Speaking before Mofaz at the Herzliya Conference opening session on Saturday night, National Security Council head Giora Eiland told audience that Israel was more concerned about Lebanon than Syria, and worried al-Qaida would exploit the weak central government there for its benefit.
According to Eiland, when Syria withdrew from Lebanon they left a vacuum that was being filled by a new government - democratically elected but very weak - which was unwilling to confront those elements in the country that have caused so many problems in the past: Hizbullah and Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Eiland said that al-Qaida wanted to take advantage of that situation. "When the central government is weak, it is paradise for that type of activity," he said.
"On the one hand, there is a new government in Lebanon, and it is very positive that Syria is not in Lebanon," he said. "But we should not be mistaken, Hizbullah is today determining the level of security on the northern border - a Hizbullah motivated by Syrian interests on one side, and Iranian interests on the other. And as long as that is the situation, it is very difficult to be sure that we are moving toward stability."
Eiland called on the international community to expend as much energy trying to get the Lebanese government to deploy southward and dismantle militias in the country - as called for under UN Security Council Resolution 1559 - as it has done in developing Lebanon's democracy and economy.
Regarding the Palestinian track, Eiland said "it is hard to be optimistic."
He said the world, for a variety of reasons, wanted to see a quick solution to the conflict based on the idea of two states living said by side roughly based on the 1967 lines.
Eiland said that this would place Israel in a situation even more problematic than existed before the Six Day War, because at least up until 1967 the world did not see Israel as responsible for the Arabs in Gaza - that was then Egypt's concern - or in the West Bank, which was Jordan's responsibility.
Thirty-nine years later, he said, the world largely expected a return to those same borders, with the establishment of a Palestinian state divided into two lobes which would largely be dependent on Israel.
The paradigm of a two state solution, roughly following the contours of the 1967 lines, has largely been taken for granted, Eiland said, asking whether this was the only possible paradigm, and whether it was stable or viable in the long term.
Currently, Eiland said there are just fewer than 11 million people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, a number that would swell to 16 million by 2020, and 30 million by 2050.
Without offering another possible paradigm, he indicated that demography was just one of the problems with the long-term viability of this paradigm.
Regarding the current situation with the Palestinians, Eiland said there were huge gaps with the Palestinians -- not necessarily on the content of an agreement, but rather on the process.
Whereas Israel wants security before a political solution could be found, the Palestinian Authority is saying that it cannot provide that security - cannot dismantle Hamas or deal with the terrorist organizations - until the Palestinians have an internationally guaranteed solution.
This was a huge gap, Eiland said, and not one that even disengagement has been able to blur.