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November 29, 2012

It remains unclear who won the Battle of Gaza

There was no uncertainly about who won the battle for Constantinople in 1453 (the Ottoman Caliphate), or who lost the battle for Vienna in 1529 (the Ottoman Caliphate). In the Civil War, the North decisively defeated the South. In the Battle of the Bulge, the Allies prevailed, and the Axis never recovered.

These days, however, the fog of war shrouds not only conflicts while they are under way, but even conflicts that have ended. And so there is now a debate about the outcome of what might be called November’s Battle of Gaza.

On one hand, Israeli Defense Forces hit with extraordinary precision — and astonishingly limited civilian casualties considering Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields — more than 1,600 targets during their eight-day campaign, demolishing Hamas’ command-and-control apparatus, killing more than 100 Hamas commanders, crippling Hamas’ rocket-launching capability, destroying 26 weapons caches and more than 200 tunnels used for arms smuggling and terrorist attacks.

On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal editorialized that Hamas emerged politically intact and strategically stronger after eight days of inconclusive fighting. The terrorist group fired more than 1,500 rockets at Israel, forcing millions of Israelis into bunkers and bomb shelters but suffered no decisive military defeat. Hamas openly dared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to invade the Gaza Strip, and by not doing so Netanyahu left the terror leaders alive to strike again. Hamas also won a new international patron in Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who brokered the cease-fire.

Who is right? I think it will take time before it is clear whether one side substantially improved its position at the expense of the other. But it seems to me that Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., made a cogent point when he told reporters that in this battle “Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran.”

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