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The central theme of current issue of the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ) - the impact of the Lebanon war on the future of Hamas and Kadima - was the topic of a roundtable discussion held at the American Colony Hotel on Wednesday, August 30, 2006. The participants were: Dr. Bernard Sabella, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC); Menachem Klein, professor of political science at Bar Ilan University; Naomi Chazan, professor of political science at the Hebrew University and former deputy speaker of the Knesset; Mustafa Abu Sway, professor of philosophy and Islamic studies at Al-Quds University. The moderators were: Galia Golan, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya and member of PIJ editorial board; Khuloud Khayyat Dajani, professor of social medicine at al-Quds University and member of the PIJ editorial board; Khaled Abu Aker, journalist and member of the PIJ editorial board.

Galia Golan: The idea of this issue was to look at Palestinian and Israeli society after the elections of Kadima and Hamas, but since the war intervened, we want the focus more on the impact of the war on both societies and, especially, where the leaderships of Hamas and Kadima stand right now, and then take a look at the future.

Khaled Abu Aker: We can start with the Israeli side.

Menachem Klein: There are many similarities in my view between the two societies, the Israeli and the Palestinian, also between the two political fields. There are also differences; for example, many Israelis concluded from the war that Israel is weak. As far as I read, the same conclusion is also popular in Palestine. On the other hand, some Israelis concluded that we have to finish the job. We have to go with massive force, either to a second round in Lebanon, or into the Palestinian territories. Using more force is also a lesson that some Palestinians concluded -the Katyusha is the answer. On the other hand, the debate goes: is force the solution, or is the political process the solution to end the occupation? The Palestinians are dying on a daily basis and nobody cares. So how do we push forward world public opinion to care about the Palestinian situation? Is it by using Katyushas as Hizbullah did, or though a national unity government, the prisoners' document, a political initiative? So the dilemmas are very similar.

Khaled Abu Aker: When we talk about the Israeli society, is there now a growing awareness of a need to reach a political agreement with the Palestinians so the Lebanon experience will not be repeated in Gaza?

Khuloud Dajani: The main question is: How did the war in Lebanon affect the psychology of both communities? Did it bring us closer to peace or did it widen the gap between us? Within the peace camp, it confirmed the belief that the use of force does not help either party achieve any fruitful objectives, and that what is needed are negotiations and non-violent means to reach peace and conciliation. Outside the peace camp, a controversy exists regarding who won, but at the same time a there is a consensus that both adversaries lost in terms of human loss and property destruction. Furthermore, it confirmed the idea that peace is still unattainable.

Menachem Klein: The only one conclusion that Israelis have reached is that unilateralism is over. Unilateralism leads to Qassam rockets from Gaza and Katyushas from Lebanon. So what next? Very few believe in the political process. The vast majority think that there is no Palestinian partner - there is an axis of evil between Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, so the solution is more force. I was among the very few Israelis who wrote about the changes in Hamas. It took a long time for Haaretz to agree to publish the article. Very few in Israel really see what's going on inside Hamas. So for the vast majority of Israelis, definitely for the Israeli establishment, all the religious leaders are the same; all of them are extremists, fundamentalists, and we have to fight.

Galia Golan: Maybe we can ask Professor Abu Sway if that's an accurate picture. How do you see Hamas after Lebanon?

Mustafa Abu Sway: I definitely do not see the similarities between the Israelis and the Palestinians - I saw similarities between the Lebanese and the Palestinians. What took place in Palestine on a mini scale was simply done on a large scale in Lebanon. Is it a pathological remnant of past experiences that have nothing to do with us? The use of brute force and, of course, war crimes? I don't see any Palestinian government getting a good deal with Israel.

Khaled Abu Aker: Perhaps you can elaborate more on the effect of the war on Palestinian society, on the idea of resistance itself. Did the resistance of Hizbullah boost the morale of the Palestinian street?

