No peace, No peace plans, No price for Peace

A short guide to those obsessed with peace

By Moshe Sharon (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

    Everybody says that his donkey is a horse.
    There is no tax on words.

    (Two Arab proverbs)

On December 24th 1977, at the very beginning of the negotiations between Israel and Egypt in Ismailia, I had the opportunity to have a short discussion with Muhammad Anwar Sadat the president of Egypt. “Tell your Prime Minister,” he said, “that this is a bazaar; the merchandise is expensive.” I told my Prime Minister but he failed to abide by the rules of the bazaar. The failure was not unique to him alone. It is the failure of all the Israeli governments and the media.

On March 4, 1994, I published an article in the Jerusalem Post called “Novices in Negotiations” The occasion was the conclusion of the “Cairo Agreement.” A short time later, Yasser Arafat, proved yet again that his signature was not worth the ink of his pen let alone the paper to which it was affixed, and his word was worth even less. Then, as in every subsequent agreement Israel was taken aback when her concessions had become the basis for fresh Arab demands.

In Middle Eastern bazaar diplomacy, agreements are kept not because they are signed but because they are imposed. Besides, in the bazaar of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the two sides are not discussing the same merchandise. The Israelis wish to acquire peace based on the Arab-Muslim acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. The objective of the Arabs is to annihilate the Jewish state, replace it with an Arab state, and get rid of the Jews.

To achieve their goal, the Arabs took to the battlefield and to the bazaar diplomacy. The most important rule in the bazaar is that if the vendor knows that you desire to purchase a certain piece of merchandize, he will raise its price. The merchandise in question is “peace” and the Arabs give the impression that they actually have this merchandise and inflate its price, when in truth they do not have it at all.

This is the wisdom of the bazaar, if you are clever enough you can sell nothing at a price. The Arabs sell words, they sign agreements, and they trade with vague promises, but are sure to receive generous down payments from eager buyers. In the bazaar only a foolish buyer pays for something he has never seen.

There is another rule in the market as well as across the negotiating table: the side that first presents his terms is bound to loose; the other side builds his next move using the open cards of his opponent as the starting point.

In all its negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs, Israel has always rushed to offer its plans, and was surprised to discover that after an agreement had been “concluded” it had become the basis for further demands.

Most amazing is the reaction in such cases. Israeli politicians, “experts” and the media eagerly provide “explanations” for the Arabs’ behaviour. One of the most popular explanations is that these or other Arab pronouncements are “for internal use,” as if “internal use” does not count. Other explanations invoke “the Arab sensitivity to symbols,” “honour,” “matters of emotion” and other more patronising sayings of this nature. Does Israel possess no “sensitivities” or does it have no honour? What does all this have to do with political encounters?

It is therefore essential, as the late President Sadat advised, to learn the rules of the oriental bazaar before venturing into the arena of bazaar diplomacy. The most important of all the rules is the Roman saying: “If you want peace—prepare for war.” Never come to the negotiating table from a position of weakness. Your adversary should always know that you are strong and ready for war even more than you are ready for peace.

In the present situation in the Middle East and in the foreseeable future “peace” is nothing more than an empty word. Israel should stop speaking about “peace” and delete the word “peace” from its vocabulary together with such phrases as “the price of peace” or “territory for peace.” For a hundred years the Jews have been begging the Arabs to sell them peace, ready to pay any price. They have received nothing, because the Arabs have no peace to sell, but they have still paid dearly. It must be said in all fairness that the Arabs have not made a secret of the fact that what they meant by the word “peace” was nothing more than a limited ceasefire for a limited period.

Since this is the situation, Israel should openly declare that peace does not exist as an option in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that it has decided to create a new state of affairs in the Middle East, compelling the Arab side to ask for peace; and pay for it. Unlike the Arabs, Israel has this merchandize for sale.

From now on Israel should be the side demanding payment for peace. If the Arabs want peace, Israel should fix its price in real terms. The Arabs will pay if they reach the conclusion that Israel is so strong that they cannot destroy it. Because of this, Israel’s deterrent power is essential.

