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The Dispatching of Secretary Clinton to the Middle East Is Welcome News

Israeli soldiers lie on the ground as an Iron Dome missile is launched near the city of Ashdod, Israel, Monday, November 19, 2012.

With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heading to the Middle East today, hopes for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas—the Palestinian terrorist organization and political party—have significantly increased. That’s good news. Too many innocent Israelis and Palestinians have suffered as a result of the decision made by Hamas to recklessly resort to indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel.

These attacks have only one purpose: to kill and terrorize civilians. Israel is well within its rights to defend itself against these attacks. A ceasefire cannot come too soon, but any accord reached will only endure if Hamas refrains from targeting civilians with rocket fire and can prevent other militant groups from doing so as well.

Americans should be proud of the role their aid to Israel has played in helping protect Israeli civilians via the Iron Dome antirocket system. The Iron Dome has reportedly destroyed 90 percent of the rockets it has targeted, and the United States is committed to providing some $880 million in funding to help pay for the full system of 13 antirocket batteries. Without the Iron Dome, the human cost of this conflict would have been higher and the region could have spiraled into broader instability at a time of change and uncertainty in the region.

It is worth noting that the new government of Egypt has played a largely constructive role during this crisis. Despite unhelpful rhetoric at times, Egypt has continued to play its traditional role as intermediary in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Egypt’s behavior during this latest outbreak of violence is further evidence that managing change in Egypt need not yield the doomsday scenarios some have foreseen.

Secretary Clinton’s trip to the region is a welcome signal that a ceasefire may in fact be near. But a ceasefire is only the first step to preventing another round of violence in Gaza. Hamas needs to be held accountable for its irresponsible and dangerous behavior. Ultimately, a two-state solution negotiated between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will be the best way to discredit Hamas and increase stability in the Middle East in the long term.

Brian Katulis is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Peter Juul is a Policy Analyst at the Center.