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How to give Mideast peace another chance
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will have to remind Israel and moderate Palestinians that the key to jump-starting stalled peace talks is weakening Hamas, said Walter Isaacson in The Washington Post. The way to put the peace process "back on the
 

W

hat happened
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is meeting Israeli leaders on Wednesday, a day after talking to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in an attempt to jump-start stalled peace talks. Abbas froze negotiations over Israel’s military strikes in Gaza, which aimed to stop Hamas militants from firing rockets into Israel. (CNN) Abbas said he wouldn’t return to the table until Israel agrees to a cease-fire in Gaza. (Reuters)

What the commentators said
The disruption of the peace negotiations was “a great victory for the radicals in Hamas, who never wanted such talks,” said Walter Isaacson in The Washington Post (free registration). To give peace another chance, Rice will have to “remind everyone that the real goal is to weaken Hamas.” One way to do that is to reward the moderate Palestinian alternative running the West Bank with economic support, to show that Hamas’ path leads to suffering, while backing moderates such as Fayyad “can pay off by producing prosperity and peace.”

Israel is running out of options “for stopping the rocket fire,” said the The Economist in an editorial. If there is no breakthrough soon, it will have to either “accede to Hamas’s demands for a ceasefire and ease the blockade, or send the army in to destroy the militants and retake control of the entire Gaza Strip.” The problem is that any concessions made to Hamas would amount to hanging Abbas “out to dry.”

That’s no reason to continue denying Hamas a seat at the bargaining table, said the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an editorial. Rice has been reluctant “to call for a cease-fire, considering such an act to lend credibility to Hamas.” But “she could put the whole peace process back on the rails by" giving Hamas a spot "at the table, inside the tent." That wouldn't legitimize Hamas, it would just acknowledge that "it exists as a force, and that it is capable of blocking the peace process if excluded from it.”
 

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