Some will say that Benjamin Netanyahu is wise to have let Hamas off the hook. In war relentless but in victory magnanimous, was Winston Churchill’s advice. This was applicable to European enemies with a long tradition of negotiation and diplomacy which could allow the victorious and the vanquished to come to terms. Israel and Hamas share no such tradition. Hamas has the aim of wiping out Israel, and no amount of negotiation and diplomacy is ever going to change that. This last attempt to attack Israel has evidently been a mistake, a very expensive mistake in terms of dead Gazans and the destruction of the Strip’s infrastructure.
To Hamas, that is no concern at all. Preparation for the next round will obviously be long and difficult, but they will find Iran or Turkey or some other sponsor to come to the rescue. Hamas has to pretend that its defeat is no defeat at all, but brings the liberation of Palestine a stage nearer. Defeat would also be shameful, and the culture forbids that.
The fight against people who do not share their culture, and do not want to understand it, puts Israel into a very difficult position. Its victory appears not to be a victory, and Hamas’s defeat not to be a defeat. The only possible issue out of this deadlock is an uprising in Gaza in which the population throw out the whole Hamas apparatus that has brought them to this calamity. Hamas has already proved that it rules by fear, and does not hesitate to stage public executions.
Magnanimity on Netanyahu’s part will not be understood as a Churchillian way of proceeding, but as weakness: He did not possess the courage or determination to fulfill the war aim of wiping out the enemy. Hamas would have wiped Israel out, but instead of wiping Hamas out Israel instead offers to see Hamas’s point of view and to make concessions. This cultural divergence is the breeding ground for wars past, present, and alas future.