Bibi’s under a lot of constant criticism, but friend and foe should admit: Israeli politicians, on the Left and on the Right, could learn a thing or two from our Prime-Minister about negotiating. And Trump is called a lot of things but for sure he’s a negotiator. He’s not a people pleaser and not a boy scout; rather, his highest value is to get to a good deal.
Mr. Trump is a business man seeking profit. He may just like the Jews because he found out that they are profitable to him (and maybe too because Jews are so naive when you’re friendly to them), and not (necessarily) because he’s our friend – or anyone’s. (Stop dividing mankind into friends and enemies of the Jews!) Please, memorize some of the following strategic rules.
- Throughout negotiations, be a Mench, friendly, upbeat, constructive, charming, and compliment, smile, joke, hug, chitchat. No because you’re naive, but rather because you’re decent.
- When facing an opponent, don’t start by putting all your cards on the table or by spelling out all the points that you may eventually compromise on. Leave some room for negotiation. Don’t suggest ways you could make concessions when not yet forced. Don’t give in if the other side doesn’t match your willingness to compromise. Win-win should be the outcome of good negotiations, not a goal to strive for.
- Never trust a negotiation partner until you have a deal. If he’s not an enemy, he can still fleece you for his interests. You’re not here to please him and he’s not here to please you. Try to say only things that are true (though don’t give away your whole picture) but keep in mind that the other might mislead you. Be frank enough to say: I expect better from a friend, if they are truly unreasonable. If they present themselves as your friend, talk like a friend too, but don’t assume that they are your friend.
- Leave your ego at the door. (Admit that that is a hard one.) Trying to score points with the public will not work for you. As the Sages wrote: if you chase honor, honor will flee from you. Rather, do a good job and then you will get more than honor due. Honor is a good byproduct of negotiations but a lousy negotiating goal.
- Don’t get angry at the other side; maybe you misunderstood them; in the worst case, learn to agree to disagree. Learn to use understatement; instead of “You’re the biggest disappointment that the Jewish People ever faced” say : Apparently we need more time to come to a result that will please us both. Learn to say no as if you hand them the moon. Take any “definitely not” as a: no for now.
- Don’t be too agreeable or pleased until the agreement’s signed. Wedge war if you need to. Play hardball. If the other side knows how to negotiate, they may look pained, but they know too that both sides are in this game each to win the most and that you are not dating partners – or enemies. Learn to look pained and worried, silently. If the offer is better than you could have anticipated, look moderately pleased; shout with joy later, when you’re out of earshot (there are mikes everywhere!) and if the offer then still stands. If so, ask yourself why you expected less than you could get. Presents don’t prove that they are your friends – only that they want something from you.
- It ain’t over till it’s over. Walk away if the opponent needs you to agree but they are not forthcoming. Ask for time to collect and present more proof for your position.
Therefore: I will stop thinking highly of all Israeli politician who from now on will have the stupidity to tell the media: how much they like the new US Administration, what exactly they want from the new team, how much they understand that these guys can only meet us so far for now, what the end results of the talks ideally must be, how you will agree with anything they want because they are friends of ours, etc. Please shut up and put your brain in gear before you speak again. Thank you.
And one suggestion for President Trump. Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem might be a costly and hollow first gesture, that also must take time. Why not give Israelis a great opening present that would not interest the Arab Palestinians at all and can be instantaneous? To pardon Jonathan Pollard so that he finally can move to Israel. Long overdue. Make our day! Let him fly back with our Prime-Minister.