Keep the Middle East Ping Pong match going

Keep the Middle East Ping Pong match going

During the second intifada, the media often referred to the “cycle of violence.” A Palestinian terrorist would blow up a crowded Israeli population center, Israel would respond with strikes against Palestinian terrorist centers, the Palestinians would seek revenge, Israel would respond, and so on. The finer point that if the Palestinian terror groups gave up their bloodthirsty vendetta there would be no need for Israeli reprisals was subtly ignored. After all, the Palestinian David fighting by any means against the Israeli Goliath made much better headlines.

Ten years after the start of the second intifada, we are witness to another cycle in the Middle East: the cycle of negotiations.

This cycle is different from the back-and-forth during the Oslo years. As in a Ping Pong match, we’ve watched the ball bounce from the Israeli side of the table to the Palestinians and back and forth and back and forth and … All the while the United States acts as both referee and coach, trying to entice both sides to keep playing. And each time the ball lands on one side, it seemingly has more and more weight attached to it before it is swatted back to the other – the latest being the settlement freeze and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

This cycle is certainly preferable to the level of bloodshed of only a few years ago. Our hope – besides that the Israelis and Palestinians will reach a final compromise that will bring peace and prosperity to the region – is that neither side tires of the Ping Pong match. We saw this dreadful alternative with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin 15 years ago this week, and with the launch of the second intifada. We agree with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that there is no alternative to negotiations. We just hope that he, the rest of the Palestinian leadership, and the Israeli leadership have the strength and the will to declare the match a draw and reach that elusive deal.

Until then, we applaud the players for making it this far and cheer them on to keep the ball flying.

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