There are at least two givens in Arab-Israeli conflict. The first: Once a ceasefire is set, the two sides will fight up until the last possible moment. The second: Once the battle is over, both sides will declare victory.
Both of these broadly accepted axioms came to pass on Tuesday as the two sides reached an open-ended truce after inflicting as much damage as possible before a 7 p.m. deadline went into effect. This gives way to the third unspoken given: Everyone must weigh in on who actually won.
Gaza War Spoiler: Unless you live in Egypt, your side did not win.— Jonathan Schanzer (@JSchanzer) August 26, 2014
Egypt's newish government managed to look powerful on the world stage as they brokered the long-term ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas. They avoided the blame for also upholding their end of the blockade against Gaza, a blockade that only Israel gets heat for in the international community. Also, Hamas, which Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi opposes, was denied many of the major concessions it'd hoped for.
There were many losers in this latest round of fighting. Here they are, in order of descending loserdom.
Hamas made many promises that they did not deliver. The group said they would fight until the blockade of Gaza ended. Despite some cosmetic shifts, the blockade is still in effect. They demanded that Israel release the prisoners it rearrested, pay its salaries, and establish a seaport. None of those things have happened, although some discussions are set to take place next month.
As many have pointed out, after 50 days, Hamas ultimately accepted a ceasefire proposal that is almost identical to one proffered by Egypt on the war's eighth day. Hamas rejected that proposal.
And the wages for all this bluster was death. A lot of Palestinian death and misery, including 100,000 homeless. As Avi Issacharoff put it:
Two thousand, one hundred and forty-four men, women and children who were killed in a war that they were assured by Hamas simply had to continue until those goals were achieved. The Hamas leadership swore that without a seaport (getting the Rafah border crossing reopened was not deemed a sufficient achievement because it is controlled by the Egyptians) the rockets would continue to fall..."
Israel had its south battered, its airport fired upon, and once again summoned the ire of the international community as the death toll in Gaza spiraled. While the economy also suffered a bit and dozens of Israeli soldiers died in battle, civilian casualties in Israel were limited.
Israel technically won the battle by successfully targeting major Hamas leaders. Israel's Iron Dome knocked down countless Hamas missiles. Hamas' rocket arsenal was cut and its tunnels were mostly destroyed.
Nevertheless, Israel is not getting much out of the ceasefire. As Barak Ravid noted:
The Egyptian proposal didn't include any statement, not even a hint, regarding Israel's security demands. There was nothing about the demilitarization of the strip, the re-arming or the issue of the tunnels.
To boot, Hamas still controls Gaza. While ending Hamas rule was never a specific goal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now coming under fire at home for accepting the Egyptian ceasefire so quickly. As the war dragged on, Netanyahu's approval sank. As Jodi Rudoren explained:
In Israel, support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance dropped by more than half this weekend from a high of more than eight in 10 Israeli Jews in the battle’s early days, according to polls conducted for Channel 2 News.
Yes, the U.S. did not actually fight, however, it never looked quite so feckless as it did on the sidelines as Egypt took the lead in the negotiations.
Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to forge a long-lasting ceasefire failed and he took a lot of heat for spurning Israel and Egypt to negotiate an unpopular ceasefire plan with Qatar and Turkey.