Thursday, November 22, 2012

Peace was within reach before Israeli attack

Long-term peace was within reach before Israeli attack
16 November, 2012

Israel has chosen to attack Gaza in order to avoid reaching a longer-term peace settlement that was being negotiated with the help of Hamas’ military leader Ahmen Jabari, who was assassinated in an Israeli attack Wednesday, says Israeli activist.

Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin spoke to RT confirming that Ahmen Jabari was involved in peace settlement negotiations with Israel and was due to send Hamas’ version of a peace draft to Baskin on Wednesday evening before he was killed.

RT: So you're saying that a draft of a permanent truce agreement already existed. What went wrong then?

Gershon Baskin: It was initially drafted 8 months ago. It was presented to the Israelis, Hamas, Egyptian intelligence and the UN for deliberation. Both Israelis and Hamas decided not to agree. Over the last months the ceasefires got shorter and shorter and the intensity of the fighting increased. And I decided together with my counterpart in Hamas, we were instrumental in negotiating a prisoner exchange deal that led to freedom of Gilad Shaid, the Israeli soldier held in captivity by Mr. Jabari, we decided to push forward. My Hamas counterpart wrote a new version of the draft and he was presenting it to Hamas leaders. In fact on Wednesday morning he was presenting it to Ahmed Jabari himself. I was supposed to receive later that evening the copy of the draft in Arabic for me to deliver to the Israelis who were waiting for it along with Egyptian intelligence.

RT: Why do you think Israel approved the assassination of the Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari?

GB: There is a legitimate argument within the Israeli security assessment on whether or not making a truce with Hamas strengthens Hamas at a time when we know Ahmed Jabari and his colleagues are not peace activists. They don’t want peace with Israel they are committed to Israel’s destruction. For tactical reasons they had decided that a ceasefire was in their interests because each round of violence brings about the death of 10 and 25 combatants in Gaza and they didn’t see any value when no real damage was happening to Israel from their rockets attacks. So they wanted to at least have a time-out, where they could reconsider new moves. Some Israelis thought that by having a truce with them would strengthen them. There were people who believed that what we need to do is systematically weaken Hamas, so they would fall out of power. And there are those that believe we need to create deterrents strong enough that Hamas won’t attack Israel. The rocket attacks on the civilian population in Israel are intolerable and they needed to take action. I believe personally that we tried everything, we have assassinated leaders, we assassinated military commanders, we have put on an economic siege, we have bombed them, and we have tried everything except a dialogue, except an attempt to reach an understanding with mechanisms for verification and for compliance with the involvement of Egyptian military intelligence. I think it has a chance to work. But now we have to postpone it for some time.

RT: What is Israel's endgame here? What are they hoping to achieve?

GB: I don’t know how you define an end game at this point. They stated that the aim is to create deterrence. How do you determine that you created enough deterrence? Is it when you have killed enough people? Destroyed enough of the infrastructure? Destroyed enough buildings? I don’t know how you define it. What we have here is a bigger chance of escalation for a ground operation. We have to recall that Hamas rockets that they shoot into Israel are what we call a statistical weapon. They usually fall into open space, but they can fall onto a school bus, supermarket, apartment building and we can have major casualties. And if it does happen we will have a ground operation.

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