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We need an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire – and then peace talks

The latest round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas once again points to the futility of tacit ceasefires that are not shored up by a serious international initiative to resolve the underlying Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would enable both peoples to exercise their self-determination, free of oppression or threat. It is also a timely reminder to a victorious President Obama that, as his second term begins, he can no longer fiddle while this vital part of the world burns and the hatred, including towards the U.S. and the West, escalates. Yet no new peace initiative can be launched without a definitive ceasefire, so that has to be the immediate priority.

It is obvious that neither side is in the mood to end the bombardment of the other, so outside intervention is essential. If the Arab League really wants to be helpful, let it convene an urgent summit in Gaza that would involve a scattering of meetings of dignitaries from member countries at different locations throughout the Strip. The Egyptian government that, as a token gesture, sent its prime minister into Gaza yesterday, could encourage tens of thousands of its citizens to cross the border and take a vacation all over the territory.

The Israeli government could hardly not get the message and would effectively be forced to hold fire. The Arab League/Egyptian initiative would be predicated on Hamas behaving similarly and enforcing the truce on other militias. Once the initiative has achieved its narrow purpose, the principal belligerent parties should be given a limited period to submit their irrespective visions for end of conflict, based on two viable states and a comprehensive regional peace, followed by a robust global effort to implement an authoritative international plan, drawing on the parties' own proposals, as well as on principles long known and previously negotiated. The need is urgent but time is short.

This above was originally published as a Letter to the Editor in The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/16/israel-palestine-ceasefire-peace-talks