Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 17th, 2012
Gershon Baskin is a respected Israeli peace activist, columnist for the Jerusalem Post, and co-director of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, who helped arrange the 2011 release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held in captivity in Gaza for five years. He had been trying to arrange a more permanent cease-fire along the Gaza-Israel border — but had his efforts bombed out from under him by the IDF. Here’s the key part of “Assassinating The Chance For Calm” that Baskin wrote on Thursday, November 15 for the Daily Beast’s “Open Zion” section:
Both Israel and Hamas had decided months ago not to take action on my proposed ceasefire option, which included within it a mechanism that would prevent Israeli pre-emptive actions and would enable Hamas to prove that it was prepared to prevent terror attacks against Israel. Both sides responded very seriously to the proposal, but without any signal that there was an openness on the other side, neither was willing to advance the possibility for testing it.
Several weeks ago, I decided to try once again and, through my counterpart in Hamas, we both began speaking to high level officials on both sides. A few days ago I met my counterpart in Cairo and we agreed that he would draft a new proposal based on our common understanding of what was required to make it work.
Yesterday morning, hours before Israel assassinated Ahmed Jaabari, my counterpart in Hamas presented the draft to Jaabari and to other Hamas leaders. Senior Hamas leaders on the outside had already seen it and had instructed him to check the reactions to it in Gaza. I was supposed to receive the draft yesterday evening to present to Israeli officials who were waiting for me to send it to them.
That option is now off the table. Jaabari is dead and so is the chance for a mutually beneficial long term ceasefire understanding…
There does not seem to be any dispute that Jaabari and Israeli officials were in dialogue, via Baskin, shortly before Jaabari was killed. In comments to Ha’aretz, Baskin made clear he had no illusions about Jaabari — “[h]e was in line to die, not an angel and not a righteous man of peace.“ Meanwhile, the Obama administration dutifully “strongly condemns“ the Hamas/Gaza rocket attacks. But while it also claims “[t]here is no justification” for them, many analyses put that in dispute — as often the case in the past: Israel had been engaging in numerous, generally deadlier attacks of its own in the prior weeks, but with bullets, not with missiles. Meanwhile most (though not all) Gaza rocket attacks were either operationally or intentionally symbolic, falling on open spaces rather than on Israelis.
Should Hamas be rocketing Israel, or letting others do so? Of course not. But if Israel and Israelis actually want to get to peace, at some point they’ll need to talk to the people on the other side with their fingers on the triggers and launch switches, not provoke them into one-upsmanship — let alone kill them. But getting to peace is clearly not what Benjamin Netanyahu or his base want – they prefer assassinating negotiations instead.
Now a dangerous, deadly ground war looms for Gaza — just like four years ago, after a U.S. general election and before an Israeli one. If that happens, it will be even more difficult than usual to end. After all, who in Gaza will want to be a part of peace talks, when Israel has made that a death sentence?
I have the sinking feeling Netanyahu et al think they’re engaged in tough, clever realpolitik with both Hamas and Washington. To me, their actions seem like a stupid, bloody, and deeply cynical waste of time and lives.
UPDATES, 11/17: Moshe Dayan explains it all for you (Corey Robin); 11/19: Israel’s Shortsighted Assassination (Baskin to NYTimes); I Didn’t Come Back to Jerusalem To Be in a War (Lithwick, Slate.com); 12/30: Who Started the Israel-Gaza Conflict? (timeline -Wright/Hauser, The Atlantic), addl. timelines above (“many”,”analyses”,”often the case”), see also “Visualizing Palestine” timeline graphic.