Jewish Telegraph

Peace Talks Must Succeed

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Gershon Baskin, the man who helped free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. claims that Jews around the world will continue to pay the price for a stalled peace process.

JEWS around the world will continue to pay the price for a stalled peace process, according to the man who helped free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.

Gershon Baskin told a Limmud session at the University of Warwick on Sunday that a lack of Israeli political initiative would negatively impact Jews.

“The argument that force works, and if it doesn’t work just use more force, doesn’t hold water any more,” he insisted. “The game is over and Israel can no longer control millions of Palestinians.

“The Palestinians are on the road to victory – they will win in the international community.

“The game is up. It was hard for the Jewish people to look outward and ethically about the damage Israel did in the summer.

“More than 500 children were killed.

“And we can come up with all the excuses in the world, that they’re (Hamas) the scum of the earth, that they fire rockets indiscriminately at Israelis from schools and hospitals, that they use children as human shields.

“We can be as justified as we want, but we cannot win that war any more.

“So we had better come up with a better strategy.”

His stark warning came months after Operation Protective Edge saw Israel embroiled in a summer war with Hamas.

Mr Baskin is the founder of the Israel Palestine Centre for Research and Information.

His book The Negotiator detailed the crucial role he played in the 2011 freeing of Schalit.

Mr Baskin used the Limmud Conference to urge any future Israeli government to use the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a framework for peace.

He believes that if Israel were to agree to the demands – such as withdrawing to 1967 borders with negotiated land swaps – then 22 Arab and 56 Muslim nations would make peace with Israel and normalise relations with the Jewish state.

“No government has ever officially responded to the plan,” Mr Baskin revealed.

“Israel says it is a set of take-it-or-leave-it demands, but it was actually written as an incentive to Israel to make peace.

“I believe that if Israel were to announce it was willing to negotiate on the basis of Arab Peace Initiative it would immediately begin to form a quartet with the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt to come up with a plan for a Palestinian state.

“The Arab League would take responsibility for demilitarisation of Gaza and the Gazan people would accept it.”

Mr Baskin expressed hope that Labour’s Isaac Herzog would emerge as prime minister from the Israeli elections on March 17.

“Who else do we have?” he questioned.

“There was no greater advocate for Benjamin Netanyahu than me after he made the hard compromise to free Gilad Schalit, but he has proven again and again that he won’t make another compromise.

“I still believe peace is possible because Israelis and Palestinians are fed-up, they’re not apathetic. They care deeply, but they’re living in despair.

“They have given up the dream because we have failed to lead them in a direction that shows it is possible.

“Do we continue doing more of the same that hasn’t worked and won’t work? Doing the same thing every time? There are other solutions.

“Israel, the start-up nation that patents new ideas every day, where there is more initiative in medicine than any other country in the world, has not had one political initiative in years.”

Mr Baskin added that Netanyahu had “no idea about the Middle East” if he felt he could get the Arab world to embrace him without agreeing to the Arab Peace Initiative.

However, the negotiator was unequivocal in his assessment of terrorist group Hamas.

He stated there is “no partner inside Hamas for negotiating peace with.”

“There is no question that Israel can’t tolerate the regime in Gaza – it’s intolerable, the indiscriminate rocket firing,” Mr Baskin made clear.

“Less than 10 per cent of Israeli armed force was used in the summer.

“We could flatten Gaza – it’s not such a challenge, but we must ask, ‘What is the alternative?

“I am not naïve. There are people inside Hamas who hate us and want to kill us.

“Nothing is risk free, but the risk we are taking now is much greater than the risk we would take if we don’t change course.

“The only way to defeat Hamas is politically, not militarily.

“When Hamas rebuilt its army after Operation Cast Lead in November 2012, they went door-to-door to every single bereaved family in Gaza and said, ‘We want your sons – this is your chance for revenge, to die for Islam, for Palestine’.

“This is the 2,000- 3,000 fighting force they built.

“How do you build deterrents against some who sees it as a mitzva to die?

“It’s just a matter of time before we face the next round.

“There must be an alternative.”

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