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Israel says it will resume settlement building

Analysis: What Netanyahu and Abbas can learn from Monty Python's "Life of Brian."

And if anyone in Washington dares to insist that Israel as a key regional ally work harder to help the United States, the hardliners in the Netanyahu cabinet send back a pretty clear message that they’re not willing to do that, not for President Barack Obama.

If we put similar pressure on the Palestinians we are seen as favoring Israel and the Palestinians pound the table and insist they’re being victimized yet again by what they see as Zionist sympathizers in America. Whenever Americans try to point out that the United States has tried to help with peace, it doesn’t take long for a petulant “Reg”-like character from either the Israeli cabinet or the Palestinian leadership to shout out, “Oh, peace — shut up!”

Leaders on both sides are so locked in the domestic politics of the peace process and pulled to the right by extremists that the silent majority on both sides who favor a two-state solution are continually thwarted from achieving it.

For those of us who have watched this drama unfold through the years, it is far too easy to get cynical about the prospects for peace. Observers and pundits have to be careful not to lose hope, even if the process often seems laughably hopeless given the characters involved on both sides.

Unfortunately, the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is not an absurd comedy, but a very real tragedy playing out right before our eyes. And it is a tragedy that once again teeters on violence as the collapse of talks almost always leads to a new explosion of violence. And the cycle goes on and on.

In making the reference to the “Life of Brian,” this observer doesn’t intend to make light of the suffering and the killing and the indignity that both sides have endured. I’ve seen too much of it to ever make light of it.

But sometimes comedy is a means for self-reflection. So I would strongly recommend that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gather their peoples together with a DVD projector and show the movie on one of the concrete barriers that separate the sides, a kind of Holy Land version of a drive-in. Settle in with some popcorn, have a laugh and then start to get real about the serious business of peace.

The Obama administration, having suffered a stunning political defeat in losing the House to Republicans, is likely to turn its attention toward foreign policy, which could be good for the peace process. Just as President Bill Clinton did, Obama will inevitably try to make his mark by forging a historic and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. It is always worth the effort no matter how absurd and futile it all sometimes seems.

After all, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” as the saying goes from the Sermon on the Mount.

In “Life of Brian,” the crowd gathers around to listen to that sermon and, struggling to hear, at least one man doesn’t quite get the message right.

Spectator: I think it was “Blessed are the cheese makers.”

Woman: Aha, what’s so special about the cheese makers?

Husband: Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturer of dairy products.