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Special Report

What's the Impact of Gaza on Israelis and Palestinians?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," August 18, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It is either oil or gasoline that they were pouring before onto these SWAT team units. What is interesting, I’m being told, that those blue SWAT team outfits, they’re zip-up jumpsuits, they are nonflammable. So there is no chance that they will catch fire. They were prepared for this situation, and, boy, the settlers are giving them a good fight, though.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, GUEST HOST: Thursday’s compelling live pictures from Gaza showed what had to be the most difficult day yet for Jewish settlers and the Israeli troops who forced them out. But as the pullout continues, what lies ahead for Israel and the Palestinians?

Former Ambassador Dennis Ross was the point man for the U.S. and Middle East negotiations in the Bush I and Clinton administrations and is a FOX News foreign affair analyst. He joins us now from San Francisco.

Dennis, what do you make of the events Thursday at that synagogue and across Gaza?

DENNIS ROSS, FORMER MIDEAST ENVOY: I think we have to look at it from two standpoints. Standpoint number one is really from the view of the settlers who are trying to raise the costs emotionally of having to evict them, not because they expect to be able to prevent the eviction, but because they don’t want this to be a precedent for the future. They don’t want it to be a precedent that is then applied to the West Bank.

Standpoint number two is how Israel as a country and a state ruled by law is going to carry out those laws, even when it’s painful to do it. A lot of the soldiers as you take a look at them, they’re not much older than the very settlers that they’re being forced to evict.

They’re having to deal with a lot of verbal abuse and some not-so- verbal abuse. And yet, they’ll do their duty. They’ll carry it out. And it sends a very interesting message, I think, to the Palestinians.

There comes a point when you have to do things that are not going to be easy for you, when you’re going to have to take on those within your midst who don’t accept what you’re doing, and may not accept coexistence. But if you want coexistence, you’ll have to take what are difficult steps for you. And that’s what they’re seeing today from the Israelis.

WALLACE: Dennis, let me pick you up on the first part of your answer. What impact do you think those dramatic scenes are having on the Israeli public and on Israeli politics?

ROSS: On the Israeli public, I think there’s probably a lot of pride in their soldiers, who are prepared to go and endure this because, in fact, the state made this decision and it’s going to be ruled by laws and not by emotions.

On the other hand, I think there’s also a lot of emotional reaction to this. It’s not easy to watch. Even those Israelis who have never been fans of the settler movement will see this, and they themselves will say, "We’ve done something enormously difficult. We’ve done something enormously painful, and we deserve a chance to absorb this," number one.

Number two, politically — in answer to your question, Chris — number two, politically, a lot is going to ride on what happens, not so much during the next couple of weeks, but over the next couple of months.

The truth is that Prime Minister Sharon has bet his political future on this working out. If there’s calm over the next couple of months, then, in fact, he will look like he made a decision that was vindicated. If there’s not calm over the next couple of months, a lot of people are going to ask the question, "We went through this very painful process, and what did we gain? Nothing’s changed."

And I think what you’re going to see is that the center in Israel begins to move to the right, if there’s no calm. The right in Israel will move to the center if there is.

WALLACE: I was going to pick you up on that. What needs to happen next? What should we be looking for, the reaction from the Palestinians?

ROSS: Yes. Very much so. In an ironic way, Prime Minister Sharon, who made a unilateral decision, now finds that his own political well-being is going to be determined very heavily by the success of Abu Mazen.

If Abu Mazen is, in fact, capable of governing in Gaza, if Abu Mazen is capable of preserving calm and ensuring that, in fact, we don’t see Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others carrying out attacks against the Israelis, perhaps in the West Bank to begin, then, in fact, we’re going to see that a lot is possible.

This is a real opportunity for the Palestinians to prove to the world and to the Israeli public that they can be a partner, that they can govern themselves, that they can assume responsibilities and fulfill them. But Abu Mazen, in fact, is going to have to be more decisive and he’s going to have to act against those, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, that might, in fact, decide that they’re going to carry out continuing resistance, as they call it, continuing violence. Hamas has already declared they will not surrender their weapons and they will continue with resistance. Whether that’s the case will have a huge effect on what happens within Israel.

WALLACE: And, Dennis, we should point out that Abu Mazen is also known as Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader. Is there any reason, given his experience so far since Arafat’s death, to have any optimism that he can handle either the security or the nation-building side of what he now faces?

ROSS: Well, certainly, over the first several months of his being the new leader, he has chosen a policy of co-optation not confrontation with Hamas and others because he doesn’t feel strong enough. The only thing I would say is that Palestinians seem to get that the whole world is watching them right now, number one.

And number two; in his speeches in the last couple of weeks, he has really stepped up what it is he is saying. Now, the problem is, he’s saying the sorts of things that emphasize that there can only be one authority, one law, one gun, and that there’s no justification for anyone to hold weapons in Gaza, outside of the Palestinian Authority, after Israel is out.

Hamas is saying they’re not going to give up their weapons, they’re not going to give up resistance, and in effect, Abu Mazen is in a position where he’s going to face challenges, I believe, relatively soon. I believe there’s a consensus among Palestinians to let the disengagement work out. Once it’s done, however, then we’ll be watching to see whether or not there are challenges to Abu Mazen and how he handles them.

WALLACE: We’ve got about 20 seconds left. What does the U.S. need to do now to help this process along?

ROSS: More than anything else, looking to the future, I think that we have to help build Abu Mazen’s authority by being the spearhead behind assistance from the outside. There have been pledges of enormous amounts of assistance; almost none of it has materialized. If he can show that life is getting better, people are going back to work, greater freedom of movement, he’ll be better off.

WALLACE: Dennis, we’ve got to go. Thank you so much, as always.

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