toll for the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense was lower than the first day of Cast Lead alone. Observers attribute this to more sophisticated Israeli weaponry, but also to a greater willingness on Israel’s part to slow its fire and be more selective of targets. (Sending thousands of text messages to Gazans in harm’s way also didn’t hurt.)
Winner: Mohamed Morsi — The newly coined Egyptian president very nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with his ill-advised decree putting his rulings above judicial review — a decision that may still backfire on him — but for now, Morsi has earned political capital for brokering the cease-fire. He could have sided with Hamas, abrogated the treaty with Israel and called for jihad against the Jewish state — all of which would be consistent with Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric. Instead, he kept the treaty in place and chose a relatively moderate course over a war footing. To be sure, Morsi is no friend of Israel’s, but the jury is still out as to what kind of enemy he will be.
Winner: The peace process — The what? Are we crazy to talk about peace at a time like this — when Egypt has withdrawn its ambassador, Hamas has just finished firing over 1,000 rockets and Hezbollah is threatening to join the fray the next time fighting breaks out?
All rhetoric aside, Hezbollah didn’t join the fighting, Hamas is holding its fire and, as we said, Egypt did broker a cease-fire. It may not seem like much on which to build a peace process, but in a region becoming increasingly extreme in its political posturing, it’s also more than Israel might have expected.