On June 25, 2006, militants from Gaza snuck into Israel via an underground tunnel near the Kerem Shalom crossing and abducted a 19-year-old Israeli soldier: Gilad Shalit. In the first days after the abduction, Shalit’s captors demanded that all female prisoners and all minors who are being held in Israeli prisons be released in exchange. They then requested the release of a thousand additional prisoners. But Ehud Olmert, who was prime minister, was fundamentally against negotiating with Hamas, and the conversation between the Israelis and the Gazans ended there.
But while the politicians stalled, Shalit’s image seared itself into Israel’s consciousness. There was the serious teenage Gilad making a point with his hand raised in gesticulation, posted by supporters as their Facebook profile photo. There was the image of the emaciated boy in military garb reading a script to his government from captivity. There was the Gilad Shalit in a checked shirt being grilled by an Egyptian television personality, her questions like lashes at the newly released Gilad, thinner still and white as a sheet.
Over the five years of his captivity, Gilad Shalit became everyone’s child. And, in the end, the task of securing Shalit’s freedom fell not to military officers or politicians or special envoys, but to an outsider to Israel’s close-knit military-political establishment: Gershon Baskin, a peace activist from Long Island who spent 35 years developing relationships with Palestinian leaders. In his new book,The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas, Baskin writes that, before Shalit, he had tried to rescue his wife’s cousin, Sasson Nuriel, after he disappeared in the West Bank, in 2005, to no avail. Nuriel was killed, and Baskin describes his guilt. “I had worked with Palestinians for decades, but all of my contacts had done nothing to save Sasson. I swore on his grave that if ever again asked to help save a life, I would do everything humanly possible to accomplish that mission. I would not rest until I’d succeeded.”
Today marks the second anniversary of Shalit’s return home. His face has now filled out, restoring something of his lost youthfulness. He is studying economics and sustainability, and he has a girlfriend. “I pinch myself every day, that I played this role in saving a human life,” Baskin said by phone from Jerusalem earlier this week. “It’s so amazing that it happened.”
The story of Baskin’s pivotal role in securing the young man’s life is a reminder that, for all the high-level negotiations and delicate offers of prisoner swaps or land compromises that characterize politics between the Israelis and the Palestinians, real progress rests on the strength of the personal experiences and commitments of the individuals involved. While Shalit’s release was ultimately secured by Israel’s release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, it was only Baskin’s commitment that kept negotiations—and Shalit—alive long enough to reach a resolution.
“Many households left an empty chair at their table for Gilad,” Baskin writes in his book. “This became customary over the next five years, not only in Israel but in Jewish homes around the world.” But for Baskin, “Gilad Shalit had become part of my family. I was always conscious of him, wondering how he was doing, where he was being held.”
The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas killed
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
Feb 02, 2020 0The remarks from the US official came in wake of the Palestinian decision to reject the administration’s peace plan. US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to...
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.