Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Are Peace Negotiations Similar to Buying a House?

Prof. Moshe Sharon compares negotiating styles of Arabs vs. Israelis (and not only them). In a nutshell: Arabs are better at it.

Some of what he writes is pretty basic stuff, and can be summarized along the lines of "The negotiating side that can get up from the table and walk away will win". And also, don't show your cards. And don't give anything away, and if you have to part with something, make sure that the other guy parts with something more important. This is what they teach in freshman courses in law school and business school, isn't it? And if it isn't, what do they teach?

And yet, it's not so simple, I fear. For many of us, the negotiation to purchase a home will be the biggest haggle we ever participate in - and there, it's us against the other side. There is no public opinion, no ideology, and, one might add, no danger of getting killed if you're wrong. Negotiations with an enemy over terms of peace do have all those complications, and then some.

My point is that there may be an inherent, structural problem with peace negotiations, in that at the very least the democratic side has to carry out its discussions publicly before its leaders can reach agreements, and in the meantime, the other side has been watching. Thus, if Olmert can negotiate away Israeli control over Jerusalem or not, is not a secret he can hold close to his chest where Abbas can't see it and can only guess. Likewise, the possibility that Abbas might relinquish the Palestinian demand for a Right of Return is not an ace to be put on the table at the final, dramatic moment, if his public will get rid of him (perhaps literally) should he try to do so.

Over the coming months, expect to be inundated with lies, spins, trial balloons, misinformation, accurate insider information, propaganda, pure nonsense, malicious nonsense, foolishness, silliness, and all the other tools with which the negotiators will try to craft negotiations in an environment where there are no real secrets, and the leaders cannot make decisions on their own.


Lydia McGrew said...

I saw somebody else say this on another blog just today. How insane do you have to be to think of Hamas as a legitimate government and of any attempt to deny its "democratic rule" as a "coup"?

Pretty insant.

Lydia McGrew said...

Whoops. That was meant to be a comment to the post below, on Cole's reference to a "coup."