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Mideast talking points

After Gaza

February 09, 2009

As the war in Gaza drew to a close and the Israeli election approached, Times editorial writer Marjorie Miller traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories. What follows are edited excerpts of interviews with two Israelis and two Palestinians addressing U.S. peace efforts, Israeli settlements and what to do about the Islamic militant group Hamas. More can be found online at latimes.com/opinion.

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Retired Israeli major

Uzi Dayan

general and member

of the Likud Party

They say there is no conflict you cannot bridge. This is wrong. Here you have three parties. Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. It's one too many. [U.S. special envoy] George Mitchell has to understand that Hamas is not a part of the solution, Hamas is a part of the problem. What are we going to talk to Hamas about, three states for two people? So he should first announce that the American position is that Hamas is the problem and not the solution. He has to say that the U.S. will support Israel in every reaction, because we have to react to every cease-fire violation. He has to put as much pressure as possible on Egypt to fulfill its part in isolating Gaza.

Hamas is like Hezbollah, it is not in the game of two states for two people. It is against the existing Jewish entity in the Middle East. At the same time, Iran helps Hamas, and Hamas gives them another outpost in the vicinity of Israel. A second one. One was built by Hezbollah in the northern part of the country.

Now the name of the game is to provide security to the Israelis. I would be much more satisfied if my government understood that this last war should have been to dismantle the Hamas regime in Gaza -- to win this war not on points but in a knockout. They didn't complete the closure of Gaza.

I think the best gift Israel could have given to [President] Obama, to us, to the Palestinians, to the Egyptians and even to George Mitchell was a Gaza Strip that is not controlled by Hamas.

We say we trade land for peace, but really, we compromise and get more terrorism. This is the wrong policy. Nobody believes today we will give land for peace.

We need security. Then we need a partner who is ready to go to a historic compromise, someone who is strong enough to deliver. I don't object to a two-state solution, but at the end of the day it's about terrorism and security.

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Efraim Halevy

Former Israeli Mossad chief and head of the Shasha Center for Strategic Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem

The United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States laid down three conditions for negotiations with Hamas. Two of these are not only valid, they are essential. First, that Hamas accept all previous agreements the Palestinian Authority entered into with the international community. Second, that it refrain from all acts of hostility.

But the third condition, that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist, is an ideological one. This is something we have never demanded of anyone else in the past. We didn't demand it of Egypt. We signed peace agreements with Egypt even as it continued to press for the annihilation of Israel until after the Yom Kippur War.

We should engage Hamas -- not directly but through a national unity government, and propel them into a position where they will see the necessity of doing business with us. Hamas is not a religious movement. It's not like in Iran, where you have a religious leadership. Hamas is a temporal secular movement of people who do have deep religious beliefs, but their decisions are reached by political bodies. This is very important. Hamas leaders have been proved to be pragmatists when it's been in their interest.

Destroying Hamas is not a question of going in for a week or two weeks and having a shootout. To accomplish such a mission, you have to take over territory for a sustained period of time. You have to shoulder responsibility for all the people in that territory. If we're going to do it, we would have 1.5 million people suddenly under our jurisdiction. Secondly, if we want to go in and destroy Hamas, I don't know what it will take, but I would remind you that when [former Syrian President] Hafez Assad decided to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria in the 1980s, the number of fatalities was around 20,000.

In my view, whoever becomes prime minister of Israel in February or March ultimately will sit down and talk to Hamas. Any of the three candidates will do so, though each and every one of them says they will never do so. It will be determined by the facts of life. You cannot manage a conflict without engaging with those who are fiercely and resolutely pursuing the conflict. You have to find ways of bringing down the level of hostilities, and to do this, you have to engage with those who are involved in it.

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Salam Fayyad

Palestinian Authority prime minister

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