When Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners this week in exchange for the soldier Gilad Shalit who had been held by Hamas for more than five years, the world was watching a very public negotiation play out. What few may know, however, is that this momentous event would not have been possible without the behind-the-scenes work of independent mediator Gershon Baskin.
In an interview with Public Radio International, Baskin detailed how he became involved in the matter. In short, the peace activist from Long Island who moved to Israel in 1978 never intended to play any role. But, with experience advising two Israeli Prime Ministers and thousands of Palestinian contacts, he felt he should at least offer his help. He was rebuffed continuously at first, but stubbornly insisted. And, as they say, the rest is now history — literally.
Gershon Baskin’s story is one that should inspire the ADR community. He worked outside official channels, but succeeded in moving negotiations forward. He facilitated contact between opposing parties. He sought peaceful resolution. This is a powerful testament to the role mediation can play in bringing about change. The UN recently voted unanimously to encourage member countries to use mediation whenever possible to resolve disputes. The world needs no better example than the work of Gershon Baskin to see why this is so important.