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Why an Israeli hostage negotiator cut contact with Hamas

Gershon Baskin, who helped negotiate the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011, says his contacts in Hamas have no influence over the fate of the Israeli hostage.
Former Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (R) and Israeli peace activist and hostage negotiator Gershon Baskin.

Gershon Baskin is a rare figure in Israeli social and political life. A longtime peace activist, he has advised both the Israeli and Palestinian governments on the conflict and now-stagnant peace process. 

Baskin is widely known for his role spearheading back-channel negotiations with Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by the militant group during a cross-border attack in 2006 and held hostage in Gaza for five years.

For almost two decades, Baskin had sought to keep open communication channels with members of Hamas’ political wing. But three weeks after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, Baskin released an open letter to Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official with whom he liaised on the Shalit deal. Baskin wrote that after 18 years of association, their working relationship had been harmed beyond repair. Hamad, for his part, has been in Beirut since the war started, managing much of Hamas’ communication strategy.

“I always thought you were a man with principles of humanity. How can you justify the things that your people did? How can you call for 1 million October 7 [attacks]? I have called Israel’s bombing of innocent civilians in Gaza a war crime,” Baskin wrote in the letter. 

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