Once upon a time, Israelis and Palestinians looked to the U.S. to intervene at moments of heightened confrontation to mediate between the two sides and contain the damage. The Bush Administration, however, has proved entirely incapable of playing this role, because its own diplomatic efforts are hidebound by the requirements of its own war on Hamas.
Condi Rice is sticking doggedly to that script, even though all the other players are making clear that the game is up. The  New York Times tells us, for example, that U.S. officials are worried that efforts to broker a cease-fire to end the carnage in Gaza might undermine Washington’s priority, which is not to restore peace, but to isolate and eliminate Hamas: “Ms. Rice wants to avoid the word ‘cease-fire’ because administration officials believe that a negotiated cease-fire between Israel and Hamas — which the United States and Israel view as a terrorist organization — would legitimize Hamas in the eyes of the Palestinian people,” the Times reports. “The fear, administration officials said, is that a negotiated cease-fire would likely undermine Mr. Abbas and make it look like Hamas is the entity with which Israel and the West should be negotiating, and not Mr. Abbas.”
Ah. Cease-fire talks would “legitimize” Hamas in the eyes of the Palestinian people. Right. That would be the Palestinian people who, in a democratic election voted Hamas candidates into 56% of the seats in the Palestinian legislature. Their legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian people is well-established. (And just look how much talking to the Americans has done for the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas!) A cease-fire would “make it look” like Hamas is the entity with which Israel and the West should be negotiating? What planet are these U.S. officials on? What’s the point of peace talks if they don’t involve the party that, on the Palestinian side, is doing most of the fighting? Mahmoud Abbas commands no forces currently fighting Israel, so, simple logic would dictate that the Palestinian entity with whom a truce will have to be negotiated will have to be Hamas. You know, like, duh!