IN OTHER WORDS: Work cut out

As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice moves into the final days of her Middle East trip, she still needs to come up with a way to translate the current lull in the violence between Israelis and Palestinians into an opening for genuine peace negotiations. Nobody pretends that will be easy. Hamas still refuses to take the three steps needed to demonstrate its commitment to good-faith democracy: renouncing terrorism, recognising Israel and adhering to previously negotiated agreements.

Rice’s ultimate diplomatic goal must be to resume bilateral negotiations on trading land for peace to create a Palestinian state committed to live alongside Israel. That end result is also envisioned in a 2002 Saudi peace proposal. As events five years ago made tragically clear, the renewed Saudi initiative will not get anywhere unless Hamas renounces terrorism and the Palestinian leadership moves aggressively to stop terrorists. Just as an Arab League Summit meeting was adopting an initial version of the Saudi plan, Hamas blew up a hotel filled with Israeli civilians celebrating the Passover holiday. That effectively ended the initiative. Rice’s biggest challenge will be moving beyond that sterile cycle of diplomacy and terror. She clearly has her work cut out for her.