The cease-fire that began Tuesday in the Gaza Strip appeared to be working, unlike previous ones scheduled over the last month. But even if that respite from the fighting holds through and beyond its 72-hour timetable, that won't raise realistic hopes for a permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Yes, Egypt will play host to negotiations in Cairo to bring a lasting end to the recent hostilities.
Yes, the Israel Defense Forces announced Tuesday, via Twitter, "Mission accomplished," adding, "We have dismantled the underground terror network built by Hamas to infiltrate and attack Israel."
However, the distance between the long-time adversaries' seemingly intractable positions remains vast.
The familiar pattern of the four-week conflict: Hamas stepped up rocket attacks on Israel, which responded with escalating military action. Despite the large numbers of rockets fired by Hamas, the Israelis' air defenses minimized their civilian casualties. And because Hamas has fired those rockets and set up its command posts in densely populated sites, Israel's retaliatory strikes have inflicted significant numbers of civilian casualties.
Thus, the latest clash of arms in Gaza has been predictably accompanied by a heated clash of opinions around the world.
As of Tuesday, more than 1,800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, had been killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 7 with numerous air strikes, then followed 10 days later by sending ground troops into Gaza. An estimated 260,000 of Gaza's 1.8 million residents have been displaced by the martial chaos.
Israeli officials have reasonably pointed out that any nation under attack has a right to defend itself. And those decrying Israel's tactics have not presented any viable alternatives to deter Hamas, which The Washington Post has been calling "a militant Palestinian Islamist group." We prefer to call Hamas by a more concise, and utterly accurate, term - "terrorist organization."
Yet Israel was the party accused of a "criminal act" by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon after it shelled a U.N. school in Gaza on Sunday, killing at least 10 people, most of them children. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman even called that assault "disgraceful." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government will investigate that tragic incident, and that his nation was "sorry for any attack that unintentionally hits civilians."
But that apology hasn't stopped a growing number of people from accusing Israel of "genocide" in Gaza - an unfair and particularly offensive charge against the Jewish people considering the 20th century horror of the Holocaust.
Still, Israel has clearly played into Hamas' hands by giving it powerful propaganda ammunition.
At least the current cease-fire was succeeding as of this writing. And looming negotiations might finally end this latest installment of the long and bloody struggle between Israelis and Palestinians.
But there's no reasonable expectation that either side is anywhere near a path to permanent peace. Nor will the temporary degrading of Hamas' ability to attack Israel eliminate its will to rebuild that capacity.
The only escape from this grim cycle of carnage is for Israel to more fully commit to the creation of a truly independent Palestinian state - and for the Palestinian people to finally renounce violence and Hamas.
Otherwise, the cease-fire will merely be another limited interlude in a protracted and bitter conflict.
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