Much Unresolved After Fragile Hamas-Israel Truce The last Israeli troops left the Gaza Strip before dawn Wednesday. But how to meet key demands on each side — like how to stop arms from getting into Gaza and setting a timetable for opening the borders — is unknown.

Much Unresolved After Fragile Hamas-Israel Truce

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President Obama today made his concern about the Middle East clear. Mr. Obama phoned the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. On his first full day in office, the last Israeli troops left the Gaza Strip. But the fragile truce in Gaza has left much unresolved. As NPR's Ann Garrels reports from Jerusalem, Israelis are now debating what the Gaza offensive achieved.

ANN GARRELS: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said Israel achieved its goals and more. But many Israelis are deeply disappointed that Hamas is still in power. Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, says it was not an unequivocal victory.

M: What was missing was some clear pictures of victory - Hamas coming out of the bunkers with their hands up.

GARRELS: Instead, Israelis saw Hamas leaders emerge largely unscathed. Some Israelis, especially those who have been threatened by rockets, wished the offensive had continued. Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior researcher with the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, says absolute victory would have resulted in many more Palestinian casualties.

M: Israel knew this, and the voices for relative restraint were coming more from the army than to some extent from the government, although the government was divided on this. The army chief of staff delivered a message to the government saying, in effect, we have the capability to re-conquer all of Gaza. We can destroy Hamas, but the price in civilian life will be terrible. And then the question is, to whom do I give the keys? We were not going to re-occupy Gaza.

GARRELS: The one thing Israelis agree on is that Israel showed after what many consider a humiliating defeat in Lebanon two years ago, it can forcefully respond. According to Halevi, Israel's only mistake was waiting so long to respond to Hamas rocket attacks. He says Israel has learned restraint in this region is perceived as weakness. Prime Minister Olmert has said undermining Hamas in Gaza ultimately depends on strengthening its rival Fatah in the West Bank. So far though, Avi Issacharoff, Arab Affairs Correspondent for Ha'aretz, says Hamas has gained there.

M: It's almost absurd, let's say. You know, that people in the West Bank became more supportive of Hamas, while people in Gaza Strip became less supportive of Hamas.

GARRELS: Efraim Inbar agrees, saying Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are in serious trouble. These analysts who cover the political spectrum here believed there is little the Obama administration can do quickly to change the situation as long as the Palestinians remain divided. Efraim Inbar says the best that can be hoped for is conflict management. He calls it "mowing the grass."

M: We go in, do some damage to the terrorist infrastructure knowing well that this type of hatred toward Israel cannot be totally eliminated, and we have to do it again. Totally uprooting Hamas is beyond the power of Israel, the onus of responsibility is indeed on the Palestinians.

GARRELS: Yossi Klein Halevi says international condemnation of Israeli military action is hypocritical.

M: I don't believe any nation would have done any differently in our place, and I think that given the circumstances, we did as well, if not better, than American forces in Fallujah, or NATO in Kosovo, in terms of civilian casualties. That's cold comfort but nevertheless, it does put it in proportion.

GARRELS: In anticipation of possible war crimes charges, Israel is taking precautions. It's ordered all media not to publicize the names of battalion commanders who took part in the offensive, so as not to facilitate their potential prosecution. Halevi warns any attempt to drag Israelis into international courts while giving Palestinians a pass will only harden Israeli attitudes and make Israel less likely to compromise. Ann Garrels, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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