Gershon Baskin feels that the current violence can end now, but it can also get out of control. It is not too late. It must end now and then the parties have to figure out how to get back to serious genuine negotiations for peace and security.I have pleaded with both sides for returning the calm. It needs both sides to agree and to work together. I know that Netanyahu will not call Abu Mazen and say – let’s work together to calm the situation and then let’s talk about how we return to negotiations. I pleaded with people to convince Abu Mazen to pick up the phone and call Netanyahu – I doubt if he will. During crisis times, like this, we need leaders who are big enough to overcome their anger and frustration and to look beyond the present. We don’t have that kind of leader – on either side. On the Palestinian side they say “Netanyahu doesn’t want peace, he is only interested in expanding settlements”. In Israel they say the Abbas doesn’t want peace, he won’t recognize us and the Palestinians cheer the death of every Jew”. Both sides are right in what they are saying, but they are also both wrong. Netanyahu does not want to see more dead bodies – not Israeli nor Palestinian. I also don’t believe that Abbas wants to see more dead bodies. But more dead bodies is what we will have if they don’t – together – work to calm the situation.
To the Palestinians I say there is no truth to what you believe the Israelis are planning to do on Al Aqsa. There is no Israeli plan to destroy the mosques or to allow Jewish prayer there. To the Israelis i say, the Palestinians do not want another intifada, they don’t want to destroy all that has been achieved.
To both sides i say – it can all collapse and degenerate into another round of horrendous violence. It is so easy for it to get out of control.
I have told several people – on the 4th night of the second intifada, I was in the office of Jabril Rajoub, then the commander of the Preventive security force in the West Bank. I was there with 2 Members of Knesset – Avshalom Vilan and Mossi Raz. For several hours we have PM Barak on one telephone and Yasser Arafat on the other. We were negotiating an end to the violence on that 4th night of the intifada. We failed and at midnight we left Ramallah without achieving our goal. The violence went out of control and thousands of people were killed. Everyone who was in that room that night says that we could have ended the intifada that night.
I feel the same way now as I felt that tragic night. This violence can end now, but it can also get out of control. It is not too late. It must end now and then the parties have to figure out how to get back to serious genuine negotiations for peace and security – for ending the occupation and creating a partnership for life of our two peoples.
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.