On Monday, February 4, 2013, at the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the University of California at Irvine, the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding and International Studies and the Olive Tree Initiative hosted Dr. Gershon Baskin.
The Olive Tree Initiative is a university-based organization that promotes conflict analysis and resolution through experiential education. OTI provides students, faculty and community participants with the education, training and experiences needed to better understand, negotiate and solve conflicts.
The Center for Citizen Peacebuilding and International Studies conducts research, advances education and organizes action to improve and expand citizen peacebuilding in the United States and around the world. In addition to Dr. Gershon Baskin, the center hosts lectures and conferences involving prominent citizen peacebuilders, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureates; trains local and international peacebuilding practitioners, including gang intervention workers; and facilitates peacebuilding efforts in conflict zones.
At the session Dr. Gershon Baskin held an intimate conversation about the Middle East conflict. He spoke about the secret negotiations between Israel and Hamas that led to the release of Gilead Schalit; the possibility of a two-state solution and the lessons learned from the failed Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He was the first speaker in a speaker series that the Olive Tree Initiative hosted that included speakers who have been involved with the peace process to talk about “20 Years After the Oslo Peace Accords (1993-2013) – What Happened to Peace in the Middle East?”.
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.