Triumphal Hamas celebrated a “victory” in their Gaza stronghold on Wednesday after a truce was declared with Israel, where a sober reckoning of how the next round may go underscored the total lack of trust between the two foes.
Palestinians and Israelis alike were relieved that their eight-day conflict had come to an end without a bloody invasion of the Gaza Strip. But on both sides there was a foreboding that their ceasefire might not last very long.
“We are sceptical,” said a senior Israeli government official, who declined to be named. “But the Egyptians and Americans have backed this deal, so if it falls apart they know that we would have a legitimate reason to go in hard.”
On the face of it, both Israel and the Islamist group Hamas, which rules Gaza, can draw positive conclusions at the end of a brutal clash that killed 162 Palestinians, including 37 children, and five Israelis.
Although Hamas lost its top military commander and suffered serious hits to its infrastructure and weaponry, it has nonetheless emerged with its reputation in the Arab world significantly enhanced and its standing at home embellished.
Israel can take comfort from the fact it dealt painful blows to its enemy, found a way to work with the Islamist leadership of Egypt, and showed that it can defend itself from a barrage of incoming missiles with its high-tech Iron Dome interceptor.
“No one is under the illusion that this is going to be an everlasting ceasefire. It is clear to everyone it will only be temporary,” said Michael Herzog, a former chief of staff at the Israeli ministry of defense.
“But there is a chance that it could hold for a significant period of time, if all goes well,” he told Reuters.