JERUSALEM - A truce deal between Israel and Hamas may have ended 50 days of bloodshed in Gaza but it also exposed a clear split within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.

The ceasefire, effective from 1600 GMT on Tuesday, was accepted by Netanyahu following consultations with his Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, press reports said. But he did not put it to a vote within his eight-member security cabinet in a move which earned him sharp criticism from hardliners, four of whom would reportedly have voted against the agreement.

As these hardline opponents whetted their political knives, Netanyahu’s people were quick to couch the deal as a resounding success. During the seven-week war, Israel managed to inflict ‘a military and political defeat’ on Hamas, which ‘did not get anything that it wanted’ from the deal, his spokesman Liran Dan told army radio.

Deputy foreign minister Tzahi HaNegbi, a close ally of Netanyahu, took a similar line. ‘Hamas, whose main objective was to force us to lift the blockade on Gaza, failed and all its demands were rejected,’ he told public radio. Under the deal, Israel will ease restrictions on the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials into the battered Mediterranean coastal strip, home to 1.8 million Palestinians, and relax a tight limitation on the fishing zone.

But talks on key issues such as Hamas’s demands for a port and an airport and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel’s calls to disarm militant groups, will be delayed until negotiators return to Cairo within the coming month. HaNegbi said the Israeli premier would not hand Hamas any political victory.

‘There will be no port, no airport and no entry of materials that could be used to produce rockets or build tunnels,’ he told public radio. ‘That will be our position which we will present at the negotiations in Cairo.’

But the deal has soured feeling towards Netanyahu.  ‘The general feeling in Israel is that (the truce showed) terrorism pays,’ said Tourism Minister Uzi Landau of the hardline Israel Beitenu headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.  ‘Israel has given the impression we want calm at any price, which weakens our powers of deterrence,’ he told the public radio.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the far-right Jewish Home party urged Netanyahu to convene a cabinet session for a postmortem of the ceasefire agreement and how to handle the likely ‘resumption of clashes’. Such arguments have contributed to a dramatic decline in the prime minister’s ratings.

In an opinion poll published Monday, only one in four Israelis - or 38 percent expressed satisfaction with his performance, showing a 17-point drop in just four days. Three weeks earlier, he had a 63 percent approval rating, down from a peak of 82 percent recorded shortly after the start of the Gaza operation on July 8. At the start of August, 51 percent of Israelis said they saw no winner from the Hamas-Israel showdown. Officially, both sides claimed victory after seven weeks of fighting which cost the lives of 2,143 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 70 on the Israeli side, all but six of them soldiers.

Meanwhile, Qatar, a key backer of Palestinian fighter group Hamas, hailed the Gaza ceasefire accord and offered to help rebuild the enclave battered by seven weeks of Israeli bombardment.

The accord for a long-term ceasefire which came into effect on Tuesday was thanks “firstly to the resistance and the sacrifices” of the Palestinians, the gas-rich Gulf emirate said in a statement. It said Qatar, which is home to Khaled Meshaal, the exiled chief of the Hamas movement, was “ready to contribute to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip as soon as possible”.

Iran said Wednesday that Palestinian fighters had emerged the victors and brought their Israeli foe “to its knees” during the bloody 50-day Gaza conflict.

Israel said it dealt a strong blow to Hamas, killing several of its military leaders and destroying the Islamist group’s cross-border infiltration tunnels.

“Hamas’s military wing was badly hit, we know this clearly through unequivocal intelligence,” Yossi Cohen, Netanyahu’s national security adviser, said on Army Radio. But Israel also faced persistent rocket fire for nearly two months that caused an exodus from a number of border communities and became part of daily life in its commercial heartland. “They are celebrating in Gaza,” cabinet minister Uzi Landau, of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party in Netanyahu’s coalition, told Israel Radio. He said that for Israel, the outcome of the war was “very gloomy” because it had not created sufficient deterrence to dissuade Hamas from attacking in the future.

Nahum Barnea, one of Israel’s most popular columnists, expressed concern “that instead of paving the way to removing the threat from Gaza, we are paving the road to the next round, in Lebanon or in Gaza”.

“The Israelis expected a leader, a statesman who knows what he wants to achieve, someone who makes decisions and engages in a sincere and real dialogue with his public,” he wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth. “They received a seasoned spokesperson, and very little beyond that.”

Ben Caspit, writing in the Maariv daily, said there was no victory for Israel in a conflict that resulted in “a collapsed tourism industry (and) an economy approaching recession”.

Israel’s central bank has estimated the conflict will knock half a point off economic growth this year. But with future diplomatic moves on Gaza’s future still pending, there was no immediate talk publicly among Netanyahu’s coalition partners of any steps to break up the alliance.

Israel said it would facilitate the flow of civilian goods and humanitarian and reconstruction aid into the impoverished territory if the truce was honoured. But, Cohen said: “(Hamas) will...not get a port unless it declares it will disarm. It will not get even one screw unless we can be sure it is not being used to strengthen Gaza’s military might.”

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said 540,000 people had been displaced in the Gaza Strip. Israel has said Hamas bears responsibility for civilian casualties because it operates among non-combatants and uses schools and mosques to store weapons and as launch sites for rockets.