Therefore, if anyone asks Israel for plans, the answer should be: no “plans,” no “suggestions,” no “constructive ideas,” in fact no negotiations at all. If the Arab side wants to negotiate, let it present its plans and its “ideas.” If and when it does, the first Israeli reaction should always be “unacceptable! Come with better ones.” If and when the time comes for serious negotiations, once the Arabs have lost all hope of annihilating the Jewish state, here are ten rules for bargaining in the Middle Eastern bazaar:

    • Never be the first to suggest anything to the other side. Never show any eagerness “to conclude a deal.” Let the opponent present his suggestions first.

    • Always reject; disagree. Use the phrase: “Not meeting the minimum demands,” and walk away, even a hundred times. A tough customer gets good prices.

    • Don’t rush to come up with counter-offers. There will always be time for that. Let the other side make amendments under the pressure of your total “disappointment.” Patience is the name of the game: “haste is from Satan!”

    • Have your own plan ready in full, as detailed as possible, with the red lines completely defined. However, never show this or any other plan to a third party. It will reach your opponent quicker than you think. Weigh the other side’s suggestions against this plan.

    • Never change your detailed plan to meet the other side “half way.” Remember, there is no “half way.” The other side also has a master plan. Be ready to quit negotiations when you encounter stubbornness on the other side.

    • Never leave things unclear. Always avoid “creative phrasing” and “creative ideas” which are exactly what your Arab opponent wants. Remember the Arabs are masters of language. Playing with words is the Arab national sport. As in the market, so also at the negotiating table, always talk dollars and cents.

    • Always bear in mind that the other side will try to outsmart you by presenting major issues as unimportant details. Regard every detail as a vitally important issue. Never postpone any problem “for a later occasion.” If you do so you will lose; remember that your opponent is always looking for a reason to avoid honouring agreements.

    • Emotion belongs neither in the marketplace nor at the negotiating table. Friendly words as well as outbursts of anger, holding hands, kissing, touching cheeks, and embracing should not be interpreted as representing policy.

    • Beware of popular beliefs about the Arabs and the Middle East—”Arab honour” for example. Remember, you have honour too, but this has nothing to do with the issues under negotiation. Never do or say anything because somebody has told you that it is “the custom.” If the Arab side finds out that you are playing the anthropologist he will take advantage of it.
    • Always remember that the goal of all negotiations is to make a profit. You should aim at making the highest profit in real terms. Remember that every gain is an asset for the future, because there is always going to be “another round.”

    • The Arabs have been practising negotiation tactics for more than 2000 years. They are the masters of words, and a mine of endless patience. In contrast, Israelis (and Westerners in general) want quick “results.” In this part of the world there are no quick results, the hasty one always loses.

Moshe Sharon is Professor of Islamic History at the Hebrew University

August 25, 2007 | 7 Comments »

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7 Comments / 7 Comments

  1. Very simple solution! CARPET BOMB them! If they attack as in sderot we are more than justified! They RESPECT that!iF SO-CALLED”INNOCENT CIVILLIANS are killed that is the price.Israel has to quit being such a whore to the Us govt!As in the above article make the price for THEIR peace high as it allready is! Start by retaliating against their attack, than attack their infrastructure. They will come down like a house of cards, I bet my life on it!

  2. Ted,

    How a message, idea, or political position or platform is expressed is as you know, just as important as what is expressed.

    If the message is delivered in extremist language and ideas, riddled with anger, stridency, loaded characterizations, accusations and the like, people who might otherwise be receptive to the message will be so turned off by the messenger’s harsh expression that they won’t even both listening to the message.

    You note that Eldad, Feiglin Rubin and Pipes amongst others and that would include me, want to end Oslo.

    There are those who would call me extreme, just for wishing that Israel would find a leader to begin to position the GOI in stages to ultimately not only end Oslo, but reclaim that which was given way for nothing in return and to lay claim to the West Bank and Gaza.

    I am most familiar with the writings of Rubin and Pipes and they are expressing these views in way that pay as much attention to the way of expressing the view, as to the view itself. Call it a moderate soft sell of what is at the very least a controversial idea.

    I do not recall Eldad’s writings well enough to comment as to whether he expresses his message in extreme language.

