Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Little Abigail Edan, an American with dual Israeli citizenship, is safe at last. That's after she spent 50 days — including her fourth birthday — in the captivity of Hamas militants who slaughtered her mother and father during the Oct. 7 massacre at an Israeli kibbutz.
She is among 58 hostages released so far during a desperately needed four-day pause in hostilities. That pause, while not the outright cease-fire some have called for, is the commendable product of weeks of intense negotiations led by the White House, Qatar and President Joe Biden, who was directly engaged both through phone calls and a visit to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Monday, the pause was extended two days, allowing for even further progress. For its part, Israel also has released 117 Palestinian prisoners.
We hope the pause in fighting, even if temporary, has brought some relief to Minnesotans who have personal connections to the conflict, as detailed in a recent Star Tribune news story.
According to reporting by the Hill news site, a secret team led by White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met over five weeks, establishing direct communications with Hamas and setting up a team on the ground working for hostage release. This included a communications process in which messages were relayed from Qatar to Egypt to Gaza and back. It is remarkable that such prolonged and multilayered negotiations were, for the most part, conducted behind closed doors, and speaks to their effectiveness.
It also is a valuable lesson in leadership. Biden has withstood an avalanche of criticism for his public support of Israel, even though he has called out the atrocities and loss of life on both sides of this conflict. He has been willing to take the heat, knowing that he and his team have been quietly working toward the release of hostages, humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza and ongoing talks that offer the best hope of a permanent resolution.
His insistence on the resurrection of the two-state solution is also commendable. Israel's treatment of Palestinians as second-class citizens has gone on far too long.
As Biden has said publicly, "A two-state solution is the only way to guarantee the long-term security of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people. To make sure Israelis and Palestinians alike can live in equal measures of freedom and dignity. We will not give up on working toward this goal." He has taken criticism for this position as well, including a distinct lack of support for the idea from Israelis and Palestinians alike. Nevertheless, it is notable that despite decades of conflict, neither side has managed to come up with a better solution.
In the meantime, tension over the mounting casualties in this conflict continues to inflame and divide. The U.S. Justice Department has reported a significant increase in threats against Jewish, Arab and Muslim communities across this country ever since the original Hamas attack on Oct. 7.
Three young college students of Palestinian descent were spending Thanksgiving break in Burlington, Vt. Two of the three men wore the black-and-white patterned kaffiyeh scarves that marked their Palestinian heritage. Out for a simple walk to the home of one of the students' relatives, they were shot by a white man who later told police he had been waiting for them.
The assailant, who was later caught, fired at least four rounds from a handgun and fled, according to police reports. The three students survived the attempted murder, but one has serious injuries. The matter is being investigated as a potential hate crime. Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said in a statement Sunday that "In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime."
Minnesota is home to significant Jewish, Muslim and Arab populations. The divisions here have become particularly sharp as traditional U.S. support of Israel comes under increasing scrutiny and the death toll in the conflict climbs. Those passions are understandable, but adding to the hate with threats, acts of violence and aggression will not bring peace and stability any closer.