The Israeli military’s massive June 28 ground and air assault on the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for a raid by armed Palestinian groups in which one Israeli soldier was captured and two others killed, again highlights the urgency of a political settlement guarantee-ing an independent, viable Palestinian state.

The Israeli government had earlier closed the border crossings with Gaza, preventing entry of food, fuel and other necessities. Israeli government leaders were also said to be considering cutting off electricity and water.

In exchange for freeing 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit, his captors called for the release of women and minors among the thousands of political prisoners now held in Israeli jails, a demand Israel summarily dismissed.

“We should remember that in the Gaza Strip, as in other parts of the Palestinian territories, thousands of families await the return of their loved ones from the Israeli prisons and detention camps, just as fervently as the family of the captive Corporal Gilad Shalit prays for his safe return,” the Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom said June 27. Gush Shalom pointed out that when Israel left the Gaza Strip last year, it nonetheless continued to hold all Palestinian prisoners from the area — a decision the peace organization called “a severe mistake.”

The latest military actions come in the context of repeated Israeli air attacks on the Gaza Strip that have killed innocent civilians. Most notorious was the mid-June slaughter of nine innocent civilians. Another air raid last week killed three children.

The actions also come amid reports that leaders of Palestinian political groups have reached agreement based on the so-called Prisoners’ Document, which could lead to a united approach to negotiations with Israel for establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

If it is truly interested in lasting peace and stability in the Middle East, Washington could use the leverage of its vast aid to bring Israel to the bargaining table to work out a two-state solution according to United Nations resolutions passed over many years.