Four days of relative quiet in the Middle East, with a pause in hostilities between Israel and Hamas and the release of more than 60 hostages, mostly Israelis, in exchange for a larger number of Palestinian prisoners, have provided a welcome, albeit shaky and uncertain glimpse into a possible path forward for the traumatized region.
Thankfully, with Qatar and Egypt as facilitators, Israel and Hamas Monday agreed to a further two-day extension of this fragile humanitarian pause, providing an opportunity for the release of additional hostages that Hamas took captive on Oct. 7.
After 50 days of intense warfare, this important moment must be seized and extended for as long as possible.
That requires the international community's help, not only from nations like Qatar and Egypt, but from the United States, which plays a critical role. President Joe Biden rightly is balancing his crucial public support for Israel with a behind-the-scenes effort to pressure Israel to stop the deaths of civilians while it tries to remove Hamas control of Gaza. Biden's efforts remain key to any hope of future stability.
None of this is simple. The war is far from over. Hamas, a terrorist organization, likely is using the pause for its own benefit. The fear that Hamas is reconstituting and strengthening its resources is real. And Hamas is playing a dangerous game, especially as it separates mothers and children, and keeps some of the youngest hostages captive. As long as Hamas has hostages, it has leverage. Also problematic: the likelihood that other terrorist groups are holding some hostages, leaving Hamas not in full control. That reportedly includes 10-month-old Kfir Bibas.
Here in the U.S., tensions remain high, with no sign the inflamed exchange of words, hate and violence will dampen. Most recently, that manifested itself in the horrifying shooting in Vermont of three Palestinian students, who attended high school together in the West Bank and now attend college in the U.S. Police arrested suspect Jason J. Eaton and investigators are determining whether it was a hate crime, while Vermont prosecutor Sarah George has called the incident "a hateful act."
Closer to home, a Jewish teacher who posted support for Israel on her personal social media became the target of hundreds of angry students rioting in the hallways of Hillcrest High School in Queens. Long Island protests have featured hateful rhetoric, and a rash of antisemitic incidents have occurred. The hate on social media included an antisemitic post on X, buoyed by Elon Musk, who on Monday visited Israel, saying he recognized the need to "stop the hate."
The digital hate here won't stop with Musk's public show of a tour of a kibbutz, just like the war between Israel and Hamas won't stop with the promise of a brief pause, or the release of another handful of hostages. But it's a start. And we must start somewhere.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.