Baskin's Generous Offer: Making Peace with Israeli Occupation
30 July 2015
By Ramzy Baroud
It would be fair to assume that Gershon Baskin's recent article in the
Jerusalem Post – Encountering Peace: Obviously no peace now, so what then?
(June 24) – is not a mere intellectual exercise aimed at finding ‘creative'
solutions to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Baskin is a regular contributor to the Jerusalem Post, a rightwing newspaper.
He is more or less embodied in the Israeli political establishment,
otherwise, he would have never been allowed to initiate the "secret back
channel for the release (of captured Israeli soldier) Gilad Schalit" as he
proudly states in his bio.
In the article, Baskin offers a way to manage the Israeli occupation of the
West Bank and Jerusalem. Not an end to the occupation, but a gentler way to
sustain it, if not profit from it. The co-chairman of ‘Israel Palestine
Creative Regional Initiatives' is indeed being ‘creative', the kind of
creativity that brought about the Village Leagues, Oslo and the Geneva
Initiative without truly delving into the heart of the matter – the
illegality and brutality of Israel's occupation, sieges and wars.
Baskin's reading of the situation is quite bleak. He carefully tries not to
place any responsibility on any side for the lack of any political horizon,
as a way to gain credibility. "Neither side seems to be particularly
interested in escalation and violence," he wrote, reaching a puzzling
conclusion that seems at odd with reality, at least Palestinian reality:
"Noteworthy is the sense that the young people on both sides have of being
more interested in their daily lives than in national causes."
One is not entirely certain how the daily lives of ‘Israeli youth', who serve
in the very military that is dedicated to subduing ‘Palestinian youth' are in
But that aside, Baskin has a solution, one that requires a degree of
flexibility on the part of the Israeli government, to show more leniency in
the way it manages its occupation of the Palestinians. Baskin calls on
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take the initiative of making
border areas places of trade and economic exchanges, and to make the permit
system required of Palestinian to move about in their own occupied land more
Just in case, one would conflate Baskin's imitative with Netanyahu's gambit
in 2008-09 of ‘economic peace' – aimed largely at maintaining the profitable
occupation, subduing the Palestinians and avoiding any political
accountability – Baskin calls on Netanyahu to "be careful not to use concepts
like ‘economic peace' which are immediately interpreted as a means to replace
‘political peace,' meaning the end of the occupation and the creation of a
"There should be no spin and no lies. There is no chance of negotiating peace
now, so let's see what can be done to improve the lives of people until there
is a chance of making peace," he wrote, more or less the same guiding
principles behind Netanyahu's ‘economic peace.'
Interestingly, the word settlements (as in ‘illegal settlements' as
designated by international law) is not mentioned by Baskin. Not once. And
knowing of Netanyahu's adamant position on the continued expansion of the
illegal settlements, Baskin's omission of the topic altogether must also mean
that his proposal is not pre-conditioned on ending or at least freezing the
theft of Palestinian land for settlement construction.
Another omission is that of any references to international law, and the
Fourth Geneva Convention in particular. By treating Palestinians with respect
(the ‘inefficiency' at the Qalanidya checkpoint was Baskin's main example) is
not a favor that is to be bestowed by Netanyahu and his army, but has been
long articulated in the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of
Civilian Persons in Time of War.
Article 50, for example, reads, "The Occupying Power shall, with the
cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper
working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children."
By ceasing to target Palestinian children, whether through arrests or
violence, Israel would hardly be extending a hand for peace or co-existence.
In other words, what Baskin is asking for by way to manage the Israeli
occupation, is a requirement by international law that should have been put
in place decades ago, as a prerequisite to ending the occupation.
Also not mentioned in Baskin's ‘so what then?' initiative is Gaza, whose
children have been starved and killed with impunity throughout 9 years of a
protracted and heinous siege that is only interrupted by deadly and more
heinous Israeli wars. The latest UN report on Israel's war on Gaza in 2014
leaves no doubt that Netanyahu, and his governments hadn't the slightest
intentions of honoring international law, respecting UN conventions on
children or civilians during time of war, or reaching any political
settlements, not now or ever.
But why did Baskin neglect Gaza altogether? It cannot be that the man who
wrote and profited from a book about his Gaza-related adventures called, "The
Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas", failed to understand the
centrality of the Gaza siege to the overall Palestinian national discourse.
So what is really behind Baskin's supposed bold proposal?
Baskin is very close to those in power. His initiatives are rarely his own,
and the latest is a mere reflection of the political bankruptcy of
Baskin is, of course wrong. Palestinians have shown much willingness to end
the conflict in a method that hinges on Israel's respect for international
law, including the ending of the construction of illegal settlements.
Now that Netanyahu's government is stacked with more rightwing zealots –
individuals who made careers and gained famed and notoriety, because of their
insistence on the maintaining of the occupation, and feeding off, politically
and financially, the illegal settlements – a return to the ‘negotiation
table' is unattainable.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, is finding itself in
an impossible situation; whereas, on one hand it is reaping the ample
benefits of being the caretaker government of an imagined ‘authority', itself
under Israeli occupation, and on the other, it is having to seek
international recognition of a Palestinian state, a matter that is most
upsetting for Israel.
Moreover, the United States, which seems to have given up on persuading
Netanyahu to reengage in the ‘peace process', has now moved on to more
pressing matters in the region, which balances are more fractious than ever
The US is also mellowing down, at least for now, with its obsession with the
perceived Iranian nuclear threat. If an agreement is reached between Iran and
the US and its allies, then Israel would have no other option but to find
another enemy to justify its military belligerence and heightened sense of
Indeed, that new enemy is being quickly manufactured, as Israeli President
Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and powerful US-based Zionists such
as Sheldon Adelson seem to all agree that the non-violent civil
society-empowered movement: BDS, aimed at boycotting, divestment and
sanctioning Israel, is Israel's greatest threat.
While Israel gears up for its new ‘existential' battle against civil society
organizations, it's keen on normalizing the occupation of Palestine. This is
why the ‘economic peace' formula keeps resurfacing every now and then, the
latest being Baskin's elucidation.
But peace is not war, and Baskin should know that not a single past formula
aimed at fashioning a ‘peaceful' military occupation has ever worked. He also
ought to remember that the so-called golden age of the Israeli occupation was
precisely that few years that preceded the First Palestinian Uprising in
1987. It was then that all hell broke loose.
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20
years. He is author of several books and the founder of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).