THE BLOG
08/13/2014 07:13 pm ET Updated Oct 13, 2014

Hamas-Israel: An Interim Scoresheet

The current round of hostilities is clearly beyond the end of the beginning, but not yet at the beginning of the end, as there is no formal, binding ceasefire; but it is not too early to pinpoint at least one important implication of the war, something that this blog has consistently written about, which is that Hamas is almost alone in its struggle, whereas Israel is not. This is surely very bad news for the terrorists and better news for Israel; but there is a fly in the ointment so far as the latter is concerned.

The latest round affirms the fact that Israel is no longer the odd man out -- the bogey man of Middle East politics -- rather than a participant in the region whose positions are taken seriously by some Arab countries, Egypt especially, but also Saudi Arabia and others. Without saying as much in public, Israeli policymakers cannot conceal their pleasure with the Egyptian position. In fact, it goes much beyond Egypt. There were very muted displays of Arab popular rage at the Gaza situation -- far less than in any of the previous rounds between Hamas and Israel.

In this round, Qatar, which leads the anti-Israel chorus, is the exception, not the rule, but it should be remembered that oil dollars notwithstanding, Qatar is weak and highly vulnerable. Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries will settle in due course their accounts with the little sheikdom, just a question of time and circumstances.

Surely, there are good reasons for this state of affairs, namely Iran, the Sushi war [Sunnis vs. Shi'ites], ISIS, Iraqi and Syrian civil wars and the mayhem in other Arab countries, such as Libya.
Still, it is an undeniable fact that Israel is conducting delicate ceasefire talks in Cairo with no Arab pressure on her; rather it is applied on Hamas.

The displays of anger, in fact sheer hatred, towards Israel are much more on display in Europe than in the Arab Middle East. In fact, the calls for a boycott of Israel are there, not in the Middle East, and ironically it is the fact that during the fighting Israel allows vast shipments of supplies to cross to Gaza, so it is interesting that EVEN Hamas does not boycott Israeli deliveries, but Islamists, radical Marxists and ordinary anti-Semites in Europe call for such a boycott... Easier said and done when you are far away.

Israelis rightly claim that the shows of hatred in Europe reflect SO much hypocrisy and double standards. Hundreds of thousands of casualties in Syria, ethnic cleansing of Yazidis, Kurds and Christians in Iraq, atrocities in other countries, but the focus is on Israel, almost exclusively so. The word in the Middle East is that the Yazidis should declare Israel as their enemy, and then there will be demonstrations all over Europe on their behalf....

So, for many Israelis this is yet another case of the "all world is against us," a sentiment not uncommon there. Over 40 years ago the no.1 hit song in Israel was exactly that, "the entire world is against us," and it was after the 1967 war when displays of hatred to Israel and Jews were a summer picnic compared to the current wave. In fact, many Israelis adhere these days more to the words of the legendary Rabbi Nachman, "the entire world is a narrow bridge, and the main thing is not to be afraid," so people may not be afraid, but they are angry and agitated.

Their leadership is also angry and agitated, but hopefully more realistic about it all.

PM Netanyahu in particular is a man of the world, a media wizard, somebody with many years of living in America, and it is my firm belief [can't prove it though...] that he is worried about the reaction in the world in general, and Europe in particular. He may not say it in public, rather maintain a stiff image, but he wants an end for this war also because he realizes that Israel could pay an unbearable price in its PR and diplomatic stock as a result of the worldwide protest. If I am right about that, and this is a major consideration for the PM, I, for one, commend him for that.

Israel is geographically in the Middle East, and surely wants to be accepted in that chronically unstable part of the world, but it cannot afford a divorce from large parts of the Western world, as hypocritical as it is. For that to happen, Israel will have to have another national DNA, and this is basically impossible to do....

Nor can Israel feel that Arab reaction until now, particularly Egypt's, is in its pocket and is giving it cart blanche to go all the way against Hamas. The Egyptians, for example, know how fragile is their internal situation, and therefore they do urge the Israelis to accept less than a complete rout of Hamas. Netanyahu is receptive to Al-Sisi, and with that is giving another indication of mature leadership. The very fact, that he is SO receptive to the Egyptians is in itself a strong, perhaps a dramatic indication of the newly shaped map of Middle East politics, one which gives Israel a freer hand than before in dealing with Hamas, though not complete freedom.

The Cairo talks may not produce a lasting ceasefire, but they already produce something of importance -- a large number of Gazans say to the Western press [of course, the stories are being published only when the correspondents are out of the Hamas reach] that they blame Hamas for their predicament. This is the one ray of hope in the end of the tunnel which leads me to be somewhat optimistic that Hamas will finally put the interests of its people ahead of every other consideration and agree to a reasonable cease fire.