Mustafa Abu Sway: It did, not only on the Palestinian street, but all over the Arab world and, in fact, Muslims worldwide saw that Hizbullah could stop Israel from achieving its goal of destroying Hizbullah or getting rid of their weapons. As in the case of the Americans in Iraq, the aims of the war changed very fast. Definitely the morale was boosted and they could see that the myth of Israel as a strong, invincible country is really nothing but a myth.

Khaled Abu Aker: So how does this reflect on Palestinian resistance, the Palestinian street?

Galia Golan: Do you think this will have a lasting effect?

Mustafa Abu Sway: I don't know whether this will have a lasting effect or not, but people now see that Israel is like any other country. Sometimes the use of such massive force is seen as a weakness. And one can also learn from this that force itself cannot solve problems. People, like Hizbullah, using a new generation of weapons shocked everybody. Today it seems that it is possible to infiltrate weapons everywhere. It proves that force as a response, even when massive, cannot deliver and people have to rethink the roots of the problem - the occupation, and Israeli expansionism.

Galia Golan: What do you think will be the effect on the Palestinian public?

Mustafa Abu Sway: Last week the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb at-Tahrir) held conferences in all major West Bank cities and they had massive attendance. That's new; it never took place before. They are not basically belligerent. Throughout their history- which is a little bit more than 50 years - they never engaged in any direct resistance to the occupation. Nevertheless, how can one interpret this interest in a different line which is basically redefining the map?

Khuloud Dajani: There is no doubt that the violence in Gaza and the war in Lebanon have left the Palestinians more embittered and more pessimistic about the future. After the death of Arafat, the Palestinians were looking for a leader to fill his place and many of them saw in Nasrallah that leader. They were very impressed with the resistance, the unity, the discipline, the training, and the resilience that Hizbullah showed during that bloody confrontation. The Palestinians were also impressed by Hizbullah's post-conflict social and health-care services provided to the Lebanese hurt by the violence.

Galia Golan: Professor Chazan, how about the impact on the Israeli scene?

Naomi Chazan: I think it really is an enormous topic. Let's state very clearly that this is a war that Israel did not win. I think there is a realization in Israel that it did not win. Many circles believe it lost the war. This goes back to many questions I'm not sure Israeli society is willing to address. The first: Why is the instinctive reaction to the abduction of soldiers to use military force? That goes back to a militaristic mindset which requires self-examination. Question number two is how did Israel make such a mess out of this effort? The mess expressed itself in several ways - politically in terms of the decision-making process; militarily in terms of the actual tactical, strategic as well as logistic elements; and socially in the fact that it transpires that the entire north of the country, and especially the destitute, disadvantaged groups in the north, including Palestinian Israelis, were the ones most hard hit and are still feeling the effect. The fourth element of what went wrong is diplomatic: Israel actually enjoyed a great deal of international understanding during the first 48 hours of the kidnapping of the soldiers, but totally misunderstood what the reaction to the bombing of Beirut would be. The fundamental issue is one of mindset. I don't think an adequate effort is being given to the fact that, conceptually, the whole unilateral notion is overlaid by real arrogance, and by a feeling that we can decide what is in our interest and we can implement it and the other side, whether it be the Palestinians or Lebanese, have to live with it. If this kind of attitude is not severely shaken in the aftermath of the war, then Israel is incapable of learning any lessons at all.

Khaled Abu Aker: Tell us about Kadima's retreat.

Naomi Chazan: Kadima came into office on a single-issue platform of unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, and within 33 days that platform has dissipated entirely. We now have a ruling party without a platform. And not only that, but its entire leadership is under investigation for its mishandling of the decision-making process and the conduct of the war. So Kadima might indeed prove to be a one-term party with no future whatsoever. But some of the possible alternatives are worse.

Galia Golan: Let's hear Dr. Sabella on the Palestinian side.

Khaled Abu Aker: In particular the political parties.

