The celebratory gunfire in Gaza that greeted the start of the Nov. 21 truce may have been in part to greet the end of the slaughter of the Israeli onslaught. This has seen at least 162 Palestinians die, the majority of them civilians, and in excess of 1,200 people injured. Some of these will die later and many more will have to live with crippling disabilities for the rest of their lives.

But the hail of bullets that was fired into the air also marked a victory. The Israelis had done their worst and had discovered that in return, Hamas rockets had been fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Once again, the Palestinians trapped in the Gaza ghetto had not been cowed and this time, the Israeli Army had hesitated to send in ground forces, because the Netanyahu government had a good idea of the fierce opposition they would meet. No one on either side has forgotten the humiliating defeat that Israel’s once seemingly invincible troops had met in 2006 in southern Lebanon, at the hands of the more lightly armed, but carefully organized Hezbollah militia.

There was however more of a victory than most of the jubilant Hamas fighters realized. That victory is this: Whatever happens now to the cease-fire, Israel has just experienced a psychological and strategic defeat, largely of its own making, which its leaders and generals would do well to recognize and analyze.

Egypt is also no longer a friendly neighbor, prepared to help Israel enforce its economic blockade of the Palestinians in Gaza.

The Assad regime can no longer use the issue of the Golan Heights and further Israeli aggression as it levers to keep its own people in order.

The upshot is that Israel finally finds itself entirely friendless in the Middle East.

Israel has grown and flourished through the conflict it has manufactured since 1948. It does not have a clue how to survive as a state at peace.

Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

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