The war in Iraq can dominate media coverage of the Middle East, which may be why some interesting developments in the Arab-Israeli conflict have have gone somewhat unnoticed.
Israel confirmed that a truce with Hamas would begin on Thursday. How long this fragile cease-fire will last (there was considerable violence between Palestinians and the Israeli Army today) is anyone's guess, but any cease-fire in war-torn Gaza is surely welcome.
Another encouraging sign is that Israel is reaching out to Lebanon, urging them to open peace talks:
Israel offered on Wednesday to start direct peace talks with Lebanon, saying all issues would be negotiable, including a tiny piece of Israeli-held land on the countries' border that Israel has long argued does not belong to Lebanon but that the Lebanese say is theirs.
Israel has also renewed contacts with Syria, the talks mediated by Turkey, and there is the potential for a high-level contact next month between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad when they are both in Paris:
France's top presidential aide says the leaders of Israel and Syria could meet next month in Paris.
Claude Gueant says Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recommended that he and Syrian President Bashar Assad hold "direct contacts" at a July 13 summit.
The chief of staff for President Nicolas Sarkozy told Europe-1 radio Wednesday that both Olmert and Assad are to attend the summit of the Mediterranean Union. He said he didn't know whether Assad would stay for a Bastille Day military parade a day later.
None of this is to say that lasting progress has been made, but building blocks for long-term improvement in relations are being laid. Whether or not those those blocks crumble remains to be seen.