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Special Report

Israel's Gamble for Peace with Palestinians

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," August 16, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. ET

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What will happen here, I can’t tel l you. Everybody will in his home decide what he’s going to do. But I’m sure that the activists from all sides will do as much as they can to stop the police of the government from doing their evil acts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ANGLE, CO-HOST: Evil acts, he calls it. It is an historic gamble for peace. Israel made the painfully difficult decision to force its settlers to leave Gaza and a few places in the West Bank in a move it hopes will lead to peace with the Palestinians. But there are plenty of skeptics and critics.

For a closer look, we’re honored to have Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us.

DANIEL AYALON, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Good to be here, Jim.

ANGLE: Now, how does the Israeli government anticipate that this will lead to peace with the Palestinians?

AYALON: Well, simply, it gives an opportunity, a great opportunity, and a great challenge for the Palestinians as we move out of Gaza. And the objective is to have Gaza free and open, to have a prosperous, but most important to have it secure. And it’s up to the Palestinians now to make it a showcase of fighting terror in a sustainable way, of showing results, of good governance, and then we can move on with a roadmap to peace.

ANGLE: Now, what is the understanding with the Palestinian Authority? What have they said to you that they will do once you have vacated Gaza?

AYALON: Well, nominally, they are committed to the roadmap to peace. And we, of course, very much support that, what that entails. And this is important, Jim, to remember, this is not just an Israeli expectation or an international community demand for the Palestinians to dismantle the terror organizations. It’s an obligation that they entered, too. This is what prescribes the phase one of the roadmap.

So we would need to see a really dismantling of the terror infrastructure. Otherwise, it’s just a ticking bomb. We have now a relatively calm period where Hamas is lowering the flames. But Hamas is rearming, retraining, recruiting. And it is a danger where it can explode whenever they find fit for their own strategic goals.

So it has to be a persistent campaign against the terror, fight against terror by the Palestinian Authority, dismantling the infrastructure, arresting, collecting the illegal arms, outlawing all those — of course, stopping the flow of funds or at least fighting it.

And if this is all done, then we can really move ahead. I think it’s not just a security problem for Israel; it’s a challenge for the Palestinian Authority. And they have to really put the authority in the Palestinian Authority, that is one authority, rule of law, and one gun, without all those terror organizations and fractions brazenly walking in the streets over there.

ANGLE: Now, former Prime Minister Netanyahu says Gaza is destined to become a terrorist base and that this whole move will really be a disaster for Israel. What makes you and the government think otherwise?

What assurances do you have from the Palestinians? I know what your hopes are. But what assurances do you have that they will not allow terrorists to take root in Gaza once they have taken over the former Israeli settlements?

AYALON: Well, I would say the assurance is in the commitment and obligations of the roadmap and the challenge for the Palestinians. Of course, it’s not risk free.

But I think we can very well protect ourselves from the positions that the IDF will be after the redeployment. In many ways, the IDF will be free of really protecting civilians. And it was really untenable situation, where you have 8,500 Israelis surrounded by 1.1 million hostile Palestinians.

So, in a way, for the army deployment, it will be easier to tackle whatever contingencies. And if terror will pursue or continue from Gaza, we know how to deal with it. I hope this will not be the case.

ANGLE: Well, many argue that this was, in fact, a demographic necessity, as well as a gesture toward peace.

AYALON: Also, right. Here it is important to remember it was a sovereign, independent Israeli decision. Nobody forced us. Nobody pushed us. It was the realization that this is good for Israel economically, from security-wise, internationally. And at the same time, offer a real opportunity for a real change in the region and with the Palestinians.

ANGLE: As we look forward, how have things changed since Arafat’s death?

AYALON: Oh, they have changed. We see different efforts. We see different policies by Abu Mazen. And we see Abu Mazen as a partner, and we want to continue with him as a partner. He has been elected in an overwhelming way, 63 percent.

He introduced the end, or at least he called for the end of violence. He understands that violence did not serve the Palestinians’ interest, quite the contrary. And recent polls I saw just today, the majority of Palestinians back him up in that. So I think he has the authority, he has the mandate of the people, he has the means, he has the people to really assert the authority and fight the terror.

ANGLE: But he also has to control more radical elements, including Hamas.

AYALON: Absolutely. But he has demanded from the people, he has the backing from the people, and he has also the tools to do it. There are 60,000 police force on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority. So, certainly, they can employ some, if not all, of them on the streets against Hamas.

ANGLE: We understand that U.S. officials are visiting there for the first time in quite some time, talking to Palestinian officials. What is your understanding of what they’re doing?

AYALON: Well, of course, we very much appreciate and welcome the American activity in the region. I think, without the United States, the whole disengagement issue could not have been come into reality. The U.S. was quick to support it, and we very much appreciate it.

ANGLE: Ambassador Ayalon, thank you very much for joining us, sir.

AYALON: Thank you.

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