Bernard Sabella: I would agree with Naomi in the sense that the Palestinian perception has always been that whenever Israel is in trouble it relies on force. Palestinians have been facing a problem since February [2006]. We don't have funds, our economy is not working, our government is not working. So there were some moments of outspoken and clear identification with Hizbullah, with Hassan Nasrallah, with them being able to confront Israel militarily, but it was not "hallelujah, praise the Lord; now we are fine." In fact, when the war started, many Palestinians were worried that the Palestinian case was going to become number two rather than number one. What Mustafa said about the manifestation of the Islamic Liberation Party and what I heard about them calling for the return of the Caliphate is seen by many Palestinians as even going to the right of the right. In other words, Hamas would be center-right, and Fateh would be center and a little bit left. The Lebanon war may have exacerbated the political situation. We may be in more of an impasse than before. With Lebanon being the preoccupation of the Israelis and, to an extent, the Americans, now we are left in effect to fend for ourselves. There is a feeling that we came out weaker from this war politically and we have become much weaker on the international scene. It doesn't have to do with Hamas or Fateh; it could have been a Fateh government, or a coalition government. If we continue with this impasse and this weak position, then not only will the Palestinian Authority (PA) collapse, but we will have militias taking over. Some may argue that the stage is set for the right of Fateh to take over with the blessing of the Americans and others. I am not sure that on the street this will pass very easily, unless it is backed by a kind of a political solution that will tell people our economic situation will improve and the checkpoints will become easier. So you cannot judge the effects of the war without taking the overall context - which is very negative.

Khaled Abu Aker: By a solution you don't mean a process?

Bernard Sabella: No, a solution meaning a process that would take another 20 years? No.

Khuloud Dajani: There has been a lot of criticism of Hamas and Kadima; there has been a big shift in paradigms from that of peace to that of force and violence. Peace is becoming an implausible dream - it's even started having negative connotations.

Galia Golan: Menachem, can you address what we heard just a minute ago, the fact that the right wing was strengthened in both societies?

Menachem Klein: That came to mind while I was listening to Mustafa. Another similarity is that, while in Palestinian society the Islamic Liberation Party is becoming more popular than ever, in Israel the the anti-withdrawal, settlers camp, reconnected themselves to the State of Israel following the war. Last summer they were isolated, they were divorced from Israeli nationalism, from public opinion. Then with the war, with the failure of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israel army Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, they feel that once again they are in the game; they are getting more support; they have a role in Israeli nationalism, and they are once again connected with the mainstream. It's very similar because the hardcore of the settlers camp is religious, national religious, similar to the national religious camp in Palestine, not in methods but in basic beliefs. This can lead to another round of violence with the conclusion that only violence can bring us to achieve our national goals. Unfortunately, the camp on both sides that calls for a political process is very weak at the moment. I don't know how the future will look. Israel may seek another round. Some groups inside Palestine may try to emulate the lessons of Hizbullah's success in firing Katyusha rockets. I agree with you Mustafa. I don't see any Israeli government that can accept the prisoners' document or even the Clinton Parameters as a framework for a political process. But here civil society is called to take the lead. Citizens' diplomacy is needed in order to pave the way for a political process.

Mustafa Abu Sway: Hizb at-Tahrir has zero nationalistic components. Zero.

Menachem Klein: My point is not about the popularity, about the support.

Mustafa Abu Sway: The second point is that the Hizb at-Tahrir does not translate into violence. More than 50 years of existence with basically zero violence. But it shows that people are disenchanted. On the political scene, they see that Israel simply does not deliver. This is where I would differ from Dr. Khuloud. You cannot put Hamas and Kadima on the same level. There is no new reality for us who have been living under occupation throughout the years.

Khaled Abu Aker: Is it true, Dr. Abu Sway, that there is dissatisfaction in the Palestinian street with the way the government is dealing with the political situation?
Mustafa Abu Sway: You cannot say that this particular government could not deliver on its platform because of internal problems. For the Palestinian government, the cause is external. Israel's problem is also external. Is it really the Americans who were pulling the strings? Did Israel, for example, want to stop the war in Lebanon sooner, but the Americans insisted it continue? We want to know exactly who is leading whom - is it AIPAC?

Khuloud Dajani: In the Israeli street, you see disappointment with Kadima's performance; also in the Palestinian street, you see disappointment with Hamas's performance. People on both sides are getting disenchanted with their leaders and their parties. Both governments are unable to deliver the goods for different reasons but the results are the same - broken promises and no peace efforts.

