Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Thursday that Palestinian success in Gaza would be an important confidence-building measure for Israel, and would encourage Israelis to agree to more concessions for peace.
In an exclusive interview with the Kuwaiti daily al-Raialaam, Peres spoke about the threat presented by Hamas, calling on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to act.
"If he (Abbas) doesn't fight Hamas, they will fight him. In doing so, they will wipe out the Palestinian dream of establishing an independent state," he said.
Peres also said that without Hamas, Israel would have been out of Gaza 10 years ago.
"When I became prime minister after Yitzhak Rabin, I gave the Palestinians back several towns and cities. But then we had a wave of dangerous suicide bombs in Jerusalem, Ashdod and Tel Aviv, and I lost the next election to Benjamin Netanyahu, at a time when I was fighting for peace.
"At the time, I felt terrible, but it could well happen again. Without pointing any fingers and without making threats, we must be clear: Hamas could destroy all hopes for peace. Gaza and the West Bank could enjoy freedom and independence if they could just get rid of Hamas," he said.
Peres also spoke about the West Bank security fence and Jerusalem, saying the fence was the result of terror attacks.
"Stop the attacks and there won't be any more fence," he said.
As to Jerusalem, Peres said each side was welcome to bring any issue up for discussion.
"We can't single out Jerusalem or put conditions on negotiations," he said.
"We must differentiate between politics and religion. Just as we dismantled settlements, the Palestinians must dismantle terrorist infrastructure and take control of all their crazies."
Peres predicted wide-ranging changes in the world, particularly in the Middle East, in the coming years.
"We will see changes in Syria, just as we have in Iraq. Tunisia and Lebanon are changing. They simply have no choice.
"Therefore, all the old-time dictators cannot continue to remain in power in this new period," said Peres.