In writing about Tuesday (I think it was Tuesday, although I’ve lost track of the days) I was so excited about visiting the neighborhood in which my Saba grew up, I neglected to write about our visit with Gershon Baskin.
Gershon is a regular columnist in the Jerusalem Post and he was responsible for the back channel negotiations which ultimately led to the release of Gilad Schalit. He has been an active participant in dialogue with the Palestinians, advocating for the need to sit down and talk to them in order to achieve a peaceful settlement. Coming so soon after Operation Pillar of Defense, the UN vote on Palestinian statehood, and the Israeli approval of new settlement construction it was a very timely visit.
Unfortunately he warned that he believes we are heading towards another round of horrific violence between Israel and the Palestinians. However, he remains committed to the Two State solution, and believes that despite settlement construction, there is still a viable possibility for a continuous Palestinian State, with some exchange of land on the Israeli side of the Green Line, in exchange for the large settlement blocs.
As the Government of Israel supports the Two State Solution, he went so far as to say that Israel should have proposed the vote on Palestine being accepted as a non-member UN state observer. The caveat would be that while negotiations continue it is prohibited for any legal cases to be brought to the international courts. He also suggested constructing the necessary 26 mile link between the West Bank and Gaza, but to stop 1 mile short of the Gaza Strip as a sign that Israel is serious about having a Palestinian State. And also as an incentive for the abandonment of Hamas in favor of peaceful dialogue and negotiation.
And in terms of keeping hope, Gershon also spoke about his work to help orchestrate the release of Gilad Schalit and his meetings with the young man since his release. It was good to hear him describe Gilad as extraordinary, and to share that it is inspiring to spend time with him and to just note how sane he is and how secure he is.
There is much more that I could say about Gershon’s talk, and while it did include some negative predictions; as long as there are people like him searching out opportunities for dialogue, negotiation and peace there is certainly still hope.