I’ll never understand the Middle East: I

Middle East Peacemaking Has Failed,” declares Foreign Policy. OK. So, it’s time for Israel, Hamas, and anyone else who wants at Israel to throw down and have it out? In any other context, yes. In this one:

Far from the limelight, a less ambitious diplomatic process, overshadowed by the 2007 Annapolis conference hoopla, was born in the Bush administration’s last year. Gritty, difficult, and serious negotiations took place between Israel and Hamas — talks that, eventually, were tolerated by the United States. They were indirect and barely acknowledged, and they specifically excluded mutual recognition and permanence. But they may provide a more realistic place for Obama to start.

The talks deal with some familiar issues — the terms of Israeli withdrawal, the nature of the cessation of hostilities, the role of international forces, the release of prisoners, the flow of goods, the patrol of borders, and the supply of weapons. But negotiations are now punctuated with violence rather than posited as an alternative, and all the while each of the two parties proudly proclaims its rejection of the other’s legitimacy.

There may be no Nobel Prize to be had here, no triumphant hugs or handshakes on a dais mobbed by photographers. Yet making sure these real negotiations succeed — and only then immediately worrying about the next step — is a far more promising approach than pretending that the parties can be cajoled, muscled, and jawboned into a final and comprehensive settlement anytime soon.

Of what other conflict do experts say a little bit of war and death is the subtle way to peace?


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