Let's try to reconstruct the events: The State of Israel chose not to accept Hamas' proposals for extending the lull, which gave more peace to the western Negev than anything else, in exchange for really opening the crossings. As opposed to common perception, they were not really open before that.
Instead of an agreement, the government decided to embark on a huge offensive, whose official aims were to put an end to Qassam fire, restore our deterrence, and gravely harm Hamas. By the end of the war, after more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of children, after thousands of people were wounded and immense destruction was caused, and after 13 Israelis were killed (including five killed by friendly fire), nothing has changed and the objectives were not secured.
The Qassam fire, which increased during the war, is back to routine. Deterrence is difficult to measure, yet there is no doubt that the ongoing fire hints to the answer here too. And what about Hamas? It still rules the Strip, launches recovery plans, engages in negotiations with Fatah on a unity government, and still offers Israel the same deal: A ceasefire in exchange for opening the crossings, and Shalit in exchange for prisoners. So, aside from the killing, destruction, and growing hatred, what did we achieve?
Don't say we had no choice
During the war, objections and protests were not allowed. When we did it, we were condemned to be traitors, and about 800 of us – mostly Arabs – were detained. Many others were attacked by police. The media ignored us and people on the street yelled at us, saying we don't care about the south. "Where were you for eight years when the residents of Sderot suffered?" was the common question yelled out by those who forgot the thousands of Palestinian casualties in the past eight years and who never attempted to offer real help to the south.
Yet the war magically ended and was forgotten, just like the eight years that preceded it were forgotten. Even criticism of the type we saw plenty of in the wake of the Second Lebanon War is not being expressed this time around, despite all the clear failures.
Where are all those people who hurled insults and eggs at us? Do they still care about the south? Do they now understand what the traitors from the margins said before the war – that there is no military solution, and that we must end the siege?
Soon, a new government will be established here. Although it is not likely to listen to us, we must demand that it draw the conclusions of the war, immediately lift the siege, free all Palestinian prisoners (thereby releasing Gilad Shalit,) and engage in genuine negotiations on ending the occupation both in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. All of those who are not fighting for these demands now should not be surprised when the next war comes around, or at least should not be saying that again we had no choice.
Haggai Matar is a journalist and an anti-war and ant-siege activistcrossings. On occasion, Qassams land in the south, and rarely do we also hear about the situation in the Strip. Yet does anyone remember the war? Isn't it worthwhile to stop and think about what happened there, and about what we achieved?