In sharp contrast to the brutal and savage bloodletting in Iraq over this past week, there is a hopeful sign in the Middle East today. A region short on good news finally produced one when a cease-fire was called between the Israeli government and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
But with every piece of hopeful news there are always many undercurrents at work that could destroy best intentions. A major concern will be if Palestinian Authority President Abbas can insure that his security forces, which are now deployed in northern Gaza, actually work to stop militants from firing rockets into Israel. I will take it as a sure sign that this cease-fire has teeth if the Palestinians themselves work to stop any such attempt at launching missiles into Israel, and use force against those who wish to undermine the cease-fire.
If a working relationship of some sort can emerge from the Gaza cease-fire, and then have it extend to the West Bank, people throughout that region will have reason for hope after a most dreadful year. The economic situation that resulted from nearly 40 years of often-bloody occupation by Israel needs the full attention of the world community. With a working cease-fire where each side acts boldly to silence those who would wish to disrupt it, there is again a chance for progress on the long-term differences between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
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