SPIEGEL: Should Israel negotiate with Hamas?
Ayalon: Our official negotiating partner is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected by two-thirds of his people. With Hamas we should not have direct talks but rather through a third party like Egypt, for example. If we are negotiating the release of abducted solder Gilad Shalit with Hamas, then I see no reason why we should not talk to them about a cease-fire in order to save the lives of the children in Sderot.
SPIEGEL: Do you think compromises with Hamas are possible?
Ayalon: Hamas is not a monolithic organization. Within Hamas, there are a variety of opinions and ideologies. I think it is likely that the pragmatists within Hamas are interested in returning to last year's Mecca agreement with Fatah ...
SPIEGEL: ... which gives President Mahmoud Abbas the right to negotiate with Israel.
Ayalon: I believe Hamas leaders like Ismail Haniya in Gaza or Mousa Abu Marzook in Damascus are capable of such a step.
SPIEGEL: You are saying that Israel has to give the Palestinians hope for their own state during the negotiations. And yet even the settlement outposts in the West Bank, which are even illegal under Israeli law, still haven't been dismantled.
Ayalon: Regarding this point, the international road map is unequivocal: Israel has to evacuate all outposts. If Abbas is expected to fulfill his commitments, then Israel must fulfill its obligations too. All outposts must disappear -- if possible with the consent of the settlers, and if not then by force. If we do not fulfill our road map commitments, there will not be negotiations. And if there will be no negotiations, then the Labour Party has no business staying in this government. We have to freeze all settlement activities east of the security fence.
SPIEGEL: That would mean that settlement building could continue in East Jerusalem. Didn't you demand in 2002 -- in your initiative with Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh -- a partition of Jerusalem?
Ayalon: I only said what should be done immediately, which is a freeze of settlement building. The status of Jerusalem will be decided upon only at the end of the negotiations. Here, the Ayalon-Nusseibeh Formula is the only way to reach real peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Nice how he got caught out.