CAIRO - Despite declarations of victory by Israel, the military assault on
the Gaza Strip failed to achieve its stated aims, many analysts say. The assault,
and even its exceptional brutality, may only have vindicated the notion of
resistance among the Arab public.
"The steadfastness of the resistance in Gaza in the face of Israeli military
power has resuscitated the idea of armed resistance," Gamal Fahmi, political
analyst and managing editor of opposition weekly Al-Arabi al-Nassiri,
From Dec. 27 to Jan. 17, Israel pounded targets throughout the Gaza Strip
from air, land, and sea, in ostensible retaliation for rockets fired at Israel
by Palestinian resistance factions, chief among them Hamas. The latter two
weeks of the campaign brought a parallel ground offensive that encountered
fierce resistance in and around a number of population centers.
The campaign only came to a close – albeit an uncertain one – following Israel's
announcement of a unilateral cease-fire Jan. 17. The next day, Palestinian
resistance factions also announced a temporary cessation of hostilities, but
not before launching several rocket salvoes at targets inside Israel.
Over the course of the following week, Israel gradually withdrew its ground
forces from the Gaza Strip. When the dust settled, more than 1,300 Gazans lay
dead, mostly women and children. Thousands were injured.
Israeli military officials hastened to declare the operation a success. Some
Egyptian commentators, however, say that despite the high civilian death toll
and infrastructural damage, the conflict represented a strategic victory for
the Palestinian resistance.
"Victory in war isn't determined by casualty rates but by the achievement
of war aims," Abdelhalim Kandil, political analyst and editor-in-chief of independent
weekly Sout al-Umma wrote Jan. 26. "And Israel failed to achieve its
stated aims after more than three weeks of punishing Gaza."
He said Israel's "unilateral cease-fire" – for which Israel received
nothing in return from the Hamas-led resistance – was unprecedented in the
history of Israeli war-making. "The resistance called its own cease-fire one
day later, but not before demonstrating that its capacity for launching rockets
at Israel remained intact," Kandil wrote.
Gamal Mazloum, former Egyptian army general, said Israel's stated war objectives
changed more than once mid-campaign.
"Over the course of the conflict, Israeli officials went from saying that
the goal of the operation was 'removing' Hamas, to 'degrading' its rocket-launching
capacity, to 'teaching Hamas a lesson,'" Mazloum told IPS. "But the unexpected
steadfastness of the resistance forced them to conclude operations without
achieving any of these. Now Israel says its chief aim is to 'cut off weapons
smuggling' to Gaza."
According to Hamas officials, Israel's real objective was clear from the
"The reason for Israel's aggression is to change the Hamas government in
the Gaza Strip," Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk was quoted as saying during
the conflict Jan. 13. "They have been thinking about this ever since Hamas
won the elections."
This was not the first attempt at forcible removal of the resistance group.
Shortly after Hamas' surprise victory in the 2006 legislative elections,
the U.S. covertly armed and trained elements of the Palestinian Fatah movement,
Hamas' secular rival, with the aim of wiping out the Hamas leadership in Gaza
in one fell swoop. Based in the West Bank, Fatah currently heads the Palestinian
Authority (PA) under the leadership of Western-backed PA President Mahmoud
The scheme, coordinated by U.S. Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton and Fatah strongman
Mohamed Dahlan, later became known as the Dayton Plan.
But after learning of the plot in mid-June 2007, Hamas preemptively routed
its Fatah adversaries and seized control of Gaza. Hamas has maintained control
of the Gaza Strip ever since. As a result, Gaza been subject to an internationally
sanctioned embargo that has brought it to humanitarian ruin.
Hamas officials say that Israel's latest assault was simply an attempt to
finish the job that Fatah – with U.S. and Israeli support – failed to do in
"They tried to push Fatah to stand and fight Hamas, but we defeated them
in the Gaza Strip," Marzouk said in a reference to the failed Dayton plot.
"So Israel took action themselves."
Several commentators agree that both campaigns had the same objective – namely,
the obliteration of Hamas. "Both the Dayton Plan and Israel's recent war aimed
– and failed – to remove Hamas from power in Gaza," said Mazloum.
Despite the Dayton Plan's significance in the chronology of the conflict,
it is seldom referred to in current reporting by the Western mainstream media.
"The Dayton affair is largely ignored – but then facts concerning Palestine
are always subject to deceptions and disinformation in the Western media,"
Fahmi said. "The western press also rarely mentions that Hamas won democratic
elections in 2006, or the extent of corruption in the PA."
Along with Israel's failure to achieve its stated war aims, commentators
note that the war on Gaza – horrific images of which have been transmitted
around the world – represented a public relations catastrophe for Israel.
"The war revealed Israeli criminality to the entire world," said Fahmi. "It
also served to put the Palestinian cause back on the conscience of the international
"Israel's image is now at an all-time low," said Mazloum, pointing to the
massive demonstrations worldwide in solidarity with Gaza. "Israel is already
suffering from the effects of this crisis, politically, economically, and socially."
Mazloum attributed Israel's uncharacteristic unilateral cease-fire declaration
to mounting worldwide outrage over its assault on Gaza's largely defenseless
"There was an unprecedented explosion of popular rage in the Arab world,
which put most Arab governments under tremendous pressure and could have led
to serious regional escalations," said Mazloum. "The blatant carnage also eventually
led to pressure on Israel by the international community to stop the aggression."
Both domestically and regionally, he said, Hamas was already reaping the
fruits of what amounted to a political victory.
"Both in Gaza and the Fatah-controlled West Bank, the people have rallied
around Hamas as defender of the Palestinian cause," said Mazloum. "And on the
regional level, Hamas proved its staying power and showed it cannot be simply
removed from the equation. Egypt, for one, will now have no choice but to deal
with Hamas as a political reality."
According to Fahmi, the most notable outcome has been a resurgence of the
notion of armed resistance to Israel – after some 30 years of fruitless negotiations.
"Resistance doesn't mean irrational violence devoid of political considerations,
as its detractors would suggest," he said. "On the contrary, it is – particularly
in the face of brutal occupation – the only logical choice."