    I do believe Feiglin should have moderated and shaped his message to be attractive to both the religious and the secular. You have noted his message is coming from a religious perspective and is being directed mostly to the religious, thereby excluding the secular Israelis. That said, he had hit upon some important issues in his platform such as education, justice and values.

    As I said, I think it pure dangerous nonsense for anyone to advocate that Israel suddenly reverse course to declare Oslo dead, to take back that which was given for no consideration at all and to immediately move to annex the West Bank.

    First, one of the critical problems with this and past GOI’s is their increasing willingness to frame the issues within the perceptive context of their enemies and the major western powers to seek to frame the issues in the same way.

    That has to stop.

    A new leader that I would like to see is not one who immediately says all settlements are legal, that Israel is in illegal occupation of certain parts of the West Bank and that certain lands are Palestinian lands. Rather, I would like to see such leader speak of the legality of the settlements, the occupation and the Palestinian lawful right to any of the land as not as yet having been determined as contemplated by Resolution 242.

    While such stated position might be construed as code for Israel claiming superior lawful entitlement in that regard, both by Israelis and by Israel’s enemies as well as the Western powers, by carefully choosing their words, the GOI will have plausible deniability that they have changed their position or that they are suddenly fixing to make a land grab.

    As I indicated earlier, the Palestinians can’t restrain their Jew hatred for very long and the break out of violence and palpable Jew hatred contributes to changing or at least adding relevant circumstances into the mix that are getting increasingly difficult to sweep under the rug. While that is happening, Israel, negotiating as Moshe Arens advises continues to buy time and create opportunities for more circumstances and facts to be added to the mix.

    I quite disagree that Israel can afford to make their positions black and white, at least not the ultimate end game position which must be veiled in grey mists, not to emerge until the time is right.

    As for the principle that Nurit speaks of, I am not against her view, but just do not think the way she frames that issue or how that issue can be dealt with is practical or realistic. Further, as I have stated, I find that she delivers her message in a more extreme fashion that should be avoided. That is not to say the issue should not be presented and pushed in a way that does not alarm people and is soft enough for it to settle into their minds and ultimately win them over.

    In the meantime, I would like to see a new government installed that not only formulates an intelligent position and strategy, but implements that position and strategy in an intelligent way. To do so will take gutsiness, courage, guile, wisdom, vision and resolve to stick with the game plan knowing that there will be some very rough roads to traverse.

    I have written enough on this so I will end it here.

  3. I am not being coy. I merely looked at her words and yours. I did not at all consider what I know to be your positions.

    The question of whether such people as she describes are properly described as traitors has been discussed many times. Context is everything.

    If All the countries of Europe were voting on whether to sacrifice Czechoslovakia to the Germans out of considerations of practical necessity and the reps from Chechoslovakia voted to sacrifice it, would they not be properly described as traitors.

    Now for those who believe that Zion is central to Zionism, anyone who wants to sell it out is a traitor to Zionism or at least to their understanding of it. Now some people would say but there are different views of Zionism which encompass selling out Zion to save Israel. But the Zionists wont go there Give me Zion or give me death.

    I think it is important in this debate to be clear, black and white if you will. Grey should be avoided as the slippery road to hell.

    Thus the Zionists will not consider selling out Zion and they label anyone who wants to as a traitor. They are certainly a traitor to those who believe it is non negotiable. So explain to me why Zionists who believe this are extreme or should not call the others traitors to their vision.

    Nurit does not comment on strategy or process at all. Just principle. First we must embrace her principle and then figure out how best to acheive it. She wouldn’t object.

    But Eldad and Feiglin want to end Oslo. So does Barry Rubin and Pipes among others. Is this extreme?

  4. Come on Ted, don’t be coy. You know extremist rhetoric when you hear it just as I do.

    Nurit is not as strident and angry as a Meir Kahane was, but she leans closer to extreme then moderate in her choice of language and characterizations of the GOI.

    I too would like to see Israel annex the West Bank as you well know.

    I do believe however that Israel must position herself to do so. For any GOI to advocate a sudden 180 degree reversal in policy that it is seeking to annex the West Bank is not only a ridiculous non starter, but a dangerous one on a number of levels.