Mustafa Abu Sway: Eighty-two percent of Israelis supported the war and this means, if you deduct the Arabs - the Israeli Palestinians - almost 100 percent of Israeli Jews were pro-war. When Palestinians demonstrate against the government, it's because it has failed to deliver.

Khaled Abu Aker: It's true. But our issue is Hamas and Kadima. If there were elections today, the Palestinian voters would vote differently, maybe for Hizb al-Tahrir. There would be a political change, so Dr. Sabella, concerning the dissatisfaction in the Palestinian street, was Hamas trapped by forming the government?

Bernard Sabella: I think the disappointment with the Hamas-led government is due to the fact that when they came to power, the majority of the people who voted for had great expectations - that they would improve the social-economic situation. Many people were happy with their tough position towards Israel because Israel taught us not to be too soft and, therefore, with a tough government we would be able to negotiate or go forward with Israel. The biggest disappointment was that the Hamas-led government has not been able to fulfill its social responsibility, its contract with its electorate. The reasoning behind this failure is that there is a political cost and Hamas is not willing to pay it. Likewise, when I look at the Israeli government, I see that they have done a big disservice to their electorate by going to war in Lebanon; they could have explored political processes. In the Palestinian case, Hamas has not been able to really transform its position from a party, from a movement, into a national government. Its problem was that it did not transform its program into one that is practical and pragmatic.
If there were new elections, I would say Hamas would still have its supporters and, while they might not get 75 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), I think they may well get 60-65 seats. The wishful thinking on the part of of us liberals, and what you call leftists, Fateh and whatever, that Hamas disappear is not going to happen. Hamas has become a political force. Certainly it will come out weaker from this experience, but it will not go away. Menachem, you mentioned civil society. I think with separation we have a serious problem. You will have less and less Palestinian intellectuals, academics, civil-society people who would be willing to work with you. I rarely go to Arab-Israeli encounters. There are people who think that we can play the same civil-society game that was played in the 1980s. We missed the boat. You are not going to change the realities of Palestinian political life. Not you, not I.

Galia Golan: Professor Chazan, I would like to go back to the Israeli political scene. You said Kadima is a one-issue party.

Naomi Chazan: First of all I want to make it very clear: the protests in Palestine and the protests in Israel are very different. The Palestinian protests express frustration with the situation that is deteriorating and that has no outlet. They do not have one direction; they have got a number of targets. And some of them aren't even antagonistic to Hamas; they are also antagonistic to those who are isolating Hamas and not allowing it to move. They are a long-term, maybe escalating type of political protests that are of a totally different order to what is happening in Israel. In Israel, the protests are entirely focused on very recent events. There are very clear people they are meant to target: the Prime Minster, the Minister of Defense, and the Chief of Staff - Olmert, Amir Peretz and Halutz. They are of a totally different order to the protests that developed after the 1973 war, which were broad-based. These are not gathering strength. I even see two protest movements in the meager protests that exist. The success of this type of protest usually lies in the capacity to bring an alternative. If there's no alternative it will dissipate.
I think Kadima was fragile from the beginning. Now it finds itself without a platform. It's going to invent a platform which is totally uninteresting to the people sitting around this table, and that is the rehabilitation of the Galilee. They can't agree on anything else. What is going to keep them in office, at least for the next few months, is the fact that the alternatives don't have enough power, or are so suspect themselves, that Kadima is going to be allowed to muddle through. The Israeli political system is in very severe difficulties and there are no clear answers to how to get out of them and how to start making certain kinds of governmental reforms. The question is: What will these people do with the little margin of time that one has in this kind of situation?
What can be done? We can start analyzing how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has changed as a result of the Lebanese war. I think that's a critical question and part of the answer to it has emerged. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been regionalized by the war. If before it was a bilateral affair, or a non-affair, today it has many regional elements, some that have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, except extremely indirectly. A second point is that the emphasis on Lebanon is diverting attention away from the Palestinian issue to the detriment of the latter. The question is how to bring it back to center stage? There may be a silver lining in that the process could be pushed forward taking into account the new elements. I just want to say two other things. Number one, it is a gross mistake to go back to the old language of Clinton and Oslo and Taba, etc.

