Gershon Baskin shares his views on peace at 3S Artspace

Encountering peace?

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Gershon Baskin is against an imposed peace, and he is hopeful that the new American administration will tell us all that they will not come to our rescue with a new American-led peace initiative.

I don’t know what Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu thinks, what his plans are, his grand strategy for the future of Israel. I know that he is an intelligent man. I know that he does think strategically. I know that he sees himself and his position in historical terms. I believes that he believes that he is the savior of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. He has told us that he is here to prevent the next Holocaust and that he will never compromise on Israel’s security.

But what’s beyond that? What does he really want to do with Judea and Samaria? Does he really imagine that the creeping annexation, now being advanced by a new law that gives the right to the government to confiscate private Palestinian land and turn it over to Israelis, will continue to go by unnoticed and be unchallenged?

It is clear to me that most of the world, including the Arab world does not really care about the Palestinian people and their cause. They, at least the Arab leaders, at best, pay lip service to the Palestinians. The Arab street may support the Palestinians but they are far too busy trying to make a life for themselves in this region of turmoil, lack of democracy and Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Europe and the United States also are good on rhetoric and sometimes allow some useless resolutions to get through the United Nations and many of its institutions that voice support for the Palestinians or condemn Israel for its settlement activities.

This will not deliver the Palestinians from the burden of facing Israel on their own. The world will not save Palestine nor Israel from what Israel and Palestine do to each other. Even the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement which gets so much press in Israel is totally ineffective, lacks coherent strategy and is even exploited by Israel as a smoke screen. Israel knows that the more noise it makes against BDS the more the world will be engaged in talking about something that has almost no impact on advancing the Palestinian cause.

And while everyone is busy talking about BDS, Israel is continuing to build settlements and confiscating more land from the Palestinians. But to what cause? That is what troubles me.

There will be no imposed solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. No one can force the Israelis and the Palestinians to act against their own interests, nor will any world power apply effective pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to do what they are not prepared to do.

I must say, with sorrow, that I do not expect any effective pressure to emerge from the bottom-up, from the Israeli public nor from the Palestinian public, that will bring about a significant change in the relations or end the conflict. I also do not expect, as have been predicted many times, a collapse of the Palestinian Authority or a new popular violent intifada. The “unsustainability” of the status quo will continue, even though there is no status quo – the situation is changing all of the time – mostly for the worse. The passage of a law in the Knesset that will legalize, from Israeli law perspective, the confiscation of Palestinian privately owned land so that Jews can live on it will speed up the settlement building process which has wide support in the Knesset.

The international community views all Israeli settlement over the Green Line as illegal, yet it has been powerless to stop it. There seems to be a majority within the current Knesset to annex all or parts of area “C,” designated within the Oslo process as being those areas connected to security issues or permanent status issues (meaning Israeli settlements) and remain under full Israeli control. This composes 62% of the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria (readers can decide which name they prefer). Some right-wing members of the Knesset favor a complete annexation of all of the West Bank.

Partial or full annexation now seems to be in the hands of the prime minister. If Netanyahu wants to annex, then Israel will annex, if he does not, then Israel will not. There does not seem to be any ideological problem for Netanyahu to annex the territories – it seems to be pragmatic considerations, including waiting to see what will emerge from the Trump administration after January 20, 2017. The right wing has been preaching annexation for years. They are in power for most of the past 40 years. Now is the time. Why not? The right wing has never disclosed what it intends to do and how it intends to protect Israel against the Palestinians.

Now is the time. Show us what you have and what we get. Show us how annexation of the West Bank does not create a bi-national state. Show us how without a bi-national state Israel remains a democracy with millions of Palestinians under its direct control, under its sovereignty without citizenship and without the right to vote. Show us how this is the fulfillment of Zionism and the Zionist dream. I for one, want to understand finally how it works.

I am against imposed peace. I am hopeful that the new American administration will tell us all that they will not come to our rescue with a new American-led peace initiative. I believe that only together, Israel and Palestine, can we come to terms with each other’s existence and self-determination. I believe that this will occur from the top-down, when we have leaders (on both sides) who are willing to get back to the table. I also believe that this can only be done in a secret channel between the leaders. I don’t believe that Netanyahu is prepared to lead us to peace. I doubt that he is prepared to lead the country to annexation as well, but this creeping annexation that the right wing is pushing through is bad for us all. It seems that the decision not to decide will continue for quite some time to come, but that is not a strategy to lead our nation forward, and it is certainly not the Zionist way.

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin is one of the most recognizable names in the Middle East Peace process. His dedication to creating a culture of peace and environmental awareness, coupled with his impeccable integrity, has earned him the trust of the leaders of all sides of the century old conflict. Few people have such far-reaching and positive impacts on promoting peace, security, prosperity and bi-national relationships.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.
Gershon Baskin