These are four days of respite from the killing machine. However, between the optimism regarding an extension of this temporary pause and the pessimism in anticipation of a more cruel and more horrific round of bloodshed, negotiators are seeking to make progress and pretenders are making pretenses. Thus, if there are any tentative conclusions to be made, they include:
Firstly, despite their haughty attitudes, both Israel and Hamas have lost and won points. From the Israeli perspective, the "Israeli war machine" was caught off guard in various places by what happened on October 7. In what is perhaps an attempt to compensate for this, Israel has launched a vicious"war of rumors" aimed at "riling up" the public and inciting a war of displacement and extermination. However, these rumors were shown to be untrue locally and internationally.
Also, despite the effectiveness of Israel’s arms and the havoc it has wreaked on the innocent people of Gaza, Israel has so far been unable to achieve its "declared" political objectives, foremost of which is the destruction of Hamas, its leaders, doctrine, and affiliates.
As for the political calculations, opinion polls regularly conducted by the Israeli newspaper "Maariv" indicate approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been declining, while his direct rival Benny Gantz is becoming increasingly popular. The latest polls (conducted on November 15 and 16, with the results announced on the 24th) show that 52 percent of Israeli voters now want to see Gantz head the government, compared to only 27 percent who continue to support Netanyahu. In terms of control of the Knesset (the House of Representatives) and its 120 seats, the poll shows that if elections were held today, the ruling right-wing extremist coalition led by Netanyahu and his party (Likud) would only maintain 41 seats and that the opposition would win 79 seats.
While Gantz’s National Unity Party would independently secure 43 seats, Likud would not win more than 18. Moreover, according to the same Maariv poll, the party of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, one of the most extreme in Israel, would fail to reach the threshold needed to ensure parliamentary representation.
On the Palestinian side, a high cost has been paid for the moral and political setbacks suffered by Netanyahu and his ruling clique. While the people of Gaza bore the brunt of these costs, the Palestinians in the West Bank, especially in Jenin, Tulkarm, and Nablus, were not left unscathed; armed Israeli settlers and occupation forces have killed hundreds.
More than 14,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip, including about 5,000 children. A large share of its inhabitants have been displaced. Large parts of Gaza’s cities and refugee camps have been destroyed, and it has been split between north and south. All of these developments raise concern.
Moreover, what has unfolded since October 7th is much more than a reaction, and far more horrific than vengeance. Adding insult to injury, global expressions of solidarity with Israel, under the pretext of "its right to self-defense," have allowed Israeli lobbies in most Western countries to exploit the October 7th operation and push for a “transfer” (the mass displacement of Palestinians).
The efforts of these lobbyists resemble those we saw in 2003, when Iraq was invaded following the "September 11, 2001 attacks." At that time, President George W. Bush Jr.’s American administration was aware that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime had nothing to do with the attacks. However, members of the administration, particularly the neoconservative Likudniks, drew up a plan to invade and occupy Iraq because the plans were already prepared and ready - as one of them said - and because the claim that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons could be exploited to justify the occupation and regime change... which is exactly what happened.
As we all recall, the Iranian regime was the primary beneficiary of this occupation. Indeed, as soon as Baghdad fell into the hands of the American forces, Iraqi religious, political, and militia leaders exiled in Iran flocked back to the occupied Iraqi capital. It wasn't long before Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, boasted of ending "centuries of Sunni rule" there.
In Gaza, the first thing Netanyahu told his audience after October 7th was that Israel's goal was to eliminate Hamas and “change the Middle East” (!). Once the Israeli military operation in Gaza began, right-wing ministers and politicians made statements threatening to displace the residents of the Gaza Strip to Egypt... and later distributing them to countries around the world. Others hinted at displacing West Bank residents and reviving the project for an "alternative homeland" in Jordan.
At the same time, Washington insisted on the need to limit the fighting to the Gaza Strip, claiming that there was no evidence of Iranian involvement in the Hamas attack. While Tehran was happy to merely voice its support, Lebanese Hezbollah launched attacks that respected the "rules of engagement" acceptable to Israel. Tehran's militias in Iraq and Yemen have "caused trouble" to reinforce Iran's rhetorical support and maintain the facade of a “Resistance' Axis.”
Yesterday, amid regional and international efforts to extend the truce, develop a formula for the future of the Gaza Strip, and decide who will be left “in charge” after Hamas is removed, leaders from "Hamas" as well as spokespersons for Tehran, including a Lebanese Hezbollah official, continued to promote the narrative of "victory." This official was quoted as saying: "Israel has fallen, and we are closer to dear victory than ever, thanks to the fighters; we know what is happening in Palestine, and the Israeli army has tried and failed to solve the conflict militarily."
Thus, between defining victories and waiting for deals... many have been exposed!