The contrast was stark.
In Gaza, as Hamas leaders stood in a rubble-filled central square to declare an unequivocal victory, thousands of flag-waving supporters cheered.
In Israel, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a televised news conference alongside his defense minister and army chief to claim a win, he was slammed by the media, the public, the opposition and even members of his own party and coalition.
Although it is still too early to say which side, if either, was victorious in the 50-day conflict that claimed more than 2,200 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and other structures, and traumatized many more on both sides, there appears to be little doubt that Netanyahu is emerging as the biggest loser, personally and politically.
“I can say that there is a major military achievement here, as well as a major diplomatic achievement for the state of Israel,” he said at the news conference.
Newspaper headlines Thursday, however, dismissed Netanyahu’s victory speech. He was even described as an “empty vessel.” An analysis in the Hebrew-language daily Maariv said the prime minister had been forced to “invent” a military and political victory and had failed to convey the “strategic calculations that guided him.”
Even before Wednesday’s news conference, members of Netanyahu’s cabinet were publicly questioning his decision to agree to a truce, saying Israel had achieved none of its objectives.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett expressed frustration that the cabinet was not consulted on the cease-fire deal. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took matters even further, accusing Netanyahu of reaching an agreement with “murderers,” strengthening their resolve and leaving Israeli citizens at risk of future attacks.
“As long as Hamas still controls Gaza,” Lieberman wrote on Facebook, “it is impossible to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel.”