By the time you read these words, Gentle and Grateful Reader, peace should have broken out in that most unlikely part of the world, the Middle East. Yes, peace is always a frail plant in that arid region, but let us celebrate and tend its appearance after eight days of headlines about war and rumors of a bigger one.
The cease-fire between Israel and Gaza, aka Hamasland, may prove only tenuous, as usual, but it is all the more welcome for the difficulties involved in negotiating it through intermediaries, and despite all the bloodthirsty talk from the usual terrorists.
Eyeless in Gaza, which has been a source of strife since Samson's time, Hamas' louder mouths cried war, but a new realism somehow prevailed over the old bloodlust.
Yes, the violations and counter-violations of this truce will now begin, but if the past is prologue, they will dwindle till an uncertain modus vivendi, a way of living rather than dying, will begin to emerge. The scope of this accomplishment can be measured simply enough; the fighting lasted eight days, while it took the Lord God fully six to create the whole world.
This has to be recorded as one of the Israel's shorter wars and, if its people can recognize it, one of its more impressive victories, for it may put an end to the incessant rocket fire that has plagued them for months. Peace has its victories as well as war.
Behind the scenes, Egyptian envoys, working with American ones, got Hamas to call off its attacks -- with a little help from the real makers of this tentative peace, the Israeli air force. But credit should go to all those who negotiated behind the scenes, including this administration, and yes, its ambassador to the United Nations, the Honorable but now under fire Susan Rice.
This time Ambassador Rice successfully stalled any interference by the Security Council, where many a war has been fomented rather than prevented. To quote the late great Jeane Kirkpatrick, who was Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the UN, the United Nations has become an organization that distributes violence like any other protection racket. This time it didn't get a chance to prolong a war.
Yes, we know, talk about how welcome this peace is may be lost on those, both Arab and Jew, who have seen their children, their mothers and fathers, friends and family, blown to smithereens before this cease-fire was achieved. But every day of peace, however fragile, is to celebrated. Let us both mourn the dead and vow, not for the first time, Never Again.
Why no full-scale war this time? One new factor may have made all the difference: Israel's new anti-missile missile system callled Iron Dome, which prevented scores of rockets from reaching its most heavily populated cities -- like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. If just one of those randomly fired rockets had wiped out an apartment building or school or shopping mall or bus terminal full of people, no Israeli leader might have withstood the public demand for vengeance on the full scale of war.
This administration, whatever the bad feelings between our president and current Israeli prime minister, fully supported the development and deployment of that new and welcome defense, another vindication of Ronald Reagan's old dream of an anti-missile missile, aka Star Wars. (Remember when he was ridiculed for suggesting such a sci-fi fantasy by those who thought they knew better than that "amiable dunce," as a Democratic warhorse named Clark Clifford once called him?)
Now let us celebrate this peace, however uncertain -- and in the future take all that rhetoric about wiping Israel off the map, whether from Gaza or Tehran, more seriously in the future, and denounce it at once and in no uncertain terms, for words lead to deeds, including criminal ones.
At the same time, the Israelis need to celebrate their victory ever so quietly, and find some way to appease the source of so many wars -- wounded Arab pride bent on revenge. Now would be the time for Israel not just to talk peace -- Jerusalem has long advocated direct negotiations without preconditions -- but to offer concessions. A further easing of the blockade around Gaza, maybe another temporary freeze on Israeli settlements, whatever gestures can be made short of endangering the Jewish state's now re-established security. Not just war but the pursuit of peace demands imagination, energy and new initiatives.
If the Israelis are looking for a policy just now, they could do worse than follow the lead of an American president who learned the ways of both war and peace by bitter experience, and pursued both "with malice toward none, charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right...."
Many of us have feared the worst. Now let us hope, and not just hope but work, for the best.