Israel and a Palestinian delegation negotiating on behalf of Hamas reached an open-ended cease-fire agreement on Tuesday evening. Although there is no guarantee that it will hold, it represents a relief to Israelis weary of the 50-day war and eager to put this dreary summer behind them.
But such relief will be short-lived, even with the absence of outright hostilities. Hamas will no doubt claim a “victory” for having terrorized the Israeli population for seven weeks, claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers, and wrung every drop of sympathy over the hundreds of dead Gazan citizens it purposely put in harm’s way. Even the bitterness felt by those left to sort through the rubble is a win for Hamas, which feeds on despair.
Israeli gains from the war include a seriously depleted Hamas arsenal as well as the elimination of Hamas terror tunnels. But the real winners and losers will not be determined in the short term. Ultimately, the Israeli public is not seeking a temporary respite, but a diplomatic solution that does not return Israel, and Hamas, to the status quo. That means a “mechanism,” so far undefined, that will not leave Hamas in control and able to re-arm. Anything less and Israel will expect this war to have a sequel, perhaps deadlier than the chapters that preceded it.
Outside of Israel, Jews can only hope that the hysteria that surrounded this war — crazed rhetorical attacks on Israel, and increasing physical attacks on Jews — will recede. Talk of security — both for our institutions and our uneasy souls — will dominate the communal conversation as this month of Elul leads into the High Holy Days.
Israelis did not ask for this war, but supported their government’s aims and means when it became clear that Hamas wanted nothing else. Victory will mean never allowing Hamas to call the shots again.