the Iraqi and Syrian people. He supported the pro-Shiite Nouri al-Malaki in Iraq and also stood aside as Bashar al-Assad massacred his own citizens in Syria, while denying the opposition the assistance that might have turned the tables on the Syrian regime.
American failure is even more prominent in the talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which reached deadlock after nine months. Israel blamed Kerry for taking an “unrealistic” position by seeking a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israeli government, exactly like the Saudi royal family, is angry with the US administration for giving up on Mubarak and thus, in their opinion, making a fatal mistake and seriously harming Israel’s interests as well as those of Abu Mazen to the benefit of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
Israel’s rejection of the US ceasefire proposal, and Kerry’s exit from the talks, contributed to the continuation of the fighting. For lack of a mediator acceptable to both sides, capable of enforcing an agreement, the war continued for another 45 days after the first ceasefire proposal – resulting in a dramatic rise in the number of victims to over 2,000, including some 450 children, and the unprecedented destruction of Gaza. The war continued until Hamas gave in to Israel’s overwhelmingly superior firepower. The bombing of 14-floor buildings in Gaza was evidence of the cruel character of the Israeli army, which proved itself willing to destroy anything in order to avoid casualties on its side.
So the war ended exactly as it had begun: Hamas accepted the Egyptian initiative which included no promise to lift the siege and removed the issue of the Rafah border crossing from the negotiations. Israel and Hamas agreed not to agree, and the result was an agreement in which Israel granted a number of favors regarding Gazan fishing in the Mediterranean, permission to work arable land near the border with Israel, and the easing of certain restrictions pertaining to the entry of construction materials and other goods into Gaza. However, all this is dependent on Israel’s good will and its readiness to fulfill its side of an agreement whose main purpose is to assure quiet on Israel’s southern border. The agreement in no way justifies the terrible death and destruction in Gaza, therefore what happened cannot be seen as victory for the Palestinian people. The siege was not lifted, and the Palestinian problem is still far from being solved.
Israel’s policy after the war
While the internal Palestinian rift continued to grow, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government gained wall-to-wall support in Israel. The internal Israeli dispute between left and right shrunk to the question of how and when to end the war. The extreme right, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman, demanded that Israel reoccupy the Gaza Strip and bring down Hamas, while Netanyahu won the support of the opposition parties like the Labor Party and (liberal-left) Meretz as he attempted to bring the war to an end and ensure quiet for the southern border.
If the liberal left criticized Netanyahu, it was over the fact that he was willing to negotiate with Hamas but refused to talk to Abu Mazen. The Labor Party and Meretz believe the new situation and the chaos in Gaza mean that Abu Mazen and General Sisi in Egypt can be a new political alternative, opening a new horizon for talks towards a final agreement and the end of the conflict. They believe the new situation enables Abu Mazen to take over the Gaza Strip, and perceive the relationship with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which is trying to drown the Arab Spring in blood, as a “golden opportunity” which Netanyahu is missing because of his refusal to halt settlement in the West Bank.
The lesson Netanyahu drew from the war is completely different. He refuses to give up any territory to the Palestinians because he believes Hamas will use it to dig tunnels towards Israeli towns near the Green Line (the pre-67 border) and threaten Ben Gurion International Airport.
The Arab parties in Israel were also divided during the war. The Communist Party supports Assad in Syria and the coup in Egypt, and tends to support Abu Mazen. Balad and the Islamic Movement on the other hand support Hamas and Qatar. The Arab parties organized demonstrations of support for Hamas, separately from the demonstrations against the war that took place in Tel Aviv and other Israel cities, thus increasing their isolation and their inability to influence the political arena in Israel. This rift between supporters of Hamas and Qatar on one hand and Sisi and Abu Mazen on the other reflects the way they have turned their back on the democratic program of the Arab Spring that found expression in the youth movement in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria – the same youth who set off the democratic uprising against the corrupt regimes and identifies neither with the Qatar axis nor with the Saudi axis.