July 13, 2009

Abbas Goes to Eleven

David Hazony has a must-read piece in Commentary about the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

One of the clearest indicators as to whether you are negotiating with someone who actually wants to reach a deal, or alternatively has no intention of closing but is negotiating for other reasons, is how your partner responds to concessions on your part. Let’s say you’re trying to buy a baseball card for five dollars, and the seller wants ten. If you up your offer to seven, and he really wants to cut a deal, then he might lower it to nine. If he insists on sticking to ten, it probably means that either he’s a tough negotiator, or he thinks he can get ten from someone else.

But what if he responds by raising the price? What if he, to quote a great movie, “goes to eleven”?

Crazy as it sounds, this is what often happens in negotiations between Israel and its neighbors. According to widely held rumors, the main reason Netanyahu did not succeed in cutting a deal with Syria on the Golan during his previous term of office was that each time the Israelis raised their offer, the Syrians raised their demands, with the definition of the “Golan” moving increasingly West until it hit the Sea of Galilee. With Jordan and Egypt, however, it was the opposite: An agreement could be reached because both sides wanted it.

So, what about the Palestinians? All too often it seems as though the more Israel gives, the greater the demands. Everyone seems to think that the final outcome of the deal will be somewhere between what Netanyahu is saying and what Obama is saying: A sovereign Palestinian state taking up between 97 and 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, maybe some part of Jerusalem, and some kind of formula invented to deal with the “right of return,” the unity of Jerusalem, and so on.

Now that Netanyahu has conceded the biggest part of this — the idea of statehood itself — we might have expected Abbas to show a little give on his position. Instead, the demands have suddenly increased. The Palestinian leader is now insisting on “territorial continuity between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

Okay, now look at a map. Once Israelis toyed with the idea of bridges and tunnels, some way of moving safely between the two parts of Palestine. But something about the phrase “territorial continuity” suggests more than this. It means actual land. In other words: Slicing Israel in half.

Read the rest.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 13, 2009 10:54 AM
Comments

Let’s say you’re trying to buy a baseball card for five dollars, and the seller wants ten. If you up your offer to seven, and he really wants to cut a deal, then he might lower it to nine. If he insists on sticking to ten, it probably means that either he’s a tough negotiator, or he thinks he can get ten from someone else.

But what if he responds by raising the price? What if he, to quote a great movie, “goes to eleven”?

What if he says he doesn't want money, but wants to trade his card for a card you have instead? What if your refusal to offer him something he actually wants is what turned the negotiations sour?

I would agree that from where I'm sitting it seems that Palestinians and their supporters don't want peace, unless that peace comes with victory. But I also think Palestinians believe Israel doesn't want peace, either. I tend to think Israel wants peace, but is unwilling to pay a cost (in concessions) for it. That's a long road to nowhere. Without one side or the other achieving an uncontested victory over the other, I don't see how the Arab-Israeli conflict can ever be resolved, while both sides are talking past eachother.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 12:00 PM

Another reprise of the hoary old "It's all the wogs' fault" tune is a must-read?

It speaks well of Abbas that he is not falling for Netanyahu's silly ploy.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 3:07 PM

With Jordan and Egypt, however, it was the opposite: An agreement could be reached because both sides wanted it.

Surely, that is the crucial line. The Syrian regime clearly judges that resolving the Golan Heights issue would make it a loser strategically. It would undermine its Hezbollah-Iran-Hamas alliance structure.

As for the PLO, a deal with Israel would enable Hamas to portray itself as the only guardian of "true" Palestinian nationalism. While such "true" nationalism requires the end of Israel, there can be no deal.

Posted by: Lorenzo Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 3:32 PM

Another reprise of the hoary old "It's all the wogs' fault" tune is a must-read?

Seriously? You might disagree with the editorial, but it is objectively nothing like a racist screed.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 4:19 PM

I wasn't claiming it was racist, just identifying the rich British imperial tradition from which it springs.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 4:32 PM

Having a way to connect Gaza and WB together isn't so unreasonable. I doubt Abbas is trying to slice Israel in half.

Posted by: beeaar Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 4:40 PM

In contrast of course to the rich Palestinian tradition?

Posted by: Ron Snyder Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 4:41 PM

Big Jilm: ...wogs...

What the hell is your problem? Nobody talks like that around here and lasts very long. If you're putting words like that in my mouth, you're even less likely to last.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 13, 2009 5:07 PM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/14/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by: David M Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 7:03 AM

Abba Eban's oft quoted line still stands true lo these many decades.

