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U.S. Opinions: Washington

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Mideast action, reaction

From an editorial in Thursday’s Washington Post:

Israel and the Palestinian territories have been an unlikely island of calm in a Middle East wracked by war and revolution. Yet now theirpopulations are witnessing how quickly a spiral of violence can be triggered by extremists. Following the abduction and slaying of three Israeli teenagers by militants believed to be linked to the Hamas movement, a Palestinian youth was kidnapped and killed. Citizens from both sides have rioted, Hamas fired rockets at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip and Israel has responded with airstrikes.

So far, political leaders – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – have responded with relative maturity, denouncing the killings and rejecting some of the more extreme responses proposed by their followers. But both will have to do more, and resist their worst instincts, if they are to head off further bloodshed.

To some extent, the trouble has roots in the collapse of peace negotiations that Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to broker. At their expiration, Netanyahu stopped a planned release of Palestinian prisoners and Abbas turned to Hamas, forging an agreement for a unity government and elections. Israel denounced the deal; Hamas sharply increased rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in the last month. Then came the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers.

U.S. influence is needed now to restrain Israeli and Palestinian leaders and to push the two sides toward steps to ease tensions. The last thing the U.S. – or the Middle East – needs is another war.

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