Tuesday 24 April 2018

Israelis unsure over Gaza 'victory'

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory in the recent war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip (AP)
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory in the recent war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip (AP)

The Israeli PM's claim that his country won a "great military and political" victory over Hamas in the latest round of fighting in the Gaza Strip has met with scepticism from many of his people, according to a poll.

The poll, published in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, shows that 54% of those surveyed believe there was no clear winner in the 50 days of war.

The fighting killed 2,143 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian health officials and UN officials. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers, five civilians and a Thai worker were killed.

The poll underscores the unease pervading Israeli society after the third round of fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Islamic militants in the seven years since Hamas took control of the densely populated coastal strip.

Some 25% of respondents said Israel had won the war, while 16% believed Hamas had prevailed. The remaining 5% of those surveyed were undecided.

In a nationally televised speech yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had dealt Hamas "a heavy blow".

"With the implementation of the cease-fire, I can say that there is a great military and political achievement here for the State of Israel," he said. "Hamas was hit hard and it received not one of the demands it set forth for a ceasefire, not one."

He also said Israel "will not tolerate" any more of the Hamas rocket fire and would respond "even harder" if attacks resume.

Some of Mr Netanyahu's detractors, including ministers in his own government such as veteran security hawk Uzi Landau, believe that the prime minister and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon did not go far enough in pursuing the war, insisting that they should not have stopped until Hamas was destroyed or pleaded for peace.

Others, particularly residents of hard-hit agricultural communities near the Gaza border, fear that without a clear political roadmap for the Palestinian territory's future, a resumption of the rocket and mortar fire that caused such disruption is likely.

Still, calm has prevailed since the two sides agreed on Tuesday to an open-ended truce, settling for an ambiguous interim agreement in exchange.

Hamas, though badly battered, remains in control of Gaza with part of its military arsenal intact. Israel and Egypt are to continue to control access to the blockaded coastal strip despite Hamas' long-running demand that the border closures imposed in 2007 be lifted.

A former director of Israel's Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, said the war's results "were disappointing and were accompanied by what some have described as a sense of sourness".

"The ceasefire that was achieved with Hamas has left the Israeli public frustrated," he wrote in a commentary published in the popular Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

The Haaretz poll questioned 464 Israelis yesterday and had a margin of error of 4.6%.

Press Association

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