The Editors
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More than 160 Palestinians, including 100 noncombatants—more than 30 of them children—and six Israelis were killed in the latest cycle of outrage and recrimination that marks the dismal status quo in the Middle East. It should come as no surprise that the latest violence achieved little more than to push both sides of the conflict to greater political extremes. Despite the pounding endured by ordinary Gazans, Hamas has emerged emboldened and “victorious” since the cease-fire. And after another round of targeted assassinations by Israeli forces, new leaders have stepped forward within Hamas who threaten to be even more militant than their predecessors.

Similarly in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party has lurched even further to the right. The “moderate” Ehud Barak, once considered a strong challenger to Mr. Netanyahu and a politician who had seemed capable of moving along what remains of the peace process, has decided he has had enough of Israeli politics. Now a government coalition that will increasingly lean toward the outright annexation of parcels of the West Bank seems the likeliest outcome of upcoming Israeli elections. Tacitly endorsing illegal settlements, ignoring opportunities to advance the peace process and distracted by periodic skirmishes with Hamas, the current Israeli leadership seems to have lost all focus on a coherent strategy toward a peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict. They have joined with Hamas as silent partners in the depressing status quo.

If the recent flare-up between Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces seems painfully and pointlessly repetitious, there have been other developments that suggest the possibility for real change in the long conflict’s script. Mohammed Morsi, the one-time Muslim Brotherhood member who is now Egypt’s president, has emerged as a credible powerbroker during cease-fire negotiations. The ascendance of Arab Spring political leaders who, like Mr. Morsi, forcefully represent the Arab world’s widespread sympathy for the plight of Palestinians may force a change in Israeli policy.

In New York a U.N. vote on Nov. 29, the 65th anniversary of the U.N. resolution that first called for two states in Palestine, elevated the Palestinian Authority to the status of non-member observer state. This suggests new possibilities, even as it has provoked familiar displays of outrage. Despite the overwrought rhetoric of some on the Israeli right and their supporters in Congress, the enhanced status for Palestine is not an act of “diplomatic terror.” The resolution reads, in fact, like a lengthy plea to return to negotiations over the difficult issues that remain.

Zionist and Islamist maximalists have had their eyes fixed on a prize neither can secure while dedicating themselves to a conflict that must be inevitably refreshed with the blood of innocents. Responsible U.S., European and now regional Islamic leadership should refuse to participate in the farce being made of the peace process. The General Assembly vote offered an opportunity for the United States to join European efforts to awaken Likud from its reveries of a Greater Israel to the possibility of real peace. Instead, the Obama administration applied all the diplomatic pressure it could muster in what would prove an embarrassing attempt to thwart the vote. It should not waste its energies and credibility this way again. It should support judicious but meaningful steps toward Palestinian statehood, beginning with measures to protect Palestinian territorial integrity, as well as the security of the Israeli people.

In a reinvigorated diplomatic effort, the Obama administration must urge Israel to halt settler expansion on the occupied West Bank and guide it back to the negotiating table before the next cycle of violence begins. Likud hardliners must be pressured to reconsider policies that undermine the peace process and make a viable Palestinian state impossible. If they cannot be so persuaded, then the administration should proceed on its own in diplomatic efforts to make that two-state solution a reality. Despite everything that has happened, the possibility of peace remains tantalizingly within reach. The two-state solution remains a viable option—in fact, perhaps the only viable option.

No less a figure than former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert supported the Palestinians’ U.N. bid as “congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution,” arguing it was time to “give a hand to” moderate forces among the Palestinians. Referring to the Palestinian Authority’s president and prime minister, Mr. Olmert noted, “Abu-Mazen and Salam Fayyad need our help. It’s time to give it.”

Mr. Olmert is ready to begin serious negotiations based on the 1967 borders. Shouldn’t the Obama administration be just as ready to lend a hand for peace?

Comments

Joseph Lee | 12/11/2012 - 8:38am
I don't see how a person can expect any real progress in "peace negotiations." Israel has been doing exactly what Ariel Sharon planned several years ago. Give the pretense of wanting to talk, but meanwhile change facts on the ground, the settlements that continue to make any meaningful peace negotiations less and less likely. It's such an obvious plan, I find it depressing that we still get articles like the current one suggesting that there is any real hope for peace. I don't know if it's willful ignorance or if people really believe what they write. It's as if the idea of the US as a reliable intermediary with no pro-Israel bias is somehow still credible.
Bob Baker | 12/10/2012 - 7:02pm

Let's see, "Turkey now demands that the White House officially recognize Hamas as a direct partner and give it assurance on behalf of Israel that if they halt their fire, the Jewish state will do so as well." and "Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has vowed he will never recognise Israel."


