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Chances for peace emerge in Mideast clashes

On Thursday in Egypt, Israeli President Shimon Peres backed the 'spirit' of a Saudi proposal that offers Arab recognition of Israel.

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Both Israel and the United States soon will have new leaders at the helm. The Palestinians, too, are facing possible elections. During such transitional times for the three major players in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, few expected any concrete steps toward peace.

But a new calm has emerged in the cross-border battle between Gazan militants and the Israeli army, Palestinian rival factions Fatah and Hamas are preparing for reconciliation talks, and on Thursday in Egypt Israeli President Shimon Peres backed the "spirit" of a 2002 Arab initiative that maps out regional peace.

Many unresolved issues stand in the way of real peace, but all parties seem newly interested in avoiding a return to the daily violence and finding interim solutions ahead of upcoming anniversaries, deadlines, and changes in leadership.

The cease-fire that Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas reached, expires Dec. 19, six months after it went into effect. Both sides would like to continue this calm.

While the Associated Press reports that at least 50 rockets landed in southern Israel since the truce, including one Tuesday in Sderot, it's a far cry from the daily rain of rockets that southern Israel coped with during the height of cross-border violence earlier this year.

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