The successful completion of the pullout plan proves Israel is able to make painful concessions, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Ynet, as he offered his vision for the day after disengagement.
"Now the Palestinians must implement the first principle in the road map (peace initiative), which is the dismantling of terror infrastructures," he said. "This will be followed by the establishment of a (Palestinian) state with temporary borders."
According to Mofaz, Israel and the Palestinians will move to talks on a final-status agreement only after the two above principles are implemented. The defense minister stressed that in any event and under any future deal, large West Bank settlement blocs will remain in Israel hands.
At this time, Israel is at a "pre-road map" junction, he said.
Pullout not over
Mofaz added that although the difficult part of the disengagement has been completed, the pullout is not yet behind us.
"We need to complete the removal of any Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip," he said. "I estimate this will take another three to four weeks."
The reason the process went so smoothly, he said, is more than 18 months of planning.
The original blueprint called for the withdrawal to take place over a 12-week period, a number that was later knocked back to a few weeks by calling in massive security forces to carry out the decision.
Determination with care
Mofaz also said it was the troop's determination, care and honor for both their mission and the evacuees that allowed the pullout to proceed smoothly.
"I would also emphasize the fact that we said there would be no pullout under fire contributed to the results we just witnessed," he said.
"People in Israel and around the world saw with their own eyes that our sons and daughters are the most ethical in the world," Mofaz said. "They demonstrated patience, restraint and moderation at the most heartbreaking of moments."
Mofaz also praised the settlement leadership that left Gaza peacefully, but also said the group should now do some serious soul-searching.
"I think this is the time for sould-searching. The (settler leadership) demonstrated a certain degree of responsibility, but we must determine whether it was enough," he said.