Gershon Baskin

A very personal statement on peace


Gershon Baskin. Photo: Otmar Steinbicker

There is only one solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict – two states for two peoples.

I grew up on Long Island, New York, in a very Jewish neighborhood. Almost everyone I knew was Jewish. My public school was closed on Jewish holidays, not only because there were no kids in class, but also because almost all of the teachers were Jewish, too. I had one non-Jewish friend in my group of friends, an Italian Catholic named Vinny. He was one of the luckiest kids in our class because he got invited to everyone’s bar mitzvah.

We always belonged to a synagogue, not because we were religious, but because that was just something that was done – it was part of life and part of our culture. I asked my parents to celebrate my bar mitzvah in Israel instead of having a big party. It was two years after the 1967 Six Day War and Israel was most definitely a source of pride.

When I was 14 my family moved to a different town, where suddenly I was a small minority – only three percent of my high school was Jewish. In my first week at the new school I was befriended by someone who had spent the summer in Israel; he and his family were planning to make aliya the next summer. He told me he was starting a chapter of the Zionist youth movement Young Judaea and that I should join. I didn’t know much about it, but I thought it would be a good place to meet Jewish girls.

Well, very soon afterward I was deeply involved, elected to the regional executive committee. In my last year in high school I was president of the Long Island region of Young Judaea and had already decided that I would make aliya and link my future to that of Israel. I spent the next year in Israel on the Young Judaea year course program. I made aliya three years later after completing my BA at New York University.

From my very first visit to Israel in 1969 at the age of 13 I felt at home here. That is the best expression of what I felt that summer, and that feeling has remained with me ever since. I have never experienced anti-Semitism. I was not drawn into the Zionist movement because of the need for a safe haven for myself as a Jew. I have always felt connected to Israel out of a positive identification with the Jewish people and a very strong sense of pride in being a Jew and, since 1978, of being an Israeli. I love this country and care deeply about everything that happens here.

In Young Judaea I learned three important lessons (and subsequently taught them to many others): leadership by example, living by what you believe in (your values) and taking initiative. These lessons have been with me my entire life.

The most important lesson of all was that making aliya is not merely a change of address. In moving to Israel we commit ourselves to making Israel a better place – what we now call tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.” In the 1970s we didn’t call it that, but that is what we meant.

In my search of where in Israel to dedicate my life to matching the values I grew up with – including being active in the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement in America, I was drawn to study the Israeli-Arab conflict. Hoping to be able to make a difference in this existential problem to the State of Israel, in 1976 I went to meet the PLO Ambassador in the United Nations in NY to try to convince him to recognize the State of Israel and to agree to the two-state solution, which in my mind was the Zionist solution to the conflict.

The PLO ambassador’s unequivocal response at that time was: “Over my dead body. Israel has no right to exist and you Jews should go back to where you came from.” That was quite a blow for me. Understanding that at that time there was no entry point for a constructive dialogue I decided to begin my life in Israel working on the issue of improving relations between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens. I spent the next two years living in Kafr Qara, a Palestinian Arab village in Israel, where through Interns for Peace, I engaged in community work to develop links between Jewish and Arab communities.

Later I went on to be the first civil servant in Israel responsible for Jewish-Arab relations in the Education Ministry. I founded and directed for seven years the Institute for Education for Jewish Arab Coexistence, affiliated with the Prime Minister’s Office (Menechem Begin) and the Education Ministry (Zevulun Hammer).

Then the first intifada broke out and everything changed.

The political message of the first intifada coming out of the refugee camps of Gaza and the West Bank forced the PLO to shift its entire political orientation, to recognize Israel and support the two-state solution. The PLO verbalized its new political agenda in its Declaration of Independence of November 1988, demanding to establish their state next to Israel on 22% of the land between the River and the Sea, recognizing Israel on 78% of the land.

On the day that they called for their own independence I felt as though I was living in November 1947, when the UN called for the partition of the land of Israel/ Palestine. I felt that we should have once again danced in the streets, except that now, instead of being allocated about 50% by the UN, the PLO recognized Israel on 78% of the land.

As a Jew, a Zionist and a proud Israeli I do not want to rule over another people.

Millions of Palestinians reject our control over their lives. We as Jews, Zionists and Israelis know that no amount of money in the world, economic development or promises of support would ever replace our aspirations for a land of our own, a state we can call our own. We have been and will continue to be prepared to fight, kill and die so that we can have a territorial expression of our identity.

