By Gwynne Dyer

There are really three parties to the ‘pause’ – nobody is officially using the word ‘ceasefire’ – that brings at least a temporary end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip. Two of the three parties, Hamas and the United States, would like it to turn into a permanent ceasefire, but Israel emphatically does not.

Israel’s prime minister Binyamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu definitely wants the war to continue in order to “complete the elimination of Hamas and ensure that there will be no new threat to the State of Israel from Gaza.” What proportion of Israel’s population really wants the war to continue, however, is less clear.
The United States urgently wants a ceasefire, because its strong support of Israel, although politically essential at home, is placing an intolerable strain on its relations with the Arab and Muslim world.
Hamas wants the war to stop now because it has achieved both its major objectives and would like to leave the table while it is still winning. The drift towards closer collaboration between Israel and the major Arab states has been slowed, if not entirely stopped, and Hamas has reaffirmed its status as the leader of the Palestinian ‘resistance’.

14,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli counter-attack, most of them civilians, compared to only 1,400 Israelis, but the 10-to-1 kill ratio is normal in Israeli-Palestinian wars. A third of Gaza’s buildings have been destroyed or damaged, but that was also foreseen and discounted by Hamas.

Now Hamas would like to stop, to preserve the lives of its own remaining fighters. It knew this moment would arrive, which is why it seized 240 Israeli civilians as bargaining chips at the beginning of its attack.
It knew the Israeli government would be under huge pressure to save them, and that it would have to accept a temporary ceasefire to do so. That is the point we have now reached in Hamas’s strategy.
Look at the structure of the deal: ten hostages released each day that the ceasefire lasts. That’s three weeks of ceasefire before all the Israeli hostages are home, and no Israeli government would dare re- starting the shooting until then.

Ten-a-day was Hamas’s bottom line for the deal, because it thinks the Israelis will find it politically impossible to start the war up again in mid-December if there has been no shooting in the meantime (and there won’t be any).

By contrast Israel, or at least the Netanyahu government, wants to fight the war to the end, because only something Bibi can call a victory could possibly keep him in office. However, he’s unlikely even to be in power by mid-December if the shooting stops now: his popularity has crashed to 4% with the Israeli public.

The prognosis, therefore, is that the ceasefire endures, Netanyahu falls, and Hamas keeps control of Gaza (although only from its underground tunnels, for the moment). Game, set and match to Hamas?
Not necessarily. It has won a major tactical victory over the Israelis and enhanced its reputation in the Arab ‘street’, but it may have snookered itself strategically.

The last thing Hamas wants is a ‘two-state solution’ that divides Palestine between a Jewish state and an Arab one. It wants to drive all the Jews out of Palestine and unite it as an Islamic republic. Yet the carnage of the war and the shock to the international system have forced the long-moribund two-state idea back onto the table.

If this is really success, what would failure look like?