A year has passed since the latest Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip. Israel has formed five committees to investigate the events and course of the war, as well as track and evaluate its results and draw conclusions from it. In addition, the results of this war have remained hot topics for discussion in conferences organised by Israel's leading think tanks. Much has been written about "Operation Protective Edge" and its consequences, from various perspectives, while Israel's major television channels have broadcast documentaries and investigations on its details.
The Palestinian arena has not witnessed an objective debate regarding the offensive, the events surrounding it and its results. Palestinian discussions of the war have been characterised by politicisation and a lack of objectiveness and responsibility. Discussions have not addressed the key questions based on which a serious evaluation could be made.
The evaluation of the war was limited to two approaches. The first was adopted by the influential leaders in Fatah, the Ramallah Palestinian Authority's mouthpieces, and its propaganda machine. It focused on utilising the large number of casualties and massive destruction and damages sustained by the civilian population and infrastructure in order to launch a demonisation campaign against the Islamic resistance movements. The campaign implied that the resistance is useless and irresponsible and aimed to legitimise Mahmoud Abbas's catastrophic "negotiations" strategy. Political rivalry has blinded these people from seeing what the Israeli military commanders and senior strategists in Tel Aviv have admitted; that they monitored the results of the war in order to justify the fact that they have given up on the possibility of deterring the resistance in Gaza. General Yoav Har-Even, head of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Operations Directorate, who planned the course of the war and supervised it, had no other choice than to admit that the Palestinian resistance's performance during the war made it foolish to count on the possibility of deterring it. (Yedioth Ahranoth, 20/6/15).
There is no way for those drowning deep in the swamp of security coordination with the Israeli occupation to be pleased with the fact that the resistance was successful in crossing Israel's air, ground and naval borders in an unprecedented manner despite the wide gap in military capabilities and technology. Abbas can give his account of the war and shed crocodile tears over Gaza, but its people still remember who conspired openly with Israel after the 2008 war and who made sure that he did not look into the UN's Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes against "his people".
The second approach is expressed in the discourse of the resistance leaders and their view of the war and its results. Their discourse reflects superficiality and tries to justify the absence of a strategic vision. The resistance should have organised the course of the war and to improve the position of the Palestinian side during and after it. It is clear that the resistance's heroic performance and legendary steadfastness did not lead to achieving results that match the size of the sacrifices made. Hence, some resistance leaders adopted a defence mechanism to justify the losses resulting from the war, saying that it was imposed on Gaza. As such, there was no way to avoid the destruction caused by the Israeli killing machine in light of the balance of power being tipped in favour of the IDF.
Unfortunately, close monitoring of the course of the war indicates that we cannot accept this account of the war blindly, as the resistance was aware that the battle conditions were not in its favour. It should, therefore, have weathered the storm and tried to contain the situation in order to reduce the amount of damage and losses sustained. The resistance could have formulated its military responses to the assassinations carried out by Israel at the beginning of the war in a manner that did not give the occupying power any justification for carrying out the actions that it did. It should also have proposed loose goals that would have given it some room to breathe, as no one imagined that it could achieve absolute victory over Israel that would force the occupation authorities to comply with its demands.
In fact, the resistance failed to read the strategic environment of the war as well as its basic components. It did not take into consideration the fact that the balance of power was obviously tipped in favour of Israel, meaning that the Palestinian fighters would be unable to protect the civilian population and popular incubator that suffered throughout the 51-day offensive. There is no doubt that the biggest mistake made by the resistance was its disregard of the regional environment, which ended up being an important asset to Israel. The war gave those regional Arab powers which are against the Islamic movements the chance to weaken Hamas. Some Arab states colluded openly with Israel, while the silence of others gave their tacit approval.
A year down the line, no one has actually drawn any lessons from the war. This is very worrying because it means that the resistance is employing the same approach it used last year in accepting the absence of a strategic vision that points the compass in the right direction.
In my opinion, an honest assessment must reach two conclusions: for a start, the resistance must not initiate a confrontation against the occupation if the conditions are not in its favour, especially the regional environment. In the event that a confrontation is imposed on the resistance, it must formulate military tactics that do not give Israel any justification for targeting its popular support and the civilian population on a large scale.
Secondly, the Gaza Strip is not fit to be the main battlefield for the confrontation with the Israeli occupation. Since 2005, Gaza has been bearing the consequences of most of the resistance operations despite the fact that the geographic and demographic situation are not conducive to Gaza playing this role. The resistance must continue to build its military and fighting capabilities but, at the same time, it must also make greater efforts to overcome the impact of the joint war waged by Ramallah and the Israeli authorities in order to carry out operations that contribute to the exhaustion of the occupation and weakening its efforts, beginning from the West Bank. At the same time, the resistance must be creative and work on taking advantage of the regional developments and utilising them to find new arenas to keep Israel busy when necessary.