Nearly a month deep into what has become a war, as opposed to a hostile exchange, between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Gaza, Americans are asking themselves what the U.S. role should be.
The growing and disproportionate toll of the dead, with at least 66 on the Israeli side and at least 1,822 on the Palestinian side, including many civilians, among them many children, argues strongly for efforts by the United States to bring the fighting to an end.
The United States also has considerable leverage, particularly with the Israelis, to whom Washington is providing $3.1 billion in aid and another $504 million for their Iron Dome defense system this year alone. During the Gaza war the United States has resupplied Israel with mortar rounds and grenades. It is also giving the Palestinians more than $500 million in humanitarian assistance this year.
Both sides resisted various efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to arrange a cease-fire, but on Monday the Israelis and Hamas accepted an Egyptian-brokered 72-hour truce set to take effect Tuesday morning.
The combatants have every reason to stop killing each other in the short term and to return to the serious task of working out an agreement to divide the territory into two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, cooperating economically, recognized by each other. It should have been made clear by the past 30 days of war that the Palestinians would not get what they want by hurling rockets into Israel and killing Israelis, and that the Israelis would not get what they want — peace and acceptance — by bombing the Gaza Strip into rubble or killing Palestinians.
All that will be achieved is further death, and the increasing risk of the expansion of the war, particularly if Hezbollah were to attack Israel from Lebanon. It is far past time for this cease-fire and for serious talks.