Deutsche Welle's Peter Philipp says that the same old mistakes have been repeated in Gaza, re-confirming what has long been known: Military warfare solves nothing. A lasting peace is only possible if both sides give in.
Now that the war in Gaza has ended in a ceasefire, the victors have come to the fore, while the victims have been shoved into the background. And everyone wants to be a winner.
One can hardly disguise a dose of Middle East cynicism here. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert of the more hard-line Kadima party and his coalition partner, defense minister Ehud Barak of the opposition Labor party, pat themselves on the back, before resuming their respective campaigns in the run up to the general elections on February 10.
Meanwhile Ismaeil Haniyeh, the leader of the militant Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, comes out of hiding. His proclamation of victory is heard over the loudspeakers of mosques in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli politicians assure voters that the goals of "Operation Cast Lead" have been reached. So what was this ultimate goal? The destruction of Hamas? Fat chance. Just as Lebanon's Hezbollah was hardly defeated in the military showdown with Israel in 2006.
Will there be an end to the continual barrage of Gaza rockets fired into Israeli towns and villages? Within the first few hours of the ceasefire, several more rockets were fired. The flow of weapons being smuggling into Gaza cannot be effectively stopped. But wasn't that the whole point of the recent jaunts to the Middle East by European political leaders -- to prevent Hamas from acquiring weaponry to be used against Israel?
Hamas is trying to re-establish its legitimacy as the one and only real opposition to the Israeli occupational forces in the Gaza Strip. At least the Palestinian people should have learned this lesson: That since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, they have become much more vulnerable to Israeli bullying and aggression, that they are no longer living "under occupation" ever since Israeli troops pulled out in 2005.
Hamas has set certain conditions for maintaining its belated acknowledgement of the ceasefire:
Israel has one week to withdraw its forces, otherwise… Otherwise what? What kind of threat is Hamas making now and against whom? Does Hamas want to take up arms again, resume rocket attacks? The world has just witnessed what that means. Does Hamas refuse to take part in peace talks with Israel? Then it must be this unrelenting principle that Hamas is sticking to: an unwillingness to negotiate with its adversary.
Neither the Israeli government nor Hamas should take advantage of the ceasefire for propaganda purposes. They should adhere to it without any strings attached and be clear about this: That it wasn't magnanimous generosity in sparing the lives of civilians that led to the ceasefire, but the despairing hopelessness of the cause. Both sides have once again only reconfirmed what has long been known: That military conflict doesn't resolve anything, but only serves to harden the positions of the opposing factions and then re-ignite hostilities.
Well over 1,000 people must lose their lives, thousands more are wounded and maimed for life, and one and a half million must suffer, for such a self-delusional lunacy.
All this carnage for only an uncertain future under a tenuous ceasefire? Now a means and way must be found to negotiate a comprehensive peace, a war to end all wars once and for all in the Gaza Strip. That is much harder than setting a ground offensive and air strikes in motion or empty rhetoric.
Here all Palestinians, in spite of what they have suffered at the hands of their adversary, must extend an olive branch in the name of peace and Israel must in all sincerity accept such an offer. And whoever tries to obstruct real peace, must be politically ostracized and rendered unelectable by voters. This applies to both Jews and Palestinians. But a leaden feeling says that this is not to be.
Peter Philipp is Deutsche Welle's chief correspondent (df)