Clinton, Egyptian Leader Get Israel & Hamas to Agree to Gaza Ceasefire

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking in Cairo, Egypt, on Wednesday

On the eve of Thanksgiving here in the United States, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi announced that Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas had agreed to a ceasefire.

The goal of the truce was to put an end to the latest round of violence involving a narrow strip of land called Gaza ­– an area that’s sandwiched between Israel and Egypt along the Mediterranean Sea.

“The people of this region deserve the chance to live free from fear and violence,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters in Cairo, Egypt, according to the Washington Post.  “In the days ahead, the United States will work with partners across the region to consolidate this progress.”

(“Consolidate” means to re-enforce or strengthen.)

Hamas controls Gaza.

And it has consistently refused to make peace with Israel – or even recognize Israel’s right to exist.

For years, Hamas has fired rockets from Gaza into Israeli communities.

Nearly two weeks ago, Israel responded by launching a series of missile strikes in Gaza – strikes aimed at what Israel said were Hamas military targets.

At least 166 Palestinians were killed, according to Reuters news service, as well as at least six Israelis.

The victims included civilians on both sides – people who were not directly involved in the fighting.

A ceasefire is not the same thing as a peace agreement.

That’s something the United States has been trying to arrange between Israel and the Palestinians for years.

But for the time being, the ceasefire put an end to the daily bombardment on both sides of the Israel-Gaza border.

“Every step must move us toward a comprehensive peace for all the people of the region,” Mrs. Clinton added.  “There is no substitute for a just and lasting peace.”

Mrs. Clinton shuttled between Israel, the West Bank and Egypt before the agreement was announced, working to get everyone on board.

(The West Bank and Gaza are two regions that would likely join together to become a Palestinian state, if there were a long-term peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.)

Egypt’s president got involved in the ceasefire negotiations because the United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization and does not deal with Hamas directly.

President Obama has repeatedly made it clear that Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas’ rocket attacks.

“The President made it clear that no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians,” a White House statement said.

He has also stated that his ultimate goal is a peace agreement that would allow for a Palestinian state to co-exist side-by-side with Israel.

That’s a goal U.S. presidents have been trying to achieve for decades.

But for now, stopping the latest flare-up of fighting is at least a step in the right direction.