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Assassinating negotiation

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.

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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.

8 Responses to “Assassinating negotiation”

  1. Nell Says:

    Oh yes, the Israelis think they’re kings of the world; and why not, with unstinting US support? Read the nauseating piece in the New Yorker by Avi Issacharoff: http://t.co/2iXR63c1

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Avi Issacharoff in the New Yorker: “It did, in fact, sound rather unreal at the time—but a quick clarification with the Israeli side revealed that this time, the decision-makers had opted to throw down the gauntlet. Killing Al-Jabari is much more than the assassination of yet another Hamas leader. Because of his extreme importance within the organization, and particularly its military wing, his death is casus belli: cause for war. [...] The other Israeli achievement, perhaps even of greater significance, was the blow dealt to Hamas’ stockpiles of long-range Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 missiles. Over the last few years, Israeli, Arab, and western media outlets have released many reports regarding Hamas’ ability to hit Tel Aviv with these missiles. The working assumption for many years in Israel was that Hamas would make use of them only in the event of a dramatic escalation, and the I.D.F. knew that killing Al-Jabari was exactly the kind of event that could lead to their being fired.”

    Summing up, killing Jaabari was a declaration of war that would lead to missile attacks on Tel Aviv. Great. For average Israelis’ sake, I hope the missiles were destroyed first — but then why kill Jaabari? I guess the upcoming elections, showing what few Israel skeptics remain in DC what’s what, plus probably payback for the Shalit-for-1000 Hamas deal –regardless of whether it ruins the prospects for negotiations going forward. It also occurs to me that if I’m in Hamas realizing Israel had all this great intel — right down to where Jaabari was driving — it might even make me wonder about Baskin (depending on the precise circumstances; not accusing, just stating that the suspicion may well be entertained).

  3. newsrackblog.com » Blog Archive » UN documents disproportionate Israeli lethal force in Gaza this year before November conflict Says:

    [...] Assassinating negotiation [...]

  4. Nell Says:

    Re Gershom Baskin: Anyone trusted to negotiate by one side in a conflict has to be assumed by the other to be at minimum accessible to the powers that be of Side 1.

    But it seems that there were/are important Palestinian spies for Israel in Gaza. At least one was murdered in the aftermath of the strikes on the rocket locations.

    Not really surprised but still struck by The New Yorker’s continued eagerness to promote Israeli propaganda. Issacharoff is an “analyst” like David Ignatius is an “analyst”.

  5. newsrackblog.com » Blog Archive » The truth is, Israel doesn’t want peace Says:

    [...] Assassinating negotiation [...]

  6. Nell Says:

    Follow-up to comment 4 above:

    There almost certainly were and are spies for Israel in Gaza. But it’s important to know that the seven men who were summarily executed during the Israeli assault in November were not “caught in the act” of passing intelligence, as some Hamas officials claimed at the time. They were already in Hamas jails, tried and sentenced on charges of earlier collaboration with Israel.

    A senior Hamas leader in exile has condemned the killings and called for those responsible to be held accountable. An investigation is promised into how the men got out of detention and into the hands of those who killed them, but an in-Gaza leader is utterly unrepentant and dismissive of Palestinian human rights groups’ criticism. Maan News Nov 29

  7. Nell Says:

    Rudoren piece focusing on one of the men killed NYT Dec 2

  8. Thomas Nephew Says:

    I saw the Rudoren piece too. I’m revolted, but not surprised that the Hamas people are as ruthless as the Israelis in this. Both the Jaabari assassination and these lynchings seem like moves/messages in this Battle of Algiers like war: Israel is saying it doesn’t even care about negotiating, Hamas is making a public example of collaborators (however hapless/entrapped they probably usually are) to make it harder for Israel to recruit more spies. I wonder if at least some Hamas people were always ‘saving them up’ for this, and/or won the argument after Jaabari’s death. Both are clearly looking ahead and looking forward to more fighting.

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