The Next Political Move

Only if it becomes obvious that there is no representative Palestinian partner for peace negotiations, or it is impossible to reach agreements, Israel will decide on a large one-time unilateral withdrawal.

The Hamas victory requires Israel to maneuver while facing a party that until now has been an ideological opponent to the Palestinian establishment, with which we have had an ongoing dialogue that has included achievements, disappointments and frustrations.

Our goals in the diplomatic and security spheres have not changed, of course, with the Hamas victory. The ultimate goal in the coming Knesset's term is partition of the land and an end to the occupation. The second goal is an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement on the basis of two states for two peoples, which would necessarily lead to recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, recognition of Jerusalem as its capital, recognition of Israel's permanent borders, a solution to the refugee problem without the "right of return" to Israel, and an end to the mutual claims made by each side. All these principles are found in the Geneva Accords of 2003.

A third goal is guaranteeing a situation in which the Palestinian state will maintain democracy and stability and prevent any attempt to harm Israel. A fourth goal is cooperation in defense, economics and culture with the Palestinian state that is established.

To try to fulfill these goals, the Israeli government will have to call on the Palestinian side right after the election to renew the negotiations that Israel's government halted in early 2001. Those negotiations should be held in parallel with the mutual implementation of the first stage of the road map, and not conditioned on its implementation. It could end with a permanent agreement while examining the possibility of first reaching an interim agreement, which would enable the establishment of a Palestinian state in borders that would be provisional for a short and defined period of time.

Since 1993, it has been the PLO with which Israel has signed all agreements. Israel will respect any other proposal made by the PLO chairman, who is also the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, with regard to which body should negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people, as long as it has the authority to bring the results of the negotiations to a national decision that obligates the Palestinian people.

Only if it becomes obvious that there is no representative Palestinian partner for peace negotiations, or it is impossible to reach agreements, Israel will decide on a large one-time unilateral withdrawal. Such a withdrawal would enable the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state but would not be a return to the 1967 borders, and it would leave open the possibility of conducting peace negotiations at a later stage. The withdrawal would take place in the context of an effort to seek maximum direct cooperation with the Palestinian side, or via international parties that would help both in that move and with a presence in the Palestinian territory afterward.

The unilateral solution is dangerous for security, grants achievements to the Palestinian elements that do not want to recognize Israel, leaves key questions open (Jerusalem, the refugees), and prevents international recognition of the Israeli capital and the state's borders, so we will have to take the step only if there is no other alternative.

As for Hamas, the mere fact of holding meetings with a Hamas leader - if they are interested in holding one - need not be accompanied by preconditions. On the other hand, political negotiation with Hamas requires its rejection of terrorism and readiness to reach a solution based on the two states for two nations' principle. As long as there is an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on the matter of the customs envelope, otherwise known as the Paris Agreement, Israel cannot ignore its obligation to transfer the taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians for the Palestinian Authority. This is not Israel's money and it is not allowed to delay it, unless it abrogates the treaty.

The world's recognition of Hamas' transformation into a dominant element in the Palestinian Authority's executive must be conditioned on the organization's recognition of Israel, its rejection of terror and its commitment to signed agreements between the sides. It would be legitimate if the international community were to use economic leverage to press for the fulfillment of these conditions by the organization, which until now has presented terror as a legitimate means to achieve its goals and remains committed to the three "no"s of Khartoum from 1967: no to recognition of Israel, no to negotiations with it, and of course, no to peace.