While the American media spent much of the weekend preparing for Barack Obama's inauguration and the beginning of a new era in American politics, in the Middle East, Israel and Hamas declared individual cease-fires and the apparent end to a three-week war between the two.
This latest chapter in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist organization and majority political party in the Palestinian legislature, began when Israel launched what it described as a defensive military campaign, titled Operation Cast Lead, against Hamas on Dec. 27.
The offensive came on the heels of the end of a six-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that ended on Dec. 19.
Though Stanford students were on winter break for the majority of these developments, Stanford faculty and Hoover fellows specializing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been following the events closely. Their reactions and ideas for the future, however, vary.
Koret Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution Dr. Boaz Ganor described the recent conflict as "the outcome of the unilateral decision of Hamas to end the ceasefire."
"From the Israeli point of view, this is a self-defense operation against this war of contrition created by Hamas," Ganor said. "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has come to a situation in which there is no possible horizon for peace between the two sides because of the fact that Hamas will not recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state."
W. Glenn Campbell National Fellow at the Hoover Institution Amichai Magen said that Hamas, by "launching 70 rockets into Israel" following the end of the cease-fire, "deliberately provoked Israel."
"I think that there's no doubt that Hamas and Iran chose to initiate this conflict," he said. "There's a wealth of evidence to suggest that the Israelis, Egyptians and other moderate elements in the Middle East took steps to prevent this conflict."
According to History Prof. Joel Beinin, "[Israel's] planning for this attack on the Gaza strip began at the same time the negotiations for the cease-fire were being held last June."
"Neither side 100 percent kept the cease-fire," Beinin said in reference to the cease-fire from June to December. "Israel escalated violations to the cease-fire [before it ended on Dec. 19], which made Hamas unwilling to accept a cease-fire."
On the latest cease-fire, Beinin said, "The fighting will stop, but I don't think they're going to lead to any kind of resolution or any steps in the direction of peace."
"In my view, the current [Israeli] government really has not been interested in peace," he added.
In describing Israeli control of Gaza's borders with Israel, Beinin said, "In all significant effects, Israel continued to control the Gaza strip [following formal withdrawal in 2005], which was effectively an open-air prison. It was not a withdrawal to make peace because that would have required talking about a Palestinian state and removing refugees."
Both Ganor and Magen suggested that a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians would require new leadership in Palestine.
"The only hope for the region in my view is that the Palestinians will wake up and realize that, of the Fatah and Hamas models, as long as they hold Hamas, there will be no peace in the region," Ganor said.
"Mahmoud Abbas is the first Palestinian leader to understand that terrorism and violence are unproductive," Ganor added. "[Palestinians] should choose him or anybody else but Hamas."
Magen emphasized the importance of a "responsible sovereignty" in Palestine.
"Hamas has shown itself to be completely callous in its use of the Palestinian population in Gaza, using them as human shields," Magen said. "The question becomes whether Hamas can be the responsible sovereign, and I don't know the answer, but I think on the basis of history, Hamas has shown itself to be irresponsible, and that does not bode well for the future."
Beinin cited the negotiations in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 as "an acceptable place to start." This initiative proposed that Israel withdraw to its 1967 borders with Palestine, that Jerusalem is named the capital of the Palestinian state, that the issue of Palestinian refugees be resolved in accordance with international law and that Arab states recognize Israel.
Still, according to Beinin, "both Israel and the United States have ignored this proposal."
Ganor also spoke of a two-state solution.
"You need a partner for such an agreement that you can trust," he said of the option. "The international community should make clear to Palestine that they should vote democratically for a party that is ready to recognize the right of Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state."
"I believe that I'm not jumping to conclusions by saying that more than 80 percent of the Israelis not only want to end the conflict but are willing to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and to coexist peacefully," he added.
Magen agreed that the process is reliant on the electoral choices of the Palestinians.
"Israel, the U.S. and the EU will not negotiate with Hamas until it denounces violence and announces the right of Israel to exist," Magen said. "I think really the ball is in the Palestinian court to decide what they want. You can't have it both ways — you can't use terror and violence and expect to be part of a political process."
Beinin, Ganor and Magen were all hopeful that the new Obama administration will usher in a more active peace-making role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though Beinin noted that the President-elect has not offered any particularly new sentiments.
"On one occasion, [Obama] said he was concerned about the loss of civilian life, but that's hardly a political position," Benin said. "The incoming Obama administration has not done anything markedly different."