    I have been speaking out on this and other blogs about putting in a government that will slowly but incrementally change the dynamic and the circumstances such that at some point a new peace paradigm will emerge that could allow Israel to reach an end game of annexing the West Bank. That end game might also as I have explained it before, but won’t now could see Egypt and Jordan get on side with no independent Palestinian state which they would fear and would prefer to have a stable strong peaceful Israel that they might abhor as their neighbor.

    I have also advocated that conditions will not just become right on their own. They must be helped along. If those conditions do emerge, the mega millions in Palestinian welfare most of which is used for Palestinian terrorism or is thrown down the Palestinian sewer, could be paid directly into the pockets of Palestinians in return for their emigrating to other lands to start a new life that now they can barely dream of.

    Nurit Grenger and I both would like to see the same thing happen, but to advocate that it must happen immediately is to me, not only an extremist position, but one that will turn off most Israelis for they probably would see the dangerous downside from such a sudden reversal of government position.

    I believe that the time needed for Israel to slowly try to change circumstances and for the Palestinians to also change circumstances by virtue that they just can’t keep their Jew hatred contained for long, could be had if the GOI took a page out of Moshe Aren’s recent article about Israel reading and following the Arab negotiating playbook. That would essentially put the peace process in a holding pattern and allow time for things to change and be changed.

    Grenger is not the only one to call the Olmert government traitors, but she is the first I can recall who now labels them a pro-Arab government. Again, just where does Grenger expect to get with such kinds of loaded labels? And why has she singled out the Olmert government? Since 1967, successive governments of Israel have been giving up position and advantage to the Arabs and Palestinians.

    And Ted, further, what’s with your twisting my words to suggest that I am saying that an extremist is one who wants decisions based on principle or justice or law or facts as opposed to being based on “practical necessity”. Get real.

    Which laws, facts and justice are you referring to? The laws and justice of Israel or the laws and justice coming from the Torah?

    Even if one believes the Torah is all the law Israel needs, they would be fools to ignore that Israel is up against the formidable power of America that is channelling Israel towards a two state solution which is pushing Israel further and further towards giving up any lawful claim to Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Just how is that pressure to be deflected? My bet is not on the GOI or any new GOI telling America to get lost!

    Finally in answer to my question about where are the Israelis themselves demanding not only the unseating of the government, but a new government that will take positions such as Eldad, Grenger, Feiglin, etc, you said:

    Israel does not represent the will of the people. All its governments violate their mandates based on the platforms which got them elected. There is now a large majority against retreat is there not?

    I hear about a growing number of Israelis against further retreat. I also here that the majority of Israelis are unwilling to retreat further without solid concessions in return from the Palestinians. That does not sound to me like the majority of Israelis are saying they are not prepared for Israel to give up one more inch and that Israel should begin to take back that which we gave away in return for nothing but Palestinian lies and empty promises.

    It sounds an awful lot like, don’t give anything more away for nothing.

    You then say that Nurit

    believes that the Zionists will rise to the challenge of keeping the land.

    and you add your own thoughts,

    A revolution is coming. It is in the works.

    I hope you are right, but I will believe it when I see it. Until then I hope others who share our views but have much bigger voices then we do, will reach increasing numbers of Israelis. I also hope that the GOI in its dealings with America, the EU, the Arabs and Palestinians follow the Arab negotiations play book Moshe Arens speaks of, exactly as written.

  5. Nurit Grenger is a strong advocate for keeping Judea and Samaria.

    Her views are extreme

    What is the definition of “extreme”. What standard do you judge her by. If you speak to people of like mind she would not be extreme at all. Eldad believes in keeping J & S too. Is Eldad extreme by your standards. Or is she only extreme in the eyes of Haaretz?

    Are you suggesting that a person who wants decisions to be based on principle or justice or law or facts as opposed to on on “practical necessity”, is an extremist.

    No one disputes that Zion belongs to Israel.

    According to Wikepedia,

    Zion is a term that most often designates the Land of Israel and its capital Jerusalem. The word is found in texts dating back almost three millennia. It originally referred to a specific mountain near Jerusalem (Mount Zion), on which stood a Jebusite fortress of the same name that was conquered by David and was named the City of David. is mentioned in the bible in psalm 87:2 ” the gates of zion”.

