OPINION At the end of it all, the long grass has turned into a thicket

Israelis run for cover as a  rocket siren sounds in Ashkelon. More than 4,500 Hamas rockets were fired at Israel during the conflict.
Israelis run for cover as a rocket siren sounds in Ashkelon. More than 4,500 Hamas rockets were fired at Israel during the conflict.

An open-ended ceasefire came into effect on Tuesday between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

If not peace, then at least this is quiet. For now.

Fifty days of fighting – Israel’s longest conflict since the 1948 War of Independence – left more than 2,200 people dead, tens of thousands displaced and great swathes of Gaza flattened.

And for all this death and destruction, precisely nothing has been gained – by either side.

Hamas remains proudly in place in Gaza, more popular than ever. Its leaders crawled from their bunkers on Tuesday breathlessly claiming a great victory that “sets the foundations for the liberation of Jerusalem”.

Israel, meanwhile, is still under threat from rockets pointed at its towns and villages.

The agreement reached is practically identical to the Egyptian framework that was on the table almost from day one. The very same deal Hamas rejected time and again. So much bloodshed could have been avoided.

Talks on core issues, such as Hamas’ hallucinatory demands for an airport, seaport and open borders and Israel’s insistence on a demilitarised Gaza Strip have now been kicked into grass so long you could hide Hamas’ entire weapons cache in it. At the end of it all, Operation Protective Edge simply turned the long grass into a thicket. With thorns.

This return to the sorry status quo – one that’s produced much horror and little hope – has seen Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval rating sink to an all-time low. It’s now at 32 percent, weeks after it skyrocketed to 82 percent at the height of the ground invasion, when a Gaza Strip finally extricated from Hamas’ toxic grip seemed within reach.

After so much suffering and destruction, an open-ended ceasefire provides welcome short-term relief. But with Hamas no less obsessed with the Jewish state’s obliteration, every Israeli knows this ceasefire is a flimsy plaster not a path to peace – a pause for breath before the next warning siren wails.

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