What’s different in Israel this time

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Israel begins another day of Operation Protective Edge, its assault on Gaza, the country also faces an ending that’s going relatively unnoticed around the world: Shimon Peres leaves public office this week after a lifetime of political involvement that predates the founding of the state of Israel. The 91 year-old’s seven-year tenure as Israel’s president, a ceremonial position, has come to an end.

Peres, who has served in nearly every government from 1959 onward, shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and outlived them both. But the peace accord they signed is now dead and the New Middle East Peres wrote about so hopefully more than two decades ago — a place with a Palestinian state next to an Israeli one, open borders and regional economic cooperation — seems today like a tasteless joke.

Peres’ replacement is Reuven Rivlin, a nationalist who believes that Palestinians and Israelis should live together in one state, but with not-quite equal rights for Palestinians. It is grimly symbolic that the passing from public life of the country’s most venerable public figure, the man for whom a peace center in Jaffa is named, should be completely overshadowed by Israel’s third military assault against the Palestinians of Gaza in less than six years. And yet, though these assaults can feel a bit like a macabre version of Groundhog Day, this time is different and more disturbing than the last. It is cause for grave concern.

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