When I spoke to Gershon Baskin, I asked him about the public diplomacy taking place in Jordan, where peace talks between Palestinians and Israel ended without any progress.
“I don’t think it’s possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinians in public negotiations. I believe strongly in secret back channels,” he said, because the constraints on both Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas “are such that they cannot negotiate openly.”
“It’s very much like in the case of Shalit, a question of political will,” said Baskin, who met privately with Abbas this week and believes the Palestinian leader “has decided on peace with Israel.
There’s no doubt in my mind that it is possible to reach an agreement.”
However, “I don’t think Netanyahu has reconciled himself with the price he has to pay. The most difficult issue is not Jerusalem and the refugees, it’s real estate. The Palestnians are making a mistake that they’re not negotiating, but I understand their position because I don’t think Israel is sincere about negotiating,” he said.
Baskin said that the divisions between Hamas and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah should not be a reason to avoid negotiations.
“Hamas has agreed that Abbas is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in negotiations,” Baskin said. “They have agreed that if Abbas were to reach an agreement, it would come to a referendum. They do not oppose talks; they think it’s a waste of time. So this whole issue of whether or not [Abbas] can negotiate an agreement – put it to a test. See what happens.”