Bernard Sabella: And it's not acceptable to both peoples.

Naomi Chazan: First and most importantly, if there is any chance to grab the moment politically in terms of a process, it seems to me you have to go for everything and that is a full, comprehensive, permanent-status negotiations now. It's all or nothing. I don't think there is going to be another opportunity. That is why Taba, or Clinton is not interesting. By the way, in Israel there's been an understanding, that this is true. Go for the whole package. Number two, you have to link it to the regional question because, if you don't, it's not going to fly. That's why I like the Arab initiative now. Because it does two things that are very important: it contextualizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it puts it in center stage.

Khaled Abu Aker: I don't know how far this is true, but after the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers there were reports of the existence of al-Qaeda elements in Gaza. Now there is also the Hizb al-Tahrir phenomenon; where are we heading with this issue? The failure of the Hamas government has created a feeling that it was a mistake for Hamas to go into politics. The success of Hizbullah is sending another message to the Palestinians: our rockets have succeeded in defeating Israel. And today there was a statement from Damascus by senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzuk saying that Hamas is considering adopting the Hizbullah model of resistance. What is this phenomenon of the Islamization of Palestinian society that is leading to more and more support for parties that previously had none.

Khuloud Dajani: I believe that the word to be used here is "radicalization" and not "Islamization" of Palestinian society because Islam is a religion of peace and not a religion of violence. Muslims need to dispel this stereotypical image that portrays their religion as one of war and not peace. This perception is due to the fact that Muslims mix religion with politics. Hamas as simultaneously a religious and a political party tends to confuse what is religious with what is political. This raises the question: Can Hamas be a partner to negotiations with the Israelis? Can religious Hamas allow political Hamas to negotiate a peace deal? The Prophet Mohammed had set an example when he made peace with Jews, but will Hamas follow that example?

Mustafa Abu Sway: It would be easier to answer if you define what is meant by "partner." It's a very difficult experience for the Palestinians to try to establish a government under occupation. Yasser Arafat was a non-partner and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is a non-partner, and nobody is really a partner. It's an absurd notion. I am trying to see why, for example, Dr. Sabella did not speak about the larger picture. He did not speak about the collective punishment against Palestinians - beginning with Canada. Why would Canada immediately declare a boycott on the Palestinians? Israel itself boycotted Yasser Arafat. Israel prevented Abu Mazen from moving around. We tend to think if we reduce the problem to the current government, we can understand the problem better. No. The claim that the biggest problem is the Hamas government is not true. The problem is accepting the Palestinians, not as partners, but as people under occupation with legitimate rights. We have lost our country; we have lost everything; we have no freedom of movement. For the last few weeks, there has been a very big question amongst the Palestinians about dismantling the PA, because they don't see where we are going. The ministers are in prison, the PLC members are in prison. Nobody, including the highest ranking Palestinian officials, can move from one place to the other without a permit. We are under occupation.

Khaled Abu Aker: What about this growing support for the idea of Islamization rather than for national issues?

Mustafa Abu Sway: I don't see any change. In 1996, two Norwegian sociologists carried out a study on Palestinian society and they found that three-quarters of the Palestinians supported an Islamic state. So in ten years nothing has changed. It is not as if we are talking about something out of the blue. There were Christians who cast their ballots for Hamas. There were people from Fateh, who were disenchanted and voted for Hamas. Let me talk about Islamization. It's not a new phenomenon. There were periods when people subscribed, say to the left, in the 1970s, not because of interest in Marxism, but because they thought it would bring liberation. At one point they found that this did not bring change. It has been claimed that if we run elections in all Arab countries now, the Islamists will win. It's not because of the occupation; there are deeper associations with Islam and one cannot reduce them to one line only.

