Hamas declared victory after Cast Lead, but did not manage to convince the general public in the Gaza Strip. This time, however, even those who aren’t supporters of the organization respect its political achievement.
Palestinian militants of the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, on a truck, Gaza Strip, October 18, 2012.Photo by AP
It's natural that each of the two clashing sides would claim to be the winner in the cease-fire. Considering the balance of fatalities and the dimensions of the destruction, it's clear who won – and there are those who are still making those cynical calculations, while blurring the large number of Palestinian women and children counted among the dead and wounded.
But if “victory” is measured by the support each side has for its leadership, apparently it can be said that the trophy indeed went to Hamas.
To the disappointment of many Israelis, there was no ground attack, and the cease-fire was achieved before the rocket launchers in Gaza showed signs of exhaustion.
This contrasts with the Palestinians in Gaza, who support the cease-fire – and not only because of the mark left by the IDF assault and the fear that the number of dead will continue to rise exponentially.
After Operation Cast Lead, Hamas also declared victory but then it did not succeed in convincing the general public in Gaza. ‘Another victory like this one and it will be possible to see Beit Hanoun from Rafah,” people joked bitterly, referring to the huge devastation the IDF left behind.
People also noticed that Hamas' promise of surprises then, made before and during the ground attack, were empty boasting. Four years ago, too, Hamas demanded the lifting of the draconian blockade and the opening of the Rafah crossing point to free passage of goods and people – and failed.
What began at that time to crack the Israeli position and transform Gaza into an issue that doesn’t leave the international agenda was the shock at seeing the scenes of the attack along with the international solidarity, the height of which was the Mavi Marmara flotilla.
This time, even those who are not supporters of Hamas admire the political achievement manifested in the military surprises Hamas had up its sleeve. The ability to continue firing even under the intensive attack indicated the planning prowess of the movement, and its ability to learn from its mistakes.
The Palestinians saw not only heroism in the continuous firing of all kinds of rockets, but also identified long-term thinking in Hamas - a characteristic that many believe is lacking in the rival Fatah movement, especially since it became a corrupt ruling movement.
Thus, an important aspect in the Hamas victory is the clear strengthening of its standing among the Palestinians. It is not certain that Fatah would do well to insist on holding general elections for the Legislative Council in the near future.
Clearly, long-term thinking would not have helped Hamas had the Muslim Brotherhood not come into power in Egypt. However, part of the confidence that characterized Hamas in its move against the rule of the Palestinian Authority was the expectation of a popular Islamic uprising in the Muslim space.
In the Palestine Liberation Organization, they always say the Palestinian issue is central to the stability and peace in the region, if not in the whole world - but the organization has left this claim to the mercies of events over which it has no control.
Hamas relied on the bottomless capacity of suffering among the Gazans in particular while maneuvering the Gaza Strip as a separate entity that would open up to the Arab and Muslim world. As part of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is doing two things today: It is both returning the Palestinian issue to the center international attention and it is behaving like a regional power whose abilities and opinion have to be taken into account.