Gershon Baskin is an Israeli peace activist with extensive contacts on the Palestinian side and extensive experience of negotiating in hostage situations.

He tells Agenda that already on the second day of the war, he tried to get a deal where women, children, the sick and the elderly who had been taken hostage by the terrorist movement Hamas would be released in exchange for Palestinian women and teenagers who had been imprisoned in Israel, most suspected or convicted of stone throwing, knife attacks and other violent crimes against Israelis.

Complicated mode

Only now, after almost fifty, has such an agreement been reached. The war and destruction have made the negotiations extremely difficult:

"Israel's goal is to make it impossible for Hamas to ever threaten it again and to kill all its leaders. And it's hard to negotiate with someone you're going to kill," he says.

"And Hamas has been very clear that their goal is no longer to stay in power in Gaza – their intention is to destroy the state of Israel.

No transparency in Gaza

The situation is hardly made any less complicated by the fact that Hamas representatives are in Qatar and therefore have little insight into what is happening on the ground in Gaza, where hostages are being held. The local Hamas leaders want to avoid Israel figuring out where they are at all costs.

"Hamas in Gaza uses normal communication via telephone or computers. They use a modern form of carrier pigeon – where couriers pass handwritten notes between each other before they finally reach someone who has a satellite phone in Egypt, for example.

Watch a longer interview in SVT's Agenda.