We’ve heard a lot this past week about the problems in the current stage of the peace process. Questions about whether the negotiations would continue past April 29th, but more than that, a series of new offers and demands.
An alleged American offer to release Jonathan Pollard from prison. Renewed demands by the Palestinian Authority for 1000 more prisoners to be freed, agreement on borders of a future Palestinian State and Israeli citizenship for 15,000 Palestinians. And all of this for what? For an agreement that the two sides will continue to talk for another 9 months.
When I heard about these developments, all I could think of was the way parents and children sometimes negotiate with each other. Imagine the following two scenarios…
A mother wants her child to eat his Brussels sprouts. He tells her that if she wants him to eat his veg, she’s going to have to let him stay up an extra hour past his bedtime.
Some other parents want their daughter to stop pestering them to buy her a puppy. They tell her if she stops, they will buy her a new bicycle instead.
What do these two situations have in common with each other? It is clear from the demands and offers who is interested in reaching a goal and who is agreeing to accept a situation that they don’t really want. In both cases, the child would receive compensation for doing something they don’t really want to do, and the parents give up on something in order to reach their ultimate goal.
The demands and offers we make in negotiations indicate what we want and what we are giving up.
Now let’s take this and apply it to our current situation.
Israel has already released hundreds of convicted killers. The U.S. (may have) offered to release Pollard if we agree to release more. This matches up neatly with the above negotiation stories. We don’t want to release more prisoners and the U.S. wants us to do so, so they make us an offer. (Whether or not we should accept is an entirely separate conversation.)
What about the other set of demands? The P.A. makes a series of other demands if we want negotiations to continue. Does that match up? Only if Israel gains something by the Palestinians agreeing to keep talking to us.
But is that really the case? Is the P.A. offering anything in return for Israel acquiescing to its demands? Are continued talks actually a benefit for Israel? And more importantly, is the P.A. actually giving anything up by talking to us?
By making the continuation of talks into something that they are offering us in exchange for Israel making difficult concessions, the Palestinians are clarifying what they want and don’t want. They obviously don’t want to keep talking, which indicates that peace is not their goal. If it were, they should be doing anything possible to continue peace negotiations.
If you truly want peace, you don’t make demands before you are willing to try to reach it. That would be like a child whose parents offer him ice cream and he replies, “Only if you also give me all the candy I can eat! And pizza too!”
Compromise is when both sides give something up to make up for the other side’s sacrifices. Negotiations are not a goal in themselves, so why make demands in order to continue them?
What we demand, and under what circumstances, indicate what our actual goals are.