Well, the Palestinians are no different than us in this respect. They too are willing to fight, kill and die for a territorial expression of their identity, and no amount of money in the world will bury that aspiration.

There is only one solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict – two states for two peoples. As a Jew, a Zionist and a proud Israeli I want to have prosperous and happy neighbors living in a state of their own, next to Israel, living side-by-side in peace. That is the only way that Israel will enjoy peace. That is why ending this conflict, partitioning the land into two states on the 22%:78% formula with Jerusalem shared as the capitals of both states is the most Zionist solution there is. Anyone who suggests that we prevent the Palestinians from having a state on 22% of the land is leading Israel to a tragic path that risks the entire Zionist idea.

Gershon Baskin is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His new book, Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel, has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew.

Gershon Baskin ist Autor des Aachener Friedensmagazins Seine Beiträge finden Sie hier

World Wide Web

Beiträge von Gershon Baskin

De-risking peace - Part I

The Left is right

The French connection

The United Nations and Israel’s legitimacy

A moment of opportunity

The darkness of our times

Addressing the core

The worst negotiations, the best negotiations

Palestinian turmoil and Israeli interests

This one is for you - the Palestinians

Palestinian suffering makes no sense for Israel

Creating a compelling vision for peace

It is also in our hands

Sooner or later

There is no partner

There is no partner


Yes, it is difficult to make peace

What does he really want?

To those who oppose Israeli-Palestinian peace

Israel – my sad home

Have I got news for you

It is still not too late for peace

Netanyahu, tell us what you really think!

The partnership challenge

The binational reality that we are experiencing

Abbas is still the leader who can make peace

A new intifada?

After Abbas

The distance between here and peace and security

Doing the wrong thing at that wrong time

The one and only solution!

Yeshayahu Leibowitz was right!

The disengagement – 10 years on: What we choose to forget

Needed - a new approach to Gaza

A bad agreement is better than no agreement

Obviously no peace now, so what then?

Ramadan Kareem!

Israel’s strategic choices regarding Gaza

Anti-normalization hypocrites

FIFA, soccer and the Palestinians

Both sides now

It’s time for Palestine

The citizens’ challenge – from despair to hope

We have the chance to do the right thing in Yarmouks

The world is not against us

This is what you voted for, and this is what you will get

The no decision elections

A cautious peace, but peace nevertheless

For the sake of Israel, Netanyahu must be sent home

Going ballistic even prior to an agreement

To the new IDF chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot

The Peace Bridge

The choices we must make

Israeli elections – It’s not about the economy

Threats and security


Returning to negotiations

Our most important elections

The missed opportunities

We want peace, but they don't

Our future is in our hands

Defining who we are

Unlike religious wars, political wars have solutions

Today and tomorrow

If we had a real leader

Jerusalem of peace, Jerusalem of war

No tango going on at all

The Gaza challenge

Is Hamas prepared to end this war with a long-term ceasefire?

The end of the ceasefire, the renewal of war and the end game

The aftermath

Some thoughts this morning

Regional forum for security and stability – Gaza first

After a long phone conversation with a Hamas leader in Gaza

Don’t destroy Gaza, build it!

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace (part 3 of 3)

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace (part 2 of 3)

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace

Palestinian refugees in Syria

Annexing the West Bank – a catastrophic plan for the Jewish people

Mutual and reciprocal recognition

Our Palestinians, their Jews

A very personal statement on peace


Contextual reciprocity

Negotiating atmospherics

My Conversation With Hamas

Ramadan Kareem

Wahrheit, Lügen und Rechtmäßigkeit

Kauft palästinensisch!

Rat für den Präsidenten

Keine Fortsetzung des Unilateralismus!

Diesen Weg müssen wir einschlagen!

Die Kluft im Umgang mit den israelischen Arabern schließen


Eine Ein-Staat-Realität ist nicht durchführbar

Strategische Fehler und Herausforderungen

Mord an der Chance für Ruhe

Das Ende des Raketenbeschusses aus Gaza

Die Aufgabe eines Staatsmannes

Es gibt einen Ausweg

Atomwaffen raus aus dem Arsenal

Was Abbas Israel sagen sollte

Obama, gestatte es uns nicht!

Ist mein zionistischer Traum gestorben?