This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," August 12, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL AYALON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: As the state of I
srael took upon itself this excruciatingly painful step and process, we expect the same from the Palestinians. It will not be easy for them, but they also should take the necessary steps to make the necessary revolution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILSON, GUEST HOST: Well, that is Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, speaking Friday in Washington. The Israeli government is on the verge of withdrawing from Gaza (search), a move that has many Israelis up in arms.
On the other side of the equation, some Palestinian elements are still calling for continued attacks against Israel. To help us sort it all out, we are joined by former special envoy to the Middle East (search), Ambassador Dennis Ross, whose book, "The Missing Peace," has just come out in paperback.
Ambassador Ross, good to have you here. We just heard Daniel Ayalon talking about the sacrifices that have been made by Israel. It seems, for Ariel Sharon (search), he’s got a few tough days ahead of him.
DENNIS ROSS, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST: Well, he faces a reality where large numbers of settlers will have to be forcibly evicted. My guess is that at least 40 percent of those who live there will require the army to carry them out, as it were.
And my guess is there’s 2,000 to 3,000 additional people from the outside who have infiltrated into Gaza, so it adds to those who will have to be pulled out.
WILSON: All right. Now, at the same time you wonder what’s going on, on the Palestinian side. Listen to what Mahmoud Abbas had to say recently. Take a look at the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN LEADER: Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem. From here, from this place, our nation and our masses are walking towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILSON: That doesn’t seem like it would be too helpful to the situation there.
ROSS: Well, we have a reality where each side is focused on their own internal needs. In the case of Sharon, you get it very clearly. He is taking on his own political base. The settler movement, the settler core, they were the backbone of his party.
And right now, when you look at Bibi Netanyahu (search) having pulled out of his cabinet, it’s a reminder that his own party is quite split. The people who’ve always been his strongest supporters now look at him as a betrayer, and he’s focused on, how does he manager this in a way that is good for Israel and also good for him?
Then you take a look at Mahmoud Abbas (search), Abu Mazen. And Hamas is the one trying to take credit for this, saying, "Look, our violence is the one that forced him out. Follow our way." And he is trying to say, "No, look, I’ve adopted a posture of nonviolence, and my way leads us not only from Gaza — this isn’t the end of the road, it’s the beginning of the road."
WILSON: So what you have there, is you have Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas looking after their own interest and not looking long-term down the road?
ROSS: Each is focused on what they need, not on what they might do to be able to help the other. Now, in Sharon’s case, he’s taking a very hard step. This is a guy who is pulling out of the various settlements that he helped to create. So this is a revolution for him.
On the Palestinian side, there is an amazing opportunity for them, if you think about it that way. If, in fact, they’re able to demonstrate that they can manage Gaza, they can show that they can govern, they fulfill their obligations, including their security obligations, then they have a model. And they can say, "Look, we did it in Gaza. If we can do it in Gaza, why not the West Bank?"
Now, if they don’t do it Gaza, then, tell me, who around the world is going to say, "Gee, there’s a model of chaos and violence in Gaza. Let’s take that model and apply it to the West Bank."
WILSON: It seems that these things are so tenuous and so tentative and hanging together just by a thread that it could just still come apart at any moment.
ROSS: I believe that we will see this unfold in a relatively smooth way.
ROSS: Yes. I think that the mood on the part of the settlers is a very tough one, but they’re against violence. They realize if there’s violence, it discredits them within Israel. They want to raise the emotional costs of being evicted from Gaza, so it doesn’t establish a precedent for the West Bank.
On the Palestinian side, they understand that the whole world is watching them. Now if the day after Israelis get out, it’s looting and it looks like Baghdad, that’s going to reflect very badly on them. If two months after, they haven’t been able to pull their act together, again, who is going to go to bat for them and say, "Gee, let’s work for developing this and pushing this on the West Bank"?
WILSON: Why has Mahmoud Abbas had such a difficult time getting a handle on things in Gaza?
ROSS: First, his own faction, or party, movement, Fatah, is split into four different groups. He has to contend with the fact that they’re divided among each other. And he has to try to cement that to overcome the difference.
On the other hand, he’s facing the challenge from Hamas, because Hamas believes that, in fact, the Israeli departure from Gaza creates a great opportunity for them to become the dominant force within Gaza.
And to understand Mahmoud Abbas, one of the problems has been that he tends to operate on the basis of consensus. Now, when he operates on the basis of consensus, it means he allows his opponents to define the ground rules. He has to change and become much more decisive, in terms of pressing ahead on an agenda that is against violence, promotes calm, and demonstrates ultimately that the Palestinian Authority will be what he says, one authority, one gun, one law.
WILSON: We have made the point that Ariel Sharon has problems within his own party, and, of course, the thing with Netanyahu is a problem for him. What about the Israel people in general? Are they largely supportive of what’s going on there?
ROSS: I believe that the majority of the Israeli public is supportive of what’s going on there. For the most part, they looked at Gaza and said, "8,000 settlers, 1.3 million Palestinians (search), what do we need it for?" They understood that it wasn’t the place they wanted to be, and they basically felt it made sense to do it.
The question mark that I think Netanyahu and others have been raising is, "But when you get out unilaterally, and you don’t get anything for it from the other side, doesn’t this convince those who engage in terror that they gained by carrying out violence?"
WILSON: Very quickly, just a few seconds left, what’s the most critical thing to watch in the next few critical days?
ROSS: I think the critical thing is going to — there’s really two: A.) Do the settlers, in fact, go along, making it hard, but nonetheless, they acquiesce in it? And, B.) do the Palestinians get their act together enough to ensure that there is no violence from Palestinians against the Israelis as they get out?
WILSON: Dennis Ross, thank you so much. Good to have you.
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