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that these people all have figured out that they can run roughshod over the United States because our leaders have no clue what's going on.


Let us also remember that Arafat was related to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who not only assisted Hitler but also used Nazis to help eradicate Jews during the creation of Israel. And how many times did the Arabs try to erase Israel from the map?


I realize it's not politically correct to ask, but we are to trust who (or is it whom)?

Robert Sherman | 12/8/2012 - 10:44pm

We've met Catholics who indicate that we are treated horribly by the Palistinians. It seems that our focus should be on prayer for peace and more missionaries.

Dennis Thiel | 12/8/2012 - 7:33am
Be carefull people on which side you take on this one. It was the Palestinians/Hamas that started this missal bombardment of Israel. It is Islam that has sworn to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. And yet you expect the Israels to make the concessions of peace while thier sworn enemies are loading thier wepons. Even St. Francis couldn't pull that one off. Get real, and by the way read your Scriptures, "woe to the nations that do not support Israel". 
ed gleason | 12/7/2012 - 5:20pm
Saying as Cosgrove does that "the 1967 borders were never a stable situation. They are indefensible' shows the weakness of the Israeli arguments. Luxembourg and US borders are not defensible either.
7231806 | 12/7/2012 - 3:33pm
History in America has a way of repeating itself.  I cannot avoid seeing the similarities between Israel's incremental annexation by settlement of the West Bank territories and America's incremental annexation of Native lands in our country during the nineteenth century.  Just as Israel has signed agreements like the Camp David Accord that were treaties promising a just solution to the conflict with the Palestinians and a promise of some land to these natives of the region, so did America in repeated instances make treaties that promised to respect native land rights to ancestral territories.  Just as America broke these treaties repeatedly to appease land hungry frontier settlers, so has Israel repeatedly allowed hard line Zionists and settler groups to create de facto settlements and then support them with arms.  This historic habit of imperialist America has made us natural allies of imperialist Zionism.  Of course Israel has a right to be a national home for the Jewish people who were so brutally persecuted in the holocaust.  Unfortunately, the Europeans who did the persection have asked innocent Palestinian Arabs to pay for their sins.  Why should America, which did not make the holocaust, and has given refuge to so many of its victims, participate in a new human rights travesty by automatically supporting Israel, even as it does such immoral actions to make the Palestinians a new people without a home, as the Jews had been for so long in Europe?    Our government needs to change its policy of unquestioned support of extreme Zionists like Netanyahu and Likud.  There are many American Jews who share this view, motivated by their own moral consciences. 
Christopher Rushlau | 12/7/2012 - 3:09pm
"They have joined with Hamas as silent partners in the depressing status quo."
I've read enough.  That's frank racism-when the victim is equal partner in the abuse, when the democratically elected representatives and therefore the people themselves deserve what they get-, no, more than that, they want it.
Take Cosgrove seriously and get to the root of this.  How is a "Jewish and democratic state" (Israel, Basic Laws of 1992) supposed to work?  How, for example, does this state decide who is Jewish?  Where are the checks and balances, and what is the popular foundation of such a state?  Second problem:  how was the Israeli "declaration of independence" of 1948, capping the line from the Balfour Declaration to the League acquiescence to the UN's attempted partition, in any sense a foundation for a sovereign state?  Compare it to Katanga, which its one-time Belgian landlords tried to take, along with its mineral wealth, from the newly independent Congo/Zaire via their stooge Tshombe.  Remember what the UN and Dag Hammarskjold did with that one?  I take it as international law of a much clearer sort than, say, "duty to protect", that the proper way to end colonial administration is by plebiscite.
Take this from a friend.
J Cosgrove | 12/7/2012 - 1:44pm
"beginning with measures to protect Palestinian territorial integrity, as well as the security of the Israeli people."

From what I understand the 1967 borders were never a stable situation.  They are indefensible and any long term peaceful solution had to acknowledge that and that a different set of borders would have to eventually be drawn.  So if the editors here are interested in a long term peace, then they have to start with that assumption.

The settlements were under this scenario part of a process to make Israeli more secure.  The final determination of the actual boundaries of Israel will not be based on the 1967 borders and settlements are just a recognition of that fact.  Whether all the settlements are necessary for that goal, is not clear but a large proportion are with that objective in mind.

I suggest that the editors here find someone who can outline the Israeli point of view to write a counter point to these articles that tend to solely condemn Israel and are very one sided.  Every week I hear just the opposite commentary from the Israeli position so I am sure the truth lies far away from either of these two interpretations.
Alfred Chavez | 12/7/2012 - 10:32am
When did "an eye for an eye" become "30 (or more) eyes for an eye?"

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