Negotiations over a cease-fire agreement continue between Israel and Hamas in Cairo and both sides show willingness - in principle - to accept a deal. Many analysts on both sides of the conflict remain skeptical that an agreement is possible, but may be overlooking the importance of the timing of this conflict. Leaders from Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia have been highly visible in supporting Palestinians but also have been working to mediate a deal between them and the Israelis. Given that each of these countries has risen in prominence during the Arab Spring, it may be that these efforts are more likely to be successful than in years past. This development is positive for the long-term future of the region despite some of the polarizing and downright offensive rhetoric their involvement has entailed.
For its part, Israel's government appears to be taking a longer-term focus as well. As mentioned in an earlier post, Israel is mobilizing slowly to give the negotiation process time and is not eager to repeat the experience of Operation Cast Lead in 2008. In other words, Israel's government has learned from past experience and is actively responding to earlier mistakes. Importantly, it is shifting from a more short-term consideration of its interests to one which takes the medium-term and long-term into account as well (more on this subject here). To the extent Prime Minister Netanyahu is responsible, he deserves credit for this policy choice.
The importance of a broadened consideration of interests on the part of Israel's government cannot be understated. This expansion of the timeframe in which Israel considers its interests will make the difference between an Israel which is able to choose its future and an Israel which is forced to accept sub-optimal arrangements under great international and domestic pressure.
To that end, the global pro-Israel community should support, and support strongly, the efforts of the Israeli government to conclude a negotiated settlement to the current conflict in Gaza. If the agreement falls through, the community will still gain credibility among the broader public by supporting non-violence over more intense violence and more civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. This support would not only mobilize the pro-Israel base, but also resonate with non-affiliated or moderate but concerned communities. Some U.S. pro-Israel organizations have begun supporting this critical move by Israel's government. More of them should do so.
When Israel began airstrikes, pro-Israel groups worldwide mobilized and went full-court press in support of the decision. Now, it is critical that they support Israel's demonstration of a fact true supporters of Israel have always known: Israel is strong in war-fighting, but stronger in peacemaking.