Israel made a strategically bold and politically wise decision when it initiated a cease-fire with Hamas over the weekend. But the burning question is: What next?
Israeli forces delivered a devastating blow to the terrorist organization, destroying much of its governing infrastructure, killing hundreds of militants, and targeting the network of tunnels used to smuggle weapons and other contraband from Egypt into Gaza.
What comes next will depend on an array of factors, including whether Hamas chooses to honor the truce or renew its senseless path of hate and self-destruction. Also critical will be the response of world — and, particularly, Arab — leaders in working to ensure that Hamas does not regain the capability to terrorize Israelis.
It was encouraging to see six European leaders go to Jerusalem on Sunday in a show of support for the Jewish state.
Egypt also must continue to play a key role in preventing arms-smuggling from its border. It is also pressing Hamas and Fatah, the more moderate organization that runs the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas, to end their own bloody feud and establish a national unity government. Most Israelis believe that only with Fatah is peace even remotely possible.
All eyes are now on the new administration of President Barack Obama. Obama, along with his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has promised a new approach to the conflict. We can only hope that the new president will find a path that engages in diplomacy without pressuring Israel to compromise its security.
For the peace of Israel and the region, we wish him luck.
We hope that Obama's team can convince Palestinians to heed the words of Youssef Ibrahim, a former reporter for The New York Times, who recently issued this open letter to his Palestinian Arab brethren. "The war with Israel is over. You have lost. Surrender and negotiate to secure a future for your children. We, your Arab brothers, may say until we are blue in the face that we stand by you, but the wise among you … know that we are moving on, away from the tired old idea of … the 'eternal struggle' with Israel. Dear friends, you and your leaders have wasted three generations trying to fight for Palestine, but the truth is the Palestine you could have had in 1948 is much bigger than the one you could have had in 1967, which in turn is much bigger than what you may have to settle for now or in another 10 years. … The war is over. Why not let a new future begin?"