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November 20, 2012

The Associated Press

Israeli border policemen stand guard Monday on the Gaza Strip in Birzeit. Mideast policy should include reaching out to moderate Palestinians, and mediating their conflicts with Israel.

Our View: Gaza crisis deserves steady attention

While this week's Sunday morning talk shows were all abuzz about what U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said or did not say on a previous round of Sunday morning talk shows, news was happening in the Middle East.

Israeli jets struck Gaza, targeting what are believed to be a long-range missile launch site hidden in a residential neighborhood. It was the bloodiest day in the five-day crackdown, with a missile strike killing at least 11 civilians including four young children and an 81-year-old woman. These strikes come in response to a steady stream of missiles fired into Israeli neighborhoods.

Now the worlds' diplomats are focussed on resolving this crisis before it escalates further. A ground offensive by Israel, no matter how well justified, would introduce more uncertainty into a region that's ready to blow apart.

This may seem less terrifying than it really is, because the situation seems so familiar. The Isreali-Palastinian conflict has been in the same unhealthy stalemate since the election of Hamas to lead the government of Gaza early in the Bush administration.

To protect its security, Israel seals Palestinians in Gaza and Hamas lobs missiles into Israel to provoke a reaction.

When the reaction comes, like previous interventions and the current crisis, the world takes notice, and then moves on to something else.

This lack of focus is especially glaring in the United States, where domestic politics have made almost any attempt to broker peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict politically toxic.

This is surprising because there is very little difference between the two parties when it comes to Israel. But you wouldn't know that if you had been watching the recent presidential campaign.

President Obama has been treated with suspicion by friends of Israel and was the subject of a steady barrage of attacks by Mitt Romney and other Republicans, who accuse him of turning his back on a friend. This was heightened by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made extraordinary efforts to give a winking endorsement to the president's opponent in the race.

Keeping the president on the defensive might be good politics, but it does not make for good Mideast policy, which should include reaching out to moderate Palestinians, and mediating their conflicts with Israel over settlements and other issues.

Presidents from both parties have long supported a two-state solution in which Israel's security is guaranteed. Never an easy goal, but made impossible when domestic politics won't stop at the water's edge.





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