Hostage negotiator: If Israel wants hostages back, it’ll have to present Hamas with offer it can’t refuse

Relatives of the hostages in Gaza march from a solidarity rally to the Begin Gate of the Kirya army base in Tel Aviv, Israel on December 16, 2023. (Courtesy of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum)
Relatives of the hostages in Gaza march from a solidarity rally to the Begin Gate of the Kirya army base in Tel Aviv, Israel on December 16, 2023. (Courtesy of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum)

Gershon Baskin, who was involved in the negotiations that led to the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011, is interviewed on Channel 12 regarding the current standstill between Israel and Hamas regarding the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza.

Hamas has refused to negotiate while the fighting continues and is demanding a permanent ceasefire before it will agree to resume talks to release the hostages.

Baskin says, “We should start taking them seriously. They’ve been saying for three weeks that they’re not prepared to hold negotiations until the fighting ends.”

“The only way to break them is to place a deal on the table that they cannot refuse,” Baskin argues.

“Everyone is talking about how an all-for-all deal is the only way to bring the hostages home. I assume Israel is not prepared to make such a deal.

“Therefore, it must present a different deal, at least one that can free the women, children, elderly and sick people who remain.

Gershon Baskin is interviewed on Channel 12 on December 21, 2023. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

“Israel should present to Hamas a long list of terrorists that it is prepared to release and publicize it to apply pressure on Hamas, with Palestinians in [Israel’s] prisons, in Gaza and in the West Bank leaning on Hamas to make a deal.”

Baskin acknowledges that this will require Israel to release prisoners convicted of murder, but says Israel should learn from mistakes of the past and only agree to release them to the West Bank where it will have an easier time monitoring them and re-arresting them if need be, as opposed to releasing prisoners to Gaza.

He says there are nearly 8,000 Palestinian prisoners for Israel to choose from and that it should be the one to present an offer rather than waiting for Hamas to do so.

“We have to decide if we want to return the hostage or not,” Baskin says. “We’re very far from a deal unless we take initiative.”

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