Gershon Baskin is the founder of IPCRI – Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, and served as its co-director until January 2012. He is a long-time veteran of both Israeli peace NGOs and second track diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians, and has many key contacts on both sides. This gives him a particularly well-informed grasp of current events.
In July 2006, after Gilad Schalit’s abduction in Gaza he began unofficially, without governmental authorization or support, to open a back channel with Hamas. Baskin was involved in the ultimately successful efforts leading up to Shalit’s release for more than five years
Baskin is a member of the steering committee of the Israeli Palestinian Peace NGO Forum, a member of the Board of Directors of ALLMEP – the Alliance for Middle East Peace, a member of the Israeli Board of One Voice Movement, and a member of the editorial committee of the Palestine Israel Journal.
Baskin holds a Ph.D. in International relations from the University of Greenwich.
All of this makes his insight into how to resolve issues particularly valuable. As this week of escalated violence in Israel and the West Bank came to a close, Baskin posted some of his thoughts to his Facebook page. The Foundation for Middle East Peace reprints them here with his permission.
In recent weeks, an upsurge in violence in Jerusalem has brought the embattled city back into the headlines. According to Danny Seidemann, founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem and one of the leading experts on the city, this violence, boiling at a level unseen in Jerusalem since 1967, actually began over a year ago, and it is not just another spoke in the “cycle of violence.”
“Usually there’s a tendency to overstate the instability of Jerusalem,” Seidemann said at a meeting of journalists and analysts in Washington this week. “But Jerusalem is normally a far more stable city than its reputation. What we are seeing now are significant developments that go well beyond tomorrow’s headlines.”
Seidemann described a dangerous confluence of factors, with the political stalemate creating an atmosphere of despair in which the conflict, which has always been political, will finally become the religious conflict that many have believed, until now incorrectly, that it is. The current conflict centered on the Temple Mount is only the tip of the iceberg. According to Seidemann, “The entire fabric of this conflict has changed.” Read more at FMEP’s site
In what has almost become an annual ritual, an upsurge in violence has again put Jerusalem on edge. Originally centered on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount area in Jerusalem’s Old City, the clashes have now spread beyond, into the West Bank. Read more at Facts On the Ground
Take a particularly provocative and grandstanding Israeli government and shift its focus from Hamas and Gaza to Jerusalem and you have a most explosive recipe. That potion is being stirred now, and the results could shake up the status quo in a way that we have only seen a few times in Israel’s history. Read more at LobeLog
The photo here, linked to the Ha’aretz article from which it comes, makes it as clear as you could want just how threatening the new settlement, Givat Hamatos is. It doesn’t threaten “peace”; it doesn’t “call into question Israel’s commitment to peace.” Few have any illusions anymore that Israel has any interest in peace.
What it does is to expand Israel’s presence into Jerusalem. That will bury the old formula for Jerusalem (according to the Clinton Parameters, Jerusalem would be divided according to the formula “what is Jewish is Israel’s, what is Arab is Palestine’s). That may not be a very big deal. But it extends Israel’s grip on the eastern part of the city and, as you can see fro the map, future settlements can easily be placed in strategic positions to surround Arab villages…much as settlements do in the rest of the West Bank.
The US reaction is completely shameful. It’s worse than the usual kowtowing or tongue-clucking. In this case, the US reaction makes it clear that the Obama Administration knows full well just how damaging Givat Hamatos is, and STILL will not do a thing to stop it, but will continue to obstruct other parties (chiefly the UNSC but also the EU) from acting.
The Israel-Palestine usually takes up a disproportionate amount of attention in two of the three branches of the US government. Now, the third is getting into the mix. The radical irresponsibility of the Roberts Court, which has already gone a long way to robbing Americans of the principle of “one person, one vote” is now quite inappropriately sticking its nose into a dispute between Congress and the State Department over identifying Jerusalem as Israel for the purposes of US passports.
There are some serious implications here. I explore them at LobeLog.
The annual Jewish day of lamentation, Tisha B’Av is upon us again. What does that mean for present-day Israeli reality? I explore in Souciant today.