Jackson Diehl's May 24 op-ed column calling for Palestinian elections rightly faulted Hamas and Islamic Jihad for derailing peace efforts with Israel, but it got one part of the story wrong.

In June 2003 Hamas announced a unilateral cease-fire with Israel. It stopped carrying out terrorist attacks inside Israel without even a promise of reciprocal restraint. Hamas said it would carry out attacks only in response to Israeli attacks in the occupied territories, and it held to that policy until, on Aug. 21, Israel killed Ismail Abu Shanab.Mr. Shanab was no pacifist, but he was a moderate compared with the rest of Hamas. He had called for a two-state solution and an end to the violence.

His assassination prompted Hamas to call off its cease-fire. It was not Hamas but the Israeli government that shattered three relatively violence-free months. Any desire to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must acknowledge these facts.




In his May 19 op-ed column, "A Region in Agony," Richard Cohen argued that Israeli settlements on the West Bank and Gaza are the principal cause of the Palestinian terrorism that has taken the lives of hundreds of Israelis in the past three years. But Israel could withdraw tomorrow from the settlements, and Hamas, Hezbollah and Yasser Arafat would not desist in their ultimate objective of destroying Israel.

Mr. Cohen's counsel to Israel that it abandon the West Bank -- leaving Israel less than 10 miles across at its most populous part -- is a recipe for national suicide. No nation in its right mind would act any differently from the way Israel has acted in defending itself against enemies that seek its destruction.


New Britain, Conn.