The world faces yet another shortsighted tit-for-tat round in the six-decades-long, low- intensity war between Israelis and Palestinians.
Hamas lobs rockets into Israel from Gaza, a strip of land on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the east and north. Israel retaliates. As usual, Palestinian casualties and destruction of property far outnumber those on the Israeli side.
The international community is pressing for a cease-fire and for Israel not to launch a ground invasion similar to the 2008-09 invasion of Gaza.
But what after that? A ceasefire merely provides time for each side to nurse old grievances, plus new ones from the latest violent encounter.
Israelis say they have no choice but to defend their civilian population from rockets and mortars being fired from Gaza. They see terrorists dedicated to Israel's destruction.
For their part, Palestinians say they have no choice but to attack in the face of the five-year blockade of Gaza that leaves Palestinians relying on an illegal tunnel economy. They resent new Israeli settlements announced in April, July, October and early November in areas occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967.
The question is how to end it? In the new context of the Arab Spring, the United States and Egypt are key to any resolution.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left Cambodia to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, and is scheduled to meet today with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
She should seek a lasting solution beyond a cease-fire. The United States and Egypt have to deliver something real to moderate Palestinians or they will continue to gravitate toward more extreme forces.
In 2003, Abbas said, "There will be no military solution to this conflict, so we repeat our renunciation, a renunciation of terror against the Israeli wherever they might be." Violent methods, he said, "are dangerous obstacles to the achievement of an independent, sovereign state we seek."
Yet for all that, he has won nothing tangible and, thus, he has become largely irrelevant. Egypt and the United States have to press for real long-term gains for Palestinians who seek peace or the cycle of violence continues.
This is a test for Morsi.
Clinton ought to remind Morsi of the courage of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat with his historic speech to the Israeli parliament on Nov. 20, 1977 35 years ago this week. Sadat, after four wars and a nation "still mourning under the cruel pain of bereavement," said leaders must take great risks to get beyond feelings of "utter suspicion and absolute lack of confidence" to prevent "the horrors of new suffering and destructive wars."
He declared that without a just solution of the Palestinian problem "never will there be that durable and just peace." A short-term "disengagement agreement" merely delays "ignition of the fuse."
Clinton also ought to remind Netanyahu of the courage of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as he stood before the Knesset on July 13, 1992, and asked, "What can we do? Peace you don't make with friends, but with very unsympathetic enemies. I won't try to make the Palestinian Liberation Organization look good. It was an enemy, it remains an enemy, but negotiations must be with enemies."
The United States and Egypt need to urge both sides to look at the long-term situation not the short-term grievances from the other side's point of view. Without such a shift, the low-intensity war continues with just a temporary cease-fire.