Chances for peace emerge in Mideast clashes
On Thursday in Egypt, Israeli President Shimon Peres backed the 'spirit' of a Saudi proposal that offers Arab recognition of Israel.
Both Israel and the United States soon will have new leaders at the helm. The Palestinians, too, are facing possible elections. During such transitional times for the three major players in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, few expected any concrete steps toward peace.Skip to next paragraph
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But a new calm has emerged in the cross-border battle between Gazan militants and the Israeli army, Palestinian rival factions Fatah and Hamas are preparing for reconciliation talks, and on Thursday in Egypt Israeli President Shimon Peres backed the "spirit" of a 2002 Arab initiative that maps out regional peace.
Many unresolved issues stand in the way of real peace, but all parties seem newly interested in avoiding a return to the daily violence and finding interim solutions ahead of upcoming anniversaries, deadlines, and changes in leadership.
The cease-fire that Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas reached, expires Dec. 19, six months after it went into effect. Both sides would like to continue this calm.
While the Associated Press reports that at least 50 rockets landed in southern Israel since the truce, including one Tuesday in Sderot, it's a far cry from the daily rain of rockets that southern Israel coped with during the height of cross-border violence earlier this year.
"We've been returning to normal life, going back to work and school without all the problems and stress of having a warning of an incoming rocket every hour. It's become livable here again, and we hope it will continue," says Tovah Malka, the director of the mayor's office in Sderot.
But the cease-fire, even if extended, will remain tenuous as long as the Gaza Strip struggles with economic hardships.
"What is the point of extending the tahdiya if there's still no fuel, no basic materials coming in? Could you imagine Gaza without tunnels? We would have died by now," says Ismail Ammar, who runs an electronics repair shop in Gaza City, referring to the smuggling tunnels underneath the Egypt-Gaza border.
"Since the Israelis are controlling the crossing and keeping up the siege, I am losing my business."
Israel has continued to keep economic pressure on Gaza as a way to force Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by militants more than two years ago in a cross-border raid.
When Mr. Peres was in Egypt Thursday for an official state visit – the first of its kind in several years – to discuss a proposal to revamp and relaunch the Arab peace initiative (also known as the Saudi Plan), Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he was committed to seeing Mr. Shalit released through a prisoner swap.