“Words cannot describe the human tragedy that has taken place in Gaza”, writes Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
Israel, which has never stopped committing massacres against the Palestinian people since its inception, acts as if the Palestinians are its enemies and – being the object of Palestinian resistance - that they represent the historical antithesis of the Zionist project.
There is, however, some consolation in the fact that the tragedy demonstrated the Gazans' epic steadfastness and resilience, which has redeemed the Palestinian cause and the entire Palestinian people. The fact that Palestinians from all four corners of the globe rose as one to support Gaza, has proven that they are one people from one land. Thanks to such shows of solidarity, the Palestinian people forced all their political factions to support the demands of the resistance for the first time ever since Hamas and Islamic Jihad were first founded.
While we cannot determine whether the resistance has scored a decisive victory in the latest round of fighting until military operations cease, we can nonetheless analyze the results so far. The crucial questions here are whether the Israelis succeeded in achieving their objectives, and whether the resistance has managed to achieve its goals.
The Israeli government was keen to apply the lessons it learned in earlier wars, especially those of 2006, 2008-09 and 2012, to the latest war on Gaza. The Israelis did not set themselves difficult objectives so as not to appear defeated if they failed to achieve them. The war initially had modest objectives: undermining the Palestinian (Fatah/Hamas) reconciliation government, destroying the rocket launching pads, and restoring the notion of calm for calm.
When its aerial campaign failed to subdue the resistance, Israel began to claim that its objective was to destroy the tunnels that the Palestinians had dug beneath the border. Finally, Binyamin Netanyahu said last Sunday that Israel's objective was to restore calm and security in the long term and destroy the Palestinian factions' infrastructure, adding that fulfilling these missions would take force and 'some time.’
In fact, Israel's undeclared objective in the latest war – as with all Israel's wars since the 1948 Nakba – was to terrorize the Palestinian people, break their will to resist, and force them to accept Israel's terms, and accept the reality of occupation. Israel also wanted to perpetuate the separation between Gaza and the West Bank, and thus make the establishment of an independent Palestinian state all but impossible, now or in the future. The resistance’s objectives by contrast were to stop the aggression, lift the blockade of Gaza, release Palestinian prisoners, and enhance and strengthen Palestinian unity.
If we take a look at the results 29 days after the beginning of the aggression, it is clear that Israel has failed to achieve its objectives despite the campaign of genocide it has waged (leading to the deaths of up to 2000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, the destruction of over 10,000 homes, schools, mosques, and universities, and the displacement of up to half a million Palestinians).
Despite the mayhem, the resistance is still capable of firing rockets that reach deep into Israel. The Palestinian resistance also engaged in fierce battles that cost the Israeli army 63 soldiers killed by its own admission. In addition, the conflict cost the Israeli economy billions of dollars. The war could also have long-term repercussions, especially as far as inward investment and tourism are concerned. Also, Israeli military doctrine based on deterrence is facing serious questions.
Israel’s strategy of deterrence is based on the premise that the Jewish state should always hold the initiative and the element of surprise in any war. Israel has thus always ensured that its wars are short and sharp, and that it can determine when they start and how they should end. Also, Israel has always made sure that its domestic front is untouched by its wars, and that it should always emerge victorious – and visibly so.
In spite of the fact that Israel chose when to attack, all the elements of its deterrence strategy failed resoundingly in the latest war, so much so that many Israeli strategists and experts are calling for it to be changed.
This latest war was different not only because of the fact that Israel set its forces modest objectives, but also because the Palestinian resistance pursued a strategy that was totally different to that it did in earlier conflicts – so much so that it confounded the Israeli government and threw it into disarray. While several of Binyamin Netanyahu's ministers argued for a unilateral withdrawal, others wanted to maintain the momentum, while still others called for reoccupying Gaza and destroy all vestiges of the Palestinian resistance.
Despite the overwhelming imbalance of power and in spite of the fact that war took place against the backdrop of Arab fragmentation and weakness, the Palestinian resistance won the last round militarily. Had circumstances been better for the Palestinians, the war could have transformed the entire situation strategically. Not only did the fighters in Gaza lack Arab support, the acute differences between the Arab and regional powers were to the detriment of the resistance.
Some might point to the vast differences in losses between the two sides and ask, what victory are you talking about?
The disproportion between losses, horrific as it is, is not the deciding element (although Israeli losses were much higher than those acknowledged) – otherwise, Vietnam would not have been said to have vanquished the United States. To pass judgment on the war, we have to wait for the final act to be over. We have to see whether the resistance manages to attain its objectives outlined above.
It appears that the political battle that the Palestinians have to wage is more difficult than the military one. Palestinian negotiators have to perform as bravely as the fighters in the field to ensure that the enemy fails to secure its objectives at the negotiating table as it failed to do on the field of battle. Attempts will be made to disarm the resistance, deepen divisions between the West Bank and Gaza, undermine the process of reconciliation, and sow discord between the 'moderate’ PA and the 'terrorist’ resistance. A new political process could be launched based on the same old foundations and designed to divert attention from Israel's crimes and help it evade responsibility. In exchange, the blockade could be lifted and Gaza reconstructed.
It is important to understand the importance of the resistance and its ability to change the balance of deterrence. The resistance must be incorporated into a unified Palestinian strategy based on genuine national unity that seeks to utilize the results of war in a direction that not only ends further Israeli aggression, lifts the blockade and releases the prisoners, but also in the struggle against the occupation and for independence.
A new political equation must be created to replace that of the Oslo process, one that could break all the restrictions and commitments enshrined in the  Oslo agreements. Such an equation must be based on unity, resistance, boycotts, and calling Israel to account. The balance of power must be changed to such a degree as to enable the Palestinians to fulfill those goals.
“A standing international conference with full powers, under UN auspices, based on international law, and UN resolutions, could help achieve those goals,” concludes Masri.