Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, nearly all of them civilians, are still in a very tough situation, since Israel still prohibits the shipment into Gaza of many requirements for a decent life - including the building materials needed to repair or rebuild the thousands of homes and other structures the Israeli military destroyed during the war.
But it is already clear that the war has changed many aspects of the complex political dynamics both between and inside the Israeli and Palestinian communities.
Hamas, simply by surviving, has become stronger both within Palestinian politics and throughout the broader Middle East.
In the Israeli elections of early February Olmert’s party was defeated - by representatives of an even more militarist trend in Israel whose rise was fueled, in good part, by the war-fever unleashed among Jewish Israelis by Olmert’s own war.
Meanwhile, the ferocity with which Israel fought the war caused significant damage to the country’s image around the world. In the U.S., unprecedented numbers of civil society groups - including Jewish groups - expressed open criticism of Olmert’s decision to launch the war, even from the war’s very earliest days.
All these developments have been evident during Sen. George Mitchell’s latest visit to the region, which started Wednesday. This was Mitchell’s third visit since he was named U.S. special envoy on Jan. 21. Some of the post-Gaza developments seem to make Mitchell’s peacemaking effort harder. But others, especially the new estrangement between the government of Israel and some of its former strong supporters around the world, open up new possibilities for his mission....
John Prideaux-Brune, Oxfam’s country director for the West Bank and Gaza, has described Israel’s policy toward Gaza as being one of "intentionally inflicted de-development."
He told IPS recently, "Israel went on a rampage in Gaza during the war. You can see whole villages flattened, the cows and other livestock killed. They seem to have gone in and removed anything that could have been used for economic development - farms, factories, you name it." (Israeli sources have said that during the war, the military trucked in 100 heavy-duty bulldozers, especially to undertake this destruction.)
"It seems a mind-numbingly stupid thing for Israel to do," Prideaux-Brune said. "Where states have succeeded in suppressing terrorism, they have done so through negotiations and fostering economic development."
He said he hoped western governments would act quickly to persuade Israel to lift the siege. That, he said, would allow Gaza’s people to move back onto a path of economic development rather than continuing to live on handouts.
Many of the humanitarian aid organisations that have been providing ‘emergency’ aid to Gaza (and the West Bank) for many years are now, like Oxfam, becoming more vocal in arguing that the only thing that can really stabilise the very vulnerable situation of the Palestinians of these occupied areas is to find a speedy end to the Israel’s military occupation of their home territories.
Prideaux-Brune said that the Gaza Palestinians are currently suffering from a deliberately inflicted "dignity crisis."
"So long as Israel controls everything in these people’s lives, they will remain vulnerable," he said. "Emergency relief aid is no substitute for successful peacemaking, and that is the only way to get to real economic development."
Helena Cobban is a veteran Middle East analyst and author. She blogs at Just World News.