An open-ended ceasefire came into effect on Tuesday between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
If not peace, then at least this is quiet. For now.
Fifty days of fighting – Israel’s longest conflict since the 1948 War of Independence – left more than 2,200 people dead, tens of thousands displaced and great swathes of Gaza flattened.
And for all this death and destruction, precisely nothing has been gained – by either side.
Hamas remains proudly in place in Gaza, more popular than ever. Its leaders emerged from their bunkers on Tuesday and breathlessly claimed a great victory that “sets the foundations for the liberation of Jerusalem”.
Israel, meanwhile, remains under deadly threat from rockets pointed at its towns and villages.
The agreement reached is practically identical to the Egyptian framework that was on the table almost from day one. The very same deal Hamas rejected time and again. So much bloodshed should have been avoided.
Talks on core issues, such as Hamas’ hallucinatory demands for an airport, seaport and open borders and Israel’s insistence on a demilitarised Gaza Strip have now been kicked into grass so long you could hide Hamas’ entire weapons cache in it. At the end of it all, Operation Protective Edge may have simply turned long grass into a thicket. With thorns.
This return to the sorry status quo – one that’s produced so much horror and so little hope – has seen Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval rating sink to an all-time low. It’s now at 32 percent, weeks after it skyrocketed to 82 percent at the height of the ground invasion, when a Gaza Strip extricated from Hamas’ toxic grip finally seemed within reach.
After so much suffering and destruction, an open-ended ceasefire provides welcome short-term relief.
But as Hamas leaders crawl from their bunkers, no less obsessed with the Jewish state’s obliteration, every Israeli knows this ceasefire is a plaster not a cure – a pause for breath before the next warning siren wails.