Leading article: Israel and Palestine are even further away from peace

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Attention is understandably elsewhere in the Middle East right now. But yesterday's bombing near the central bus station in Jerusalem is a sobering reminder that the region's most enduring and intractable conflict is further from solution than ever.

The incident, the first of its kind in the city for some seven years, has stunned Israelis. Amid the escalation of hostilities around the Gaza strip – where Israeli jets have carried out strikes near Gaza City in retaliation for rockets fired by Palestinian militants into southern Israel – there is no doubt where the finger of blame will be pointed.

Even before this latest violence, the peace process was at a standstill. Far from prompting Benjamin Netanyahu's government to intensify the search for a Palestinian settlement, the turmoil in neighbouring Egypt has made it more defensive and intransigent. The growing internal unrest in Syria will surely reinforce these instincts, while the bus attack provides fresh grist for Mr Netanyahu's argument that serious talks cannot take place before an end to extremist violence by the Palestinians.

The Obama administration is focused on the unfolding crises in the Arab region, and the prospects for progress towards an Israeli/ Palestinian deal have moved from remote to non-existent. Some will respond wearily, so what? The two sides may have been in conflict for more than six decades – yet it is almost 40 years since the last Arab/Israeli war, and Israel has even signed formal, albeit joyless, peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

Is a peace deal with the Palestinians really that important, compared to a social and political revolution that may transform the entire Arab world? The truth could well be the opposite. If more democratic governments come to power, more representative of Arab public opinion, pressure for a just Palestinian peace will surely only increase.

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