Frieda R. F. Horwitz

Different style of negotiation in the Middle East

The Israeli government has been negotiating with Hamas over the release of hostages and for a possible ceasefire, aided by the Biden proposal currently on the table — which the Hamas leadership has rejected. In the Western style of negotiation, terms are stated and each side reviews the terms until an acceptable compromise is reached for each side.  Each side comes closer to a hoped for compromise with a slightly better set of terms until both sides agree.

But there is another form of negotiation as practiced in the Middle East where one party doesn’t budge, expecting its opponent will continue to up the ante until an acceptable price is given to the non-budging side. This style is used in the marketplace – the buyer and seller state their terms, but if one side doesn’t budge, the other party continues to inch closer to the terms of its opponent in order to finalize a deal.

We Israelis keep trying to make a deal with Hamas for the release of the hostages, including the horrendous Shalit deal of 1,000 terrorists for one soldier for which Israel is still paying the terrible consequences. Hamas keeps upping its price for a live hostage release without giving any information on the number or health of living hostages. And Israel keeps trying new offers to tempt Sinwar and the Hamas leadership in Qatar. But Israel could try to change the negotiating momentum.

For example, if the current Israeli offer includes 4 Palestinian prisoners for every living hostage, a rejected deal would cause the proffered offer to only get worse, not better – and the next offer would be only 3 prisoners for every Israeli hostage.  This would be true as well for the time set for a short ceasefire which would then be worsened if the ceasefire was broken in any form.  Right now Hamas has nothing to lose – each time they refuse an offer, Israel offers slightly better terms. There needs to be a new strategy to break the log-jam. Palestinians and Israelis both understand the marketplace strategy, as it is part of their everyday business culture. But currently, it is only working in favor of Hamas – whose leadership  doesn’t care if Palestinian non-combatants are injured or killed; indeed, Palestinian injuries only work in Hamas’ favor, in the court of international world opinion.

I suggest that it is time for a new strategy, as the conventional strategy has not seen a hostage release since November.

About the Author
A native of Milaukee, WIsconsin, made aliya in 1983. BA from Barnard College, MA in Contemporary Jewish Studies from Brandeis and Phd studies in International Relations and Middle East Studies from Columbia University and Hebrew University. National Associate Director of Union of Councils for Soviet Jews in USA, Executive Director of Program for Innovative Teaching and Assistant Director of Moetzet Yachad. Created and directed the experimental Coalition Project in Kiryat Menachem Jerusalem.
Related Topics
Related Posts