Now that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has taken steps to reign in terrorism, Israel is responding.

In Israel’s most significant response yet to new Palestinian policies against violence, Israel ordered its army on Friday to stop offensive operations in the Gaza Strip and scale them back sharply in the West Bank.

The army was ordered to stop arresting or killing wanted Palestinian militants unless they presented an immediate threat to Israeli lives, to lift an unspecified number of roadblocks in the West Bank to ease movement and to reopen all three crossings into the Gaza Strip.

Of course, moves like this don’t garner the headlines like bloodshed, but the impact will resonate for years. Historians may point to these gestures as the beginning to lasting peace in the Middle East.

It’s becoming clearer by the day that Yasser Arafat was a charlatan. Abbas has been on the job for less than a month and concrete results have already appeared. Arafat always held the power to curb Palestinian terrorism, but he chose not to. It served his purpose for the intifada to continue. What a sick man.

Bush chose to ostracize Arafat because he saw him for the obstruction to peace that he was. This policy wasn’t appreciated by many pundits. Here’s a column in USA Today that summed up how many in the media felt about Bush’s exclusion of Arafat:

If Bush seriously wants to end the carnage that has taken the lives of scores of Israelis and Palestinians in the past 18 months and has destabilized the Middle East for half a century, he’s got to talk to Arafat as well as Sharon.

And then there’s the French President. Here’s what Jacques Chirac said in June about Bush’s policy:

It is unwise if we want to achieve peace to isolate him. Arafat is the legitimate and elected official of Palestine, so he is the person we talk to.

On the contrary, isolating Arafat (through his death) appears to be the only wise way to achieve peace.