The Boston Globe (Editorial)
June 20, 2008 - 3:08pm

IF IT HOLDS, the cease-fire that took effect yesterday between Israel and Hamas in Gaza will be a welcome boon for Israelis exposed to rockets fired from Gaza and for Palestinians liable to be caught in retaliatory attacks. But for the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire to become something more than a temporary pause in a chronic conflict, both sides will have to enforce its terms rigorously. And Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt, and the United States will have to make the cease-fire a stepping-stone to a durable two-state peace agreement. 

It is a promising sign that the Israeli leaders most closely identified with the cease-fire are security hawks. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and army chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi argued that a cease-fire is a better option for Israel than a large-scale military operation in Gaza. Such an operation could not stop the rocket launches but could leave Hamas\'s backer Iran more entrenched in the region and derail current peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and Syria.

A cease-fire that is maintained through its successive stages may initiate a positive dynamic. For this to happen, Hamas must prevent all armed groups in Gaza from firing rockets into Israel, and Israel will have to lift the economic blockade of Gaza.

Both sides stand to benefit even in the short term. Politically, Hamas needs a cease-fire that opens border crossings and facilitates reconciliation with Abbas. Israel needs a period of calm in which ongoing talks with Syria, mediated by Turkey, can proceed, along with negotiations to produce a framework peace accord with Abbas.

From an American perpective, it is dismaying that the Bush administration has been a sidelined bystander in these and other Mideast negotiations. The sooner a new president revives America\'s role as the primary peacemaking mediator in the Middle East, the better.


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