Why is it so clear to so many that the Palestinians simply don't want peace but want to dismantle Israel? It boggles my mind that the "elite" continues to look for something that is not there; the elusive deal.

sigh

Posted by: Grantman Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 8:21 AM

I was talking about Hazony. Read more carefully.
Better if you would explain why you think this one millionth episode of Just and Peaceloving Israel vs. The Incorrigible Arabs adds anything to anyone's understanding. If such screeds are your thing, Benny Morris produces a much better-informed and better-written version.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 11:36 AM

Neither party wants to reach a deal. I do not even bother to follow.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 2:38 PM

I wasn't claiming it was racist, just identifying the rich British imperial tradition from which it springs.

Sorry, but using a racial epithet to characterize someone's statement is objectively tantamount to calling him a racist.

Did the British invent imperialism? In any case, the analogy doesn't apply to Israel. Israelis only have one land, and they're currently living on it.

No one is arguing that Israelis are purely peaceful, or that Arabs are always the intractable ones. The point is that the Palestinians are trying to punch above their own weight, making demands that are completely unreasonable relative to the cards they hold, which is none. Would Tibetans or Kurds turn down peace terms comparable to those offered by Israel at Camp David in 2000? Or at the very least, would they quickly give up on any further negotiation, the way Arafat did? My guess is no.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 3:14 PM

So, how many people can figure out the Saud's want this to happen. And, why.

The Saud's also wanted to have a "satellite" in Iraq. But American military prowess; with the surge, stopped the de-population of the sunni tribesmen. Not a mean feat by us. But bringing no rewards.

The Saud's think if they can chop Israel into parts that never existed on the map, before. Gaza was ruled by Egypt. And, the Egyptians still keep themselves from marauding palesinians on foot traffic. While Jordan lost the West bank when it went to war. In 1967. Jordan has an interesting record, too, for when it "goes to war." See 1991, and Gulf War 1.

At least Bibi's approval numbers are rising. This was not Obama's intent. He was sure he'd slam Bibi, and Livni would suddenly fall into the prime minister's chair.

Guessed wrong.

What will Bibi do? Play for as much time as possible. Sometimes, in America, an upcoming election can be such a cleansing experience.

Posted by: Carol_Herman Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 6:14 PM

Sorry, but using a racial epithet to characterize someone's statement is objectively tantamount to calling him a racist.

Perhaps. That's why I clarified to make clear that I was referring to the tradition of placing all the blame on the colonized for their colonization.

Did the British invent imperialism? In any case, the analogy doesn't apply to Israel. Israelis only have one land, and they're currently living on it.

Well, land that was formerly held by British imperialists and granted to them. That particular ship has long since sailed, but do you consider the West Bank Israeli land? Because I hear tell some Israelis are living there.

No one is arguing that Israelis are purely peaceful, or that Arabs are always the intractable ones.

I respectfully submit that a perusal of the Commentary archives, among other things, would put the lie to that assertion.

The point is that the Palestinians are trying to punch above their own weight, making demands that are completely unreasonable relative to the cards they hold, which is none.

Indeed. The Palestinians have no realistic means of freeing themselves by force, which is the only thing Israel (or any other state) understands. That's why "peace in the Middle East" is such a fantasy. Not only does neither side have any genuine interest in it, but the playing field will never be level enough to make it a realistic prospect.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 7:19 PM

If the palestinians actually wanted a "deal" ... Clinton would have cinched it with Arafat. America just has a slow learning curve. And, Obama wouldn't be the first black man to hate Jews. (Look at the church he stayed in for 20 years! Look at his background.) Please don't act surprised. It's got "Academia" written all of its face, too.

Now, who wants a "deal?" Turns out the Saud's want it. And, they're pretty angry, already, because Irak wasn't delivered! Where's the "Amazing American Military" ... How did the shi'ites win?

What Vietname caused, in that it caused Lyndon Johnson's presidency to explode during his first term in office; was the DRAFT. Kids going against their wills ti fight in Vietnam. For no sane reason. Korea was also a quagmire. Thanks to the UN.

So, by now you know the playing field. Since the Palestinians want nothing (except if America could do it, Israel's disappearance); they'll keep belching up their noises. It's a fund raiser for them.

But where's Egypt in all of this? Egypt gets to lock out Gaza, but Israelis, who face the terror with a workable army; and a realistic show of force, meets with condemnation.

