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'I wish they'd all die'

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Last week, Hamas fired rockets at the Tel Aviv airport in Israel, and one of them hit and destroyed a home. All the family was out; no one was hurt. But a woman who lived there was quoted on "NBC Nightly News," saying about the Arabs, "I wish they'd all die."

Chilling words. Words that are heard on both sides since the fence was built, and many fewer Arabs live and work in Israel. Israelis and Arabs don't know each other anymore. They don't see the other as human. There were harsh words and killings 10 and 20 years ago, but not the wish that the other would all die, not said so readily, even in the face of the loss of a home.

I was an observer during the elections in 2006 in the Jewish-occupied territories in the West Bank of Palestine. Hamas ran for election and beat Fatah. They wanted to govern. But Israel punished the residents of Gaza and the West Bank for electing Hamas, withholding for months the taxes and duties that belonged to the Palestinians, starving businesses and people and blockading trade. I always thought Hamas should have had the chance to govern with resources and with the support of both Israel and the U.S.

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President George W. Bush could have talked to Hamas the same way Nixon went to China. It might not have worked, but it was one more opportunity missed.

I always want to remind the Israelis of the Aesop's fable where the sun and the wind got into an argument about who could make a man take off his coat. The wind blew and blew, and the man drew the coat around him tighter and tighter. Then the sun shone bright and hot, and the man took off his coat.

There's no easy path. Hikers probably will be at risk for years to come. Roadblocks will remain and delay ambulances carrying women in childbirth and men with heart attacks. Men will remain in prison. But everybody feels better when the sun is shining. We don't want other people to die when the sun is shining.

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