Nine Lessons From Israel, Gaza, and Operation Pillar of Defense For The Next War

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By Maya Shwayder | November 22, 2012 4:21 PM EST

While we're all clearing out from under the physical and/or emotional rubble of another Middle East gladiatorial go-around and waiting for the next one to start (because let's be honest, there will always be a next war in the Middle East), some takeaway thoughts to muse upon whilst we munch on our Thanksgiving meals here in America. 

1. Hamas isn't going away

No matter which way you fold it, Hamas is still the democratically elected government of Gaza. What's more, they came out of this conflict looking stronger than ever: Gaza went from the dirty hick-backwater town of the Arab world to the place for diplomats to visit, and their perceived "standing up" to the "aggressor" that is Israel has given them new legitimacy in the eyes of other Arab leaders. If nothing else, the visits of the emir of Qatar, the Egyptian premier and various  foreign ministers demonstrate this.  

2. Israel's Iron Dome: Once and Future Game Changer

The storied and expensive new defense system performed unexpectedly well against Hamas's Fajr-5 missiles, intercepting some 85 percent of the rockets that were launched at Israel by Hamas, according to the IDF,  surprisingly even its manufacturers with its consistency. If that 85 percent seems low and still dangerous, don't be deceived: the Dome is designed specifically to track and destroy rockets that are headed over populated areas. By the end of the week, there were reports of Israelis staying outside during air strikes to watch the Dome at work.

3. Obama needs to get his act together on Israel and the Palestinian Territories

One issue former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney could lord over Obama was his unflagging support for Israel and his close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Netanyahu got a second Obama term, not a Romney presidency, and now Obama will see more pressure to actually draw the red line Netanyahu demanded on Iran's nuclear program, and to get tough on the Palestinian leadership. 

4. Egypt, and the Muslim Brotherhood, are now the olive-branch bearers of the Middle East

The Muslim Brotherhood managed to not only worm their way out of a tough spot on this one, but to emerge looking like a butterfly. They accomplished the feat of supporting Hamas, an offshoot of theirs, and negotiating a cease-fire with Israel, all while not angering the U.S., on whom they are currently heavily reliant for financial support. This was the first of many conflicts Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will be called on to mediate, and a successful cease-fire means Morsi has cemented Egypt's role as the Middle East's moderate peacekeeper, wrote Chemi Shalev in Haaretz.

5. Israel's elections now depend on the cease-fire sticking

Early in the conflict, critics began shouting about how Operation Pillar of Defense was a political stunt by Netanyahu and his party, Likud, to wrap up the January elections for themselves by manufacturing a conflict the rival parties couldn't oppose. How will the balance of powers shift now? Only Nate Silver could tell for sure. Netanyahu is still popular among Israelis, but Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations and Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute told CNN that the worst thing that could happen to Netanyahu now would be to get involved in a ground war, should the cease-fire fail. 

6. Palestine's statehood bid at the U.N. now carries much more weight

The vote on Palestinian statehood in the U.N. is set for Nov. 29. Just before Operation Pillar of Defense launched, Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was attempting to intimidate the Palestinians into removing their bid. Ambassador Ron Prosor half-joked that “they should change their request from a Non-Member State to Non-Member Terrorist State.” Allegations flew about when the operation began that the Israeli assassination of Hamas militant leader Ahmed Jabari's was also an attempted torpedoing of the U.N. bid.

The U.N. is not known to be an Israel-friendly entity. Case in point: At his speech at the U.N. General Assembly in September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a standing ovation from the assembled diplomats on the ground floor of the main hall. No one in the press and visitor's gallery stood. After Netanyahu spoke, very few diplomats stood to applaud. Nearly every person in the gallery did. 

7. Watch for a strain in Gaza-West Bank relations 

Abbas and the Fatah party in the West Bank have not had control over Gaza since Hamas won the 2007 election, nor have relations between the two parties been easy. Abbas has been trying to prove that playing nice with Israel can lead to results for Palestinians, but now Hamas has just shown the Arab world that the opposite is true.

8. Iran, and Iran's nukes, are still very much in the picture

Everyone may have forgotten Israel's saber-rattling at Iran in the past week, but make no mistake, Iran was watching this go-round closely, as a trial run for its own upcoming fisticuffs against Israel. Iran was also supplying Hamas with its rockets, and has now seen the capabilities of the Iron Dome. Pillar of Defense Round Two will see Iran in a starring role, and they will be much better armed and informed than Hamas was.

9. Twitter, and the new propaganda war

From the IDF's tweet that "no Hamas operatives … should show their faces above ground in the days ahead," to Anderson Cooper's burn on a pro-Israel woman while he was reporting on rockets in Gaza, it's clear that Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook will be tightly wrapped up in the propaganda wars of the future. Writer and futurist Jamais Cascio wrote in his blog  that this isn't the first "weaponization of social media" that world has seen, and it won't be the last. "This is a step forward in … the use of Twitter and similar platforms as a parallel battlefield," he wrote, "trying not just to direct the global narrative but to shape the outcome of the fight."

Bonus 10. Hillary Clinton, Preternatural Problem Solver

Seriously, does that woman ever get to sleep?

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