If anyone can put a positive spin on this week's events in Israel and Gaza, I'd like to hear it. From where I sit there's absolutely no good news -- not for Israel and not for the future state of Palestine. Each side claimed victory after a ceasefire went into effect Thursday, but the reality is both sides came out losers.
Israel's Iron Dome missile-defence system worked, but it is merely a Band-Aid solution to the problem of missiles raining down from Gaza. While Iron Dome prevents some -- but far from all -- rockets from hitting the ground (to suggest Hamas' missiles actually have defined targets is giving them far too much credit), it cannot alleviate Israelis' shattered psyche.
The sirens still sound, the bomb shelters are still inhabited and people in the south of the country are still living in near-constant terror. Iron Dome may stop missiles from landing, but it cannot prevent them from being launched. Anyways, as the bus bombing in Tel Aviv on Wednesday -- albeit not the work of Hamas -- proves, there are other ways to terrorize Israelis for which Iron Dome provides no defence at all.
Even if, as has been reported, Israel destroyed 90 per cent or more of Hamas' rocket arsenal during a week of airstrikes, that is ultimately worthless, since Gazans will simply build new ones (and over time the missiles will have improved ranges and accuracy). It matters not whether Iran has indeed supplied Hamas with the wherewithal to build them independently or whether weapons will continue to make their way into Gaza via the network of smuggling tunnels -- Hamas will most definitely find a way.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must go, and not only because his latest Gaza campaign was obviously orchestrated to help him win another election, which is the worst reason to go to war but because Israel needs a leader committed to making peace with the Palestinians -- that is the only way to improve quality of life for Israelis.
To be sure, Israel's leaders must be willing to strike when it is absolutely necessary (as it may soon be with regards to Iran), but this seems to be Netanyahu's default position, and that is a serious problem. While it's true peace will only come when both sides have leaders who want to make it happen above all else, Israel must take charge here, because the Palestinians won't and it is the only way to win the PR battle (which is essential) -- and above all else, because it's just the right thing to do.
As for the Palestinians, there is no way to put a good face on over 130 dead, many of them innocent bystanders in Israel's missile attacks (calculated and precise as they were). Hamas and its supporters can fire rounds into the air and celebrate a supposed victory in the streets of Gaza City all they want, but that won't take away from the families who have lost loved ones and seen their possessions, meagre as they were, wiped out in airstrikes. Palestinian leaders -- and many Palestinians -- do indeed glorify death, but the images of burned-out homes and terrified, maimed people still rings true (except when they're not -- as was the case with at least a few of the pictures broadcast on TV and the Internet). Gaza is a horrific place to live, and Hamas' latest campaign didn't change that one bit.
Gaza is unlikely to be the Arab Spring's late-bloomer -- the movement seems to have simply bypassed the area completely. This isn't for lack of need of better governance -- elections have been postponed repeatedly by Hamas and Fatah since 2010, so the people there would seem to understand democracy isn't coming any time soon. Given the fate of the six supposed "informers" summarily executed in Gaza City on Tuesday, one of whom's carcass was dragged through the streets, those who do seek change -- there must at least be some, right? -- have good reason not to speak up.
I think Hamas, at least as currently constituted with its singular obsession of destroying Israel, is the single largest reason peace continues to elude Israelis and Palestinians (though Israel's border blockade sure doesn't help matters). The government of Gaza willingly sacrifices its citizens for what, at this point, is nothing more than a publicity stunt aimed at the hearts and minds of the international community (a battle, it should be noted, Hamas lost this round); given its skimpy arsenal of pathetically outdated weapons, Hamas cannot possibly hope to threaten Israel in any significant way.
Palestinians will continue to die, and the ones that live will continue to do so in abject poverty, and the main reason for that is Hamas.
All in all, a terribly disheartening week in the Middle East that revealed all the flaws that impede progress toward peace -- there is no silver lining, only hatred and bloodshed and failed leadership.
You'd like to believe there will be peace between Israel and the Palestinians -- between Israel and the larger Muslim world -- eventually, that the two sides will manage to figure this mess out and even if not be friends at least accept that the fighting doesn't benefit anyone. But after weeks like this one it seems that day isn't getting any closer, indeed that it is moving farther and farther away.