There is a fine line between optimism and naivete when it comes to the Middle East.
The ceasefire between radical Palestinians and Israel appears to have been brokered by the new Egyptian government. This may be the Egyptian leadership searching for a way to maintain balance begun by Anwar Sadat and continued by Hosni Mubarak.
That balance kept Egypt on the U.S. payroll and off the firing line for decades. The Egyptians had all they wanted of the Israeli army marching to the Suez Canal. Now it looks like the new leadership is at least rational enough to see that conflict with Israel serves no purpose.
The Palestinians, for their part, continue to allow the most radical elements among them to lead them backward. While this latest foray resulted in the deaths of a number of Hamas leaders, it also, inevitably, resulted in the death of innocents.
It is these last fatalities that perpetuate the conflict to the next generation. Until the mass of Palestinians stand up to the radicals and say 'no more,' there will be no end to the cycle of violence. An optimist would say that day will come. A realist would not.
Israel reacted to hundreds of missile attacks from Gaza with a show of appropriate force.
Anyone who believes that Israel’s countermeasures were extreme need only remember why we went to Afghanistan or ponder just how long the drug war would last if the cartels started lobbing mortar shells into El Paso. Random attacks on civilians cannot be tolerated by any nation.
At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suddenly realized this week that your allies do not need to be your friends. President Obama, who has been noticeably cool to Netanyahu's bullying approach to diplomacy, quickly stood behind the Israelis and sent the secretary of state to try and figure something out.
The ceasefire brought an important player back into the mix, stopped the killing for the moment and perhaps gives us weeks or months of quiet before the violence fires up again.
As it certainly will. Thousands of years of history, and people who live that history as if it were yesterday, will not be changed in a day. The conflicts of religion, culture and borders will, like the poor, always be with us.
The ceasefire can make us optimistic for a day but if we are realistic, we know that next week, next month or next year the peace will be broken again.