Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna is promising that if he forms the next government, no matter how many members of Knesset are in his coalition, and even if he has to rely on what's called "a non-Jewish majority," one of the first decisions of the new government would be to pull Israel out of Gaza. Mitzna said there is no need to wait for negotiations to evacuate all the settlements. Nor does he need the approval of Yasser Arafat, Hosni Mubarak, or even George W. Bush.

Less than a day before the Labor voters go to the primaries polls, the leading candidate presented a detailed version of his working plan's principles:

l A total evacuation from Gaza, without delay

l An immediate call on the Palestinian leadership to resume peace negotiations, on the basis of the previous progress in the earlier stages of the negotiations, in the spirit of the Nussibeh-Ayalon agreement and the principles in the plan presented by Benjamin Ben-Eliezer

l If an agreement is not reached with the Palestinians, at the end of a year security borders will be established in the West Bank. No Jewish settlement will remain on the eastern side of that border and the large settlement blocs will be on the western side of the border

l Arrangements will be made in Jerusalem to make sure a majority of the Palestinian population will not be under Israeli control

Mitzna says he is not afraid that settlers will violently object to evacuation. "They are serious people with values and I am convinced they will accept the decision of any lawfully elected Israeli government," he says. He prefers the permanent borders be set with a Palestinian leadership ready for compromise, but immediately adds, "If it becomes apparent they are not ready [for compromise], as the people responsible for the security of the State of Israel, we will determine the security border. The political border will wait until there's someone to talk to."

Mitzna emphasizes he is aware that when the separation fence now under construction is completed it will not be easy to move. That's one of the reasons he attaches great importance to the renewal of the diplomatic process. Another reason, he says, is "We need the Egyptians, Jordanians, Americans and Europeans as partners and have to give them the chance to renew the peace process."

He hopes the Palestinians at the negotiating table understand that the fence won't wait and time is not on their side. Israel, he says, cannot allow itself to wait. "Without separation from the Palestinians, there's no way to deal with the social and economic problems," says the reserve major general. "Without internal resolve, none of the fighter jets and submarines will be of any help to us." He says that on the many campaign trips he's taken, meeting the unemployed, they also understand the connection between their sorry state and the sorry state of national affairs.

Yesterday, a day before the voting in the Labor Party, Mitzna was behaving like someone with victory in his pocket, but at the last minute, Ben-Eliezer could yet pickpocket the party leadership from him. The polls, however, calm Mitzna, and so do the activists in the field.

The assessment that Fuad's people will surge to the polls while his people stay behind almost amuses him. The thousands of new Labor Party members he brought to the party signed up to make sure he is elected chairman, and maybe prime minister.

On the way to the Prime Minster's Office, Mitzna will have to leave behind the police investigation into the donation trick tried by a Likud activist in Haifa. The latest lowdown is the police are saving their recommendations to after the primaries, lest they be accused of intervening in the polls.

Mitzna's next challenge will be to get past the land mine of the primaries for party nominees for the Knesset. That will be his first test opposite Ben-Eliezer, who will try to compensate his frustrated supporters with more or less realistic positions on the list. Threats by Yossi Beilin and Avraham Burg to quit the party if the primaries are canceled don't frighten Ben-Eliezer. On the contrary. That would make it easier for his camp to make an assault on the party leadership if Mitzna is not elected prime minister.

Haim Ramon is also thinking about the party list. He believes that sticking to the race to the end is good for his position on the list and his stature in the party. But according to the polls and, for example, Ephraim Sneh's experience, Ramon may be miscalculating. Sneh won 5 percent of the vote when he ran against Ehud Barak. It didn't help his position on the list or his position in the party.

Beyond the blood and pain

It's been five weeks since an Israeli soldier shot Shadeen Abu Hijla to death while she sat on her porch, embroidering. The investigation is still underway, says the IDF. Last Thursday, this column carried a few lines from an e-mail message sent by her daughter, Lena, to people who had sent their condolences to the family. She wrote at the time that she hoped her mother would not turn into another number on the list of the victims of the violent conflict.

That same week Avi Ohayon buried his two little sons, Matan and Noam, and their mother, Revital. They and Yitzhak Dori and Tirzah Damari from Kibbutz Metzer were added to the list of victims. Following the attack at Metzer, Lena wrote a short e-mail message. "I just wanted to tell you that I felt the fear of Revital Ohayon and her two sons as she was trying to protect them. I feel the pain of the husband and father when he buried them. Let me be honest with you, I am surprised with myself that I have no hatred, the way I thought I would. I have no feelings of revenge in the instinctive sense I thought I would. I looked for these feelings inside me, after the shock receded, the terrible sadness settled and the vacuum of my mother's loss filled my heart, but I couldn't find them.

"So please, on my behalf, tell the families of all the innocent victims, despite everything, some of us can still see through the blood and pain and look for good souls. For I am a mother of three girls myself and couldn't imagine having to go through such a moment of total helplessness in protecting my own. Just like I cannot imagine what my father must have felt, as a husband and a doctor, when he couldn't do anything to save my mother, the love of his life.

"I wish with all my heart we could turn the clocks back, change history, wipe all pain and bring our beloved ones back. But we cannot. What we can do is work together to stop it from happening again. That I came to believe in. I have to differentiate between the innocent and the criminals and I have to work hard at it. It has nothing to do with which

side you are on. It has to do with how you deal with the issues, do we make the rift deeper by causing more pain to the innocent, or do we close the gap by punishing the guilty and bringing justice to all. Let us hope for justice for all, for without it we are doomed."