Israelis Have Been Living in a Parallel Universe

Israeli flag
A right wing activist holds a flag during a protest in support of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, in Tel Aviv July 29, 2014. Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

As of 8 am this morning, this summer's war between Israel and Hamas hopefully came to an end. A 72-hour ceasefire went into effect. In the minutes before the ceasefire, Hamas fired a barrage of missiles into Israel. One landed on a Palestinian house outside Bethlehem.

Negotiations for a longer ceasefire and temporary political agreement begin this evening in Cairo. No one is expecting the war to resume at this point. As for the political agreements, it is too soon to know what to expect. Israel will demand some sort of demilitarization of the Gaza Strip in return for rebuilding Gaza and allowing more goods in. Hamas, on the other hand, is going to demand free movement of goods and people in and out and will find it hard to accept any limitation on its military.

It is not clear what agreement can be reached. Regardless of the agreement, both parties will come out of this war as losers having lost too many men, women and children. When historians, however, look at the war some time in the future, the deaths will not be considered important. What will be important is the relative political positions of the parties after the war, and how long any agreement that is reached will manage to remain enforced.

The key player this time is Egypt, whose strategic interests are more aligned with Israel than with Hamas. The current Egyptian government sees Hamas as an extension of their enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt controls the major border crossing with Gaza at Rafach and they are the ones who have kept it largely closed. Only in the coming days and weeks will we know the political outcome of this war.

In terms of numbers the war, based on Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) figures, can be summarized as follows. In Gaza, 1,798 people were killed, of which, according to Israel, 800-900 were combatants. The remaining balance were civilians. In Israel, 64 IDF soldiers and 3 civilians were killed. Hamas fired 3,361 missiles, of which 584 were intercepted, 115 landed in populated areas, 2,542 landed in open areas and 120 fell on to Gaza itself. All of the rockets fired at the Tel Aviv area were intercepted.

The only clear winner of the war was the technology of the Iron Dome System. Because of this technology, and other defensive actions taken by Israelis, what could have been a devastating war, in terms of casualties, was just the opposite.

The Israeli economy, on the other hand, suffered much more. Across the board, sales in the country were down by about 20 percent, with business in the South, of course, losing much more money than the rest of the country. The government will be reimbursing the businesses in the South up to a line of 40 kilometers from Gaza. As for the rest of the country, only businesses in the tourism fields will receive compensation.

Tonight, Israelis, by and large, understand that this war in Gaza has clearly hurt Israel's public image in the world. The governments of the world seem to better understand Israel's need to act than the people around the world. The media's pictures of dead civilians horrified much of the world (as they should), however the reasons explaining those photos were lost in the text that most people did not even bother to read.

Israelis themselves have been removed from some of the moral dilemmas of the war. Israeli television does not show very much footage of the death and destruction in Gaza and instead focuses on the issues that the Israeli troops face. In some ways, Israelis have been living in a parallel universe to the rest of the world, and thus do not understand what has upset so many people.

While there is no question that the events of this last month have traumatized the children of Gaza to a degree that is unimaginable, the children of Israel have no doubt been affected deeply by the sudden sounding of the sirens and, in turn, running for shelter. A decade ago, Israel produced a generation of kids traumatized by bus bombings. Now Israel has a new generation with its own trauma.

Tonight, Tel Aviv tries to return to normal. At the moment, it seems like a feeble try. But in the upcoming days and weeks the war will pass into history. The people of Tel Aviv will instead return to worrying about the cost of food, religious coercion and other areas of concern. And, everyone will continue to try to be a part of the next great start-up.

Hopefully, this will be my last update on this war and I can return to writing about other aspects of Israel.

Political historian Marc Schulman is the editor of An archive of his recent daily reports from Tel-Aviv can be found here. He is also a columnist for the Times of Israel.