Galia Golan: I would like to move towards a conclusion which we would like everybody to answer: Where we go from here? Professor Chazan speaks of regionalization of the conflict and therefore of the regionalization of the solution. There is a question whether there is a government in Israel that can do that, and I think the same question could be asked of Palestinian society: in which direction do you think the society and the government today in Palestine could go regarding the conflict with Israel?

Khaled Abu Aker: We need an analysis, not a political statement.

Galia Golan: We ask you to give an analytical answer, not necessarily what you want to see but what you think are the directions that are possible. We'll start with Dr. Klein.

Menachem Klein: Can Israel live with the current level of conflict between Israel and Palestine? Definitely the vast majority of Israelis will say: Yes, we can live with it. We have succeeded - with the wall, with the army, all kind of solutions - we can control the Palestinians. The cost for us is very limited. Rightly or wrongly, but this is the mood. I do not expect Labor or Kadima, even Meretz to agree to an Arab peace plan which gives up the Golan, with the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and Palestine. So if we cannot find a way out through the political system, we must go back to civil society, elite groups in both civil societies, and I agree with Naomi regarding the need to conclude a package deal, but a deal between the elite groups on both sides. Hamas must be part of these elite groups. If we build up citizens' diplomacy, as in the 1980s, we can show a way out and bypass the governments. I do not expect the governments to open negotiations, neither do I expect the third parties, Europe or the U.S. to intervene and mediate between Hamas and Israel. The boycott of Hamas is still enforced by European diplomats. So the only way out is by civil society which must confront the radicals, the groups that are in favor of using more force.

Naomi Chazan: Many Israelis, as Menachem said, are willing to live with the ongoing occupation. I think they are wrong. If Israel doesn't vigorously move to end the occupation and reach a negotiated settlement, I emphasize - a negotiated settlement - I think Israel will confront an existential problem. By that I mean existential in the basic, ideological, moral, military, economic, and political sense within a period of 5-10 years and, therefore, the question of ending the occupation is imperative whether it has national support or not. Point number two: as for two elite groups in civil society leading the way, I must admit to a major disappointment with the performance of the elites on both sides in the last few years. I'm not sure the salvation is going to come from elite groups, but I don't underestimate the importance of civil society in elite groups - but it is meaningless unless it affects decision-makers.
I would go precisely in the opposite direction that Menachem suggested. I would hang on to the new elements, and one of the important new elements that I see is the ceasefire in Lebanon. It is the first time that Israel has embraced an international force and argues for an international force with teeth. Why is that important? Because there is a basic and new agreement that there is an internationalization of the conflict. I would say take the next four months of 2006 and make sure you convene an international conference now, because Israel, number one is not instinctively adverse to internationalization; number two, it's relatively weak; its leadership is grasping for new ideas. Now is the time to do it and go for the official level absolutely, and I can't find a better idea than the good old idea of an international conference. And I'm not talking about a Madrid Two. There's an international conference in the probably dead Road Map in phase two and in phase three. So you could pick up on that and you could pick up on the new Arab League initiative calling on the UN to convene an international conference, so the conveners could either be the Quartet expanded, or some kind of a UN initiative. I want to remind everybody that Madrid was convened by the U.S. and Russia, under UN auspices. We need an international conference and the international community should get into the act now. With all due respect to the activities of civil society, which I support and will continue to do, I also know that I want those activities to be directed at the one concrete thing that can make some difference at this point, and I would argue it is an international conference on negotiations.

Khuloud Dajani: I don't agree that regionalization of the conflict is the answer. The problem lies in the fact that there is an Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, and unless this occupation comes to an end, the conflict will be perpetuated. Unilateralism has proved to be a failed policy and a return to the negotiation table is the best option, especially since both people want peace. According to the polls, more than 68 percent on either side aspire for peace - some with coexistence, others with separation.

