A standing-room-only crowd of 200 people gathered at Bethesda’s Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church on February 19 — as had a similar group the preceding Wednesday at Baltimore’s Chizuk Amuno Congregation — to listen to ALLMEP Director Gershon Baskin’s fascinating account of the secret negotiations for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. “Gilad Schalit became my fourth child”, said Baskin about the six years of negotiations behind the scenes with many ups and downs. The outline of the deal was established early on, said Baskin. But the different parties involved could not come to an agreement. Even high-level mediation efforts by the Germans failed. “In the end it was a tenacious peacenik without a budget or agents who succeeded where such powerful intelligence agents had failed“, concluded Ronen Bergman in the New York Times Magazine on November 9.
Asked for his view on the current status of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Baskin, who is the founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, said:
“This conflict is resolvable. We have the answers to all the difficult issues.”
While Baskin pointed out that a progress in the peace process depended on the political leadership, he also said that civil society organizations like ALLMEP’s 85 members have an important role in demonstrating that coexistence is possible. “They keep hope alive”, said Baskin.
Video of Gershon Baskin’s presentation “Negotiating for Gilad’s Release”
The Bethesda lecture was sponsored by the Alliance for Middle East Peace and the Global Campaign for Middle East Peace, and hosted jointly by Bethesda Jewish Congregation and Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church.
The Baltimore event with Dr. Gershon Baskin on February 15 was co-sponsored by the Alliance for Middle East Peace and Chizuk Amuno Congregation.
Gershon Baskin, Board member of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) and co-founder of Israeli-Palestinian think-tank IPCRI, spent five years secretly negotiating between Israel and Hamas to release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. Baskin tells his riveting story about how one man and civil society could accomplish something that eluded governments worldwide.
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.
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