Half-concealing a smile of self-satisfaction as he declared a unilateral ceasefire, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has assured Israelis that “we won.” Claiming that the Israeli army had obtained all its objectives, he said that Hamas was “surprised and badly beaten.”
Israel has certainly shown its military superiority in the 22 days since 90 Israeli planes opened hostilities on 27 December when they launched a surprise attack on 100 targets in the Gaza Strip. In the eyes of many Israelis the Gaza War has restored Israel’s ability to deter its enemies, a deterrence that had been degraded by its failure to crush Hezbullah in Lebanon in 2006.
But the ability of Israel’s heavy tanks, artillery and air force to win any clash with several thousand lightly armed Hamas fighters was never in doubt. Israel may in the long term achieve some success in getting weapons smuggling from Egypt into Gaza more tightly monitored. But Hamas remains in almost full control of the Gaza Strip and the Israeli government says it intends to withdraw from those bits of territory which it has reoccupied.