What will it take for Israelis, Palestinians to end conflict?

There was a time not so long ago when the question in the headline reflected a heart-felt belief that peace between two archrivals was a realistic, achievable goal.

Today, however, the question has taken on a rhetorical bent, given the intense airstrikes and shelling by Israel in the Gaza Strip and the unrelenting rocket attacks by Hamas militants and other extremist groups designed to spread death and destruction in Israel’s population centers.

The fact that only two Israeli civilians were killed as of Monday — compared with more than 550 Palestinians, many of them women and children — is a testament to Israel’s air-defense system and the incompetence of those firing the rockets.

But even with the unequal effects of the fighting, which began more than two weeks ago, there’s little hope for a quick resolution.

Indeed, the cartoon that appeared on this page Sunday, and two opinion pieces on that day’s Commentary Page illustrate why peace has become so elusive.

The cartoon’s message is clear: Peace in the Middle East has been disrupted every year going back centuries.

The two opinion pieces were written by individuals with ties to the Mahoning Valley, a Palestinian-American who was born, raised and educated in Youngstown and now lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah, and an Israeli couple who are on a two-year educational visit to Youngstown.

Not surprisingly, Sam Bahour and Elior and Eran Liss have very different views of the genesis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the reasons an end to the violence has not been achieved and what it will take to forge a long-term solution.

We have consistently advocated U.S. involvement in peace talks, given Israel’s political, economic and social ties to this country, and the Palestinians’ need for American dollars to help develop the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Indeed, we were encouraged earlier this year when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made developing a peace accord the Obama administration’s top priority and became directly involved in talks between the two sides.

But Kerry’s efforts ended up as just another failed endeavor, and not long after violence flared.

Mediation efforts

Today, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is trying to mediate a truce, while Egypt’s new government has renewed its call for the two sides to adopt a cease-fire plan it put forth last week.

“It meets the needs of both sides,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri. “We will continue to propose it. We hope both sides accept it.”

Use of the word “hope” indicates the uncertainty that exists in this part of the world.

There was a time when hope did spring eternal, but not today. As the death toll mounts, as buildings are destroyed and everyday living becomes a matter of survival, the chances of peace become all the more remote.

Secretary of State Kerry is back in the region trying to bring an end to the current round of fighting.

In the end, however, it’s up to the Israelis and Palestinians to recognize that they’re in a no-win situation and that peace is the only answer.

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