Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, says Israel has made a decision to move forward independently on all of its obligations under the 2003 "road map for peace" — regardless of whether the Palestinians are living up to their part of the agreement. He says this is a break with past policy, which was to wait for the Palestinians to move first.
"In the framework of the post-Annapolis atmosphere — where both sides are taking steps — it's easier to move forward. And the truth is, if we both do what we're supposed to do — and I think there's a good chance we will — there is reason for cautious optimism," Regev tells Robert Siegel.
But when it comes to the road map's call for Israel to freeze settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, Regev says that Israel sees a difference between the West Bank and East Jerusalem, even as it understands the "sensitivity of the issue of Jerusalem."
Regev notes that Prime Minister Olmert issued an order last week calling for a freeze on all new settlement activity, without his and the defense minister's specific approval.
"That there are still gaps, I accept. But we are moving on this issue, we want to see the Palestinians move, as they are, on the important issues of security and fighting terrorism," Regev says.
Regev acknowledges that Hamas control over the Gaza Strip is the "Achilles' heel" of the process.
"Eventually, you'll have to have a situation where the Palestinian Authority exercises its political authority, its political control also over the Gaza Strip," Regev says.
Going forward, Regev says, "We believe that if we can succeed in working with the Palestinian government, if we can succeed in creating new realities — economic success, political developments — if people on the West Bank feel that their life is getting better, that is the best answer to the Hamas control of Gaza."
He compares it to East and West Germany, "a situation where Palestinians could understand that the path of moderation, the path of pragmatism, the path of negotiation, serves Palestinian interests much more than the jihadists ever could."