Who Won the War?

It appears that the ceasefire is holding and Israel has announced its plan to remove its troops from Gaza before President Obama takes office. Israel is claiming victory, saying it severely curtailed Hamas’ ability to launch rockets against Israel.

Hamas is claiming victory too. The Palestinian leaders are saying that the fact that they withstood the Israeli assault and that the IDF has been forced to stop its attacks is a great victory for Gaza.

How is victory defined in a military conflict? If the number of casualties is the parameter, then obviously Israel won the war in Gaza. But Hamas is not willing to admit defeat, so it has redefined victory. All along, Hamas has portrayed itself as a small, defenseless entity being unfairly attacked by a stronger power. In that case, survival alone is miraculous and can be seen as a victory. In this way, Hamas is guaranteed a victory in any conflict with Israel.

It may be, however, that this question will not be settled in the short-term. If the safety and security of Israel’s citizens has been improved by the operation in Gaza, that will be the true indication of victory for Israel. But if the situation continues as before, the operation will not have served its purpose. In the next few months, Hamas will need to focus on rebuilding Gaza and its institutions, but once that is accomplished, will Hamas resume its terrorist activities against Israel?

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