    Zion came to designate the area of Jerusalem where the fortress stood, and later became a metonym for Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem and the entire Promised Land to come, in which, according to the Hebrew Bible, God dwells among his chosen people.

    So I don’t know what you mean by “belongs” but I don’t think you limit yourself to this definition. A Zionist according to her view, covets Zion rather than Tel Aviv.

    What people dispute is what does Zion mean as regards the land of Israel and even those who might say that Gaza and the West Bank belong to Israel, they also say that in the geopolitical realities, in order for Israel to survive she must make peace with the Palestinians and to do that it will be necessary to relinquish any claims to Gaza and the West Bank, save for some territorial adjustments necessary for Israel security.

    Obviously your response totally misses the mark. Your practical necessity reflects conventional wisdom of those who argue for further retreat. She doesn’t. Does that make her extreme? The Arabs want Israel’s heart not its limbs. Your practical necessity allows them to cut out our heart.

    To my mind the following is true

    The formula is very simple: The unwritten constitution of Israel is Zionism. Whoever works to undermine Zionism is a traitor of Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel.

    To accept practical necessity is to turn your back on Zionism, does it not? Such a person may not be a traitor to Israel but they are a traitor to Am Yisroel and to Ha’aretz. They are post-Zionists not Zionists.

    On what basis does she say that the GOI does not represent the people of Israel? I don’t see the people moving en masse on their own initiative to unseat the GOI. I do not see opposition MK’s on their own initiative banding together to unseat this government.

    Israel does not represent the will of the people. All its governments violate their mandates based on the platforms which got them elected. There is now a large majority against retreat is there not?

    She believes that the Zionists will rise to the challenge of keeping the land. A revolution is coming. It is in the works.

  6. Who is Nurit Grenger? Is she affiliated with any organization? Does she have a following?

    Her views are extreme. No one disputes that Zion belongs to Israel. What people dispute is what does Zion mean as regards the land of Israel and even those who might say that Gaza and the West Bank belong to Israel, they also say that in the geopolitical realities, in order for Israel to survive she must make peace with the Palestinians and to do that it will be necessary to relinquish any claims to Gaza and the West Bank, save for some territorial adjustments necessary for Israel security.

    On what basis does she say that the GOI does not represent the people of Israel? I don’t see the people moving en masse on their own initiative to unseat the GOI. I do not see opposition MK’s on their own initiative banding together to unseat this government.

    Calling the GOI traitors is strident angry rhetoric. Just who is going to lay charges of treason against the GOI and take the GOI to trial as Nurit claims will happen?

    What does she mean, the people of Israel never agreed to give up Israeli land? The governments of Israel have in the name of the people given up land.

    As for the article by Moshe Arens, it should be required reading of every member of the GOI, opposition parties and all the people of Israel.

  7. Comments by Nurit Grenger

    The formula is very simple: The unwritten constitution of Israel is Zionism. Whoever works to undermine Zionism is a traitor of Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel.

    If you are opposed to Zionism, and you do not believe that Zion belongs to Am Yisrael, then you support pro-Arab fascist-Nazi regimes. For this reason, the Israeli government is pro-Arab. It is for the enemy and against Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel. This government is the replacement for the pro-Arab British mandate.

    The Olmert government is not for a safe and undivided Israel. It is the government of a badly severed and invalid Aretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, which is now like a bird without a wing and a man without a limb.

    The government of Israel does not represent the people of Israel. A decision made by a disturbed and insane traitor government does not hold.

    The Arabs must not jump for joy when this traitor government offers them some kind of paper that does not oblige the nation or does not hold water. The Arabs must not be enticed by propositions and promises made by the Israeli traitor government. A government that offers “land for peace” on paper is not the government of and for Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel.

    Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel, has never willingly given up the land of Israel, and it will not give this land to its enemy for a meaningless piece of “peace” paper. A government that betrayed the nation will go on trial for its decisions that are not legally binding.

    We, the people “For Eretz Yisrael” will retrieve every piece of our land and will