Sometimes? I think Obama can be a one-termer. Just like Jimmy Carter. The Saud's have enough money to keep them on the payroll.

Posted by: Carol_Herman Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 11:02 PM

...the tradition of placing all the blame on the colonized for their colonization.

It's not about placing blame, it's about asking for accountability.

That particular ship has long since sailed...

You and I know that, but too many Palestinians don't, and that's one source of the problem.

...do you consider the West Bank Israeli land?

No, I don't. But the issue of settlements can be negotiated, as it has been in the past.

I respectfully submit that a perusal of the Commentary archives, among other things, would put the lie to that assertion.

Fair enough. I guess I should have just said that it was not Hazony's argument.

The Palestinians have no realistic means of freeing themselves by force, which is the only thing Israel (or any other state) understands.

We're not talking about Tibet, and that kind of moral equivalence just doesn't fly. We gave up the Philippines, Britain gave up its overseas territories, and Israel has certainly made attempts to negotiate peace with the Palestinians, and will continue to do so.

That's why "peace in the Middle East" is such a fantasy. Not only does neither side have any genuine interest in it, but the playing field will never be level enough to make it a realistic prospect.

Okay... but isn't that just another way to frame Hazony's point? You both agree that the playing field isn't level, that Israel has no interest in compromising its own strength just to help the Palestinians negotiate as equals, and that the alternative to Palestinian accountability is perpetual instability and conflict. You're defending principles while he prefers results, but you both seem to agree on the basic picture.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 12:13 AM

You and I know that, but too many Palestinians don't, and that's one source of the problem.

That's how it goes. Just as many Israelis refuse to admit that the founding of Israel entailed an injustice inflicted upon the Palestinians, many Palestinians are unwilling to accept the reality that they will have to accomodate that injustice. That's how people are. And that's why there will never be peace.

Fair enough. I guess I should have just said that it was not Hazony's argument.

Sure it was. Abbas is a rejectionist, Israel is blameless, and Israel's demands are reasonable (build an expansion for their newlywed son) while those of the Palestinians are unreasonable. People like Hazony are about as useful to progress in the region as Hamas is.

We gave up the Philippines, Britain gave up its overseas territories, and Israel has certainly made attempts to negotiate peace with the Palestinians, and will continue to do so.

Sure, Israel is willing to negotiate peace so long as they don't entail any real sacrifice on Israel's part.

You both agree that the playing field isn't level, that Israel has no interest in compromising its own strength just to help the Palestinians negotiate as equals, and that the alternative to Palestinian accountability is perpetual instability and conflict.

No, the alternative to perpetual instability and conflict is for Israel to realize it is the stronger partner and lead the way with courage for once. But it will never do so because solving the problem is far down its list of priorities.

What sort of "accountability" do you think is lacking? Should the international community stop sending aid to the PA until HAMAS magically disappears? Until Abbas says he is willing to accept the neutered protectorate that Israel has in mind as the Palestinian "state"?

Posted by: JJE Author Profile Page at July 16, 2009 2:58 PM

Oops. That last one was me. I've got two TP accounts.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 16, 2009 3:00 PM

No, the alternative to perpetual instability and conflict is for Israel to realize it is the stronger partner and lead the way with courage for once.

What's the point of having strength if it carries no advantage? The Arab states readily use their own power for leverage. The very fact that the Israel/Palestine conflict is considered the paramount issue defining the Muslim world's relations with the West attests to this. We're not sitting here arguing about Nagorno-Karabakh, after all. So why should Israel behave any differently?

What sort of "accountability" do you think is lacking?

The kind of accountability that I would expect from my own government.

Until Abbas says he is willing to accept the neutered protectorate that Israel has in mind as the Palestinian "state"?

Well, yes. My forebears in Taiwan settled for much less, and ended up creating one of the world's leading economies. The Palestinians need to stop dwelling on sunk costs.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 1:25 AM

"many Israelis refuse to admit that the founding of Israel entailed an injustice inflicted upon the Palestinians"

How so? There was going to be a Palestinian state, but it was the Arabs who refused to accept Israel and started the 1948 war. Then after the war, with the West Bank and Gaza still in Arab hands, they refused to establish a Palestinian state.

There was an injustice only if you think the existence of a Jewish state at all is an injustice. Of course it has been easy to tell this is your real position, despite all your phony smarmy criticisms of Israel's actions. It is not what Israel does that angers you but the mere fact that it exists. You should have the honesty to come right out an say that but I'm not expecting it.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at July 18, 2009 1:23 PM
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