A political settlement to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians once Hamas is weakened, and after an intermediate stage in which a reconstituted Palestinian Authority is established with the promise of a real political horizon, is a vital Israeli interest. Achieving this goal requires the election of a pragmatic Palestinian leadership that is deemed legitimate by the Palestinian public and is therefore able to realize the vision of a viable Palestinian state and a stable political settlement that provides security for Israel.
In order to prevent the election of extremists opposed to a political settlement, legitimate restrictions must be placed on the individuals and groups running for the post of president and for membership in the legislative council. These limitations will be based on the three conditions that the Quartet countries laid out for Hamas after its victory in the 2006 elections: abandoning the path of terrorism, recognizing Israel, and affirming the previous agreements it signed with the PLO.
The elections must take place in the context of an advanced political process offering hope to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and increasing their support for a settlement approach. To that end, Israel will have to declare its commitment to a political process designed to result in a two-state solution, and adopt confidence-building measures that demonstrate its intent to reach a political settlement, including a halt of construction in the settlements. At the same time, the international community, led by the United States and the European Union, will have to guarantee their recognition of a Palestinian state. The United States will also help train the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatuses, contribute to the development of its economy, and promote reforms in government institutions.
Israel and the international community must lay the groundwork for orderly, internationally supervised elections in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip that will ensure the election of a suitable national leadership for the Palestinian people. Having won the trust of the people, such a leadership will enjoy legitimacy and be able to promote a stable settlement with Israel. It will also contribute, over time, to strengthening the moderate elements in society and weakening extremist, religious, and nationalist opposition elements.