Bernard Sabella: Since I went into the PLC, I have become a politician, yet now I am more confused, less focused and I really don't know where things are going. At the present time I see that the Palestinians don't have a political plan. And when we look at the scenarios of government formations, we have the continuation of the Hamas government that needs to change its platform, to subscribe to the PLO, to the Arab League Peace Plan and to international legitimacy. Nobody is asking Hamas to recognize Israel; what we are asking Hamas to do is to be part of the political process. You don't want to be a part of the political process, then why are you in the government? Arafat signed the Oslo Accords and we don't need to go back to that. Or, some people are talking about a coalition government, which will not be acceptable to the Israelis or the Americans. Some people are talking about Abu Mazen coming up with an emergency government which he can do for three months, but again this will not lead us anywhere in my opinion. So we are in an impasse. We are more preoccupied with our internal divisions and our internal problems. We don't have a plan to seek even the fruits of regionalization, I'm not sure we are ready for internationalization. I think that we are at such a low point that really we need to bring a government that can pull us together. Israelis ask if they can live with Palestinians behind the Separation Wall and the hundreds of checkpoints? The answer of the majority of the Israeli people is yes they can live with that. But at what cost to your society and to the moral and ethical fiber? When I see Israeli soldiers at the checkpoints and how they behave according to a system of control, my heart really breaks; I say this is a totalitarian army. It's not an army of occupation anymore; it's an army of control; it's an army that is trained to suspect every Palestinian. To be in such a situation of total control over our lives carries more dangers for Israel than for the Palestinians. But on our part, we need as Palestinians to assess our situation and to locate ourselves in the political regional and international contexts without pretension and without exaggerating our strength or hiding our weakness. As I said before, I don't think the civil-society model is tenable anymore. I think we need to examine the whole model seriously because I don't see how I can go with Israelis to London, to Geneva, or even to meet here in Jerusalem to talk about peace when the wall and the philosophy of separation are the order of the day. I don't think the U.S. administration will help us in the next couple of years and if we get another Republican administration like the present one, then we all are stuck. I have one hope; I don't know if it's realistic. I keep asking myself, Could there be an Israeli De Gaulle who would come out and say: we ought to face it; we are becoming a totalitarian society; we are going down the drain morally and ethically; we are going against our Jewish tradition?

Mustafa Abu Sway: If there is such a person on the Israeli side it has to be someone who is not corrupt, who is not getting a kickback when buying or selling an apartment like the Israeli Prime Minister; who does not have shares to sell knowing that he is going to war like the Israeli Chief of Staff! And that's very hard. The discussion amongst the Palestinians about a national unity government or the government of technocrats does not seem to be on the table or realistic. The option of the national unity government will mean that the boycott against Hamas will continue because there are no guarantees that the Israelis or the Americans will accept them, but in practical terms, it means that such a government will only enable "humanitarian assistance" - the flow of some cash so that the ministries can function and people can receive salaries. It means that, as long as the Palestinians behave, as long as they are good, then at least they can eat or function according to the rules of the prisons or Bantustans in which we live. I cannot see a solution predicated on Palestinian performance, whereby if we basically are good and we don't do anything, then we can get our rights. We cannot depend on the generosity of the Israeli side. That will not happen. I agree with Naomi. Look at the failures, not only of the Palestinians but also of the Israelis, and failures not only of the official tracks, but even the non-formal ones, like the Geneva accords. Everything should be on the table once and for all - no process. Everything on the table and immediate implementation. Even if you can get a "good deal," if it takes time to implement, then that's enough reason for failure.

Khaled Abu Aker: But do you see a chance for having negotiations on final-status issues?

Mustafa Abu Sway: Why not?

Bernard Sabella: I am in the opposition, I am against Hamas and I would like to have a national unity government to get out of this impasse. But let's face it: Hamas is part of the political spectrum. Do you want us to come out and say Well, Hamas cannot be a partner? Why not? Someone told me when Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Hamas to Moscow, the Russians were expecting Hamas to at least come out and say that even if they didn't agree with the Road Map and that they would want to change it, it could be a start and they could subscribe to it.

Khaled Abu Aker: Dr. Abu Sway, is it possible for Hamas to come out with such a declaration? Is it possible to create a separation between the government itself and Hamas as a political and military party?

Mustafa Abu Sway: Hamas has its own specific religious narrative which has nothing to do with Israel. If Israel is interested in bringing Hamas to the table, then probably a respect for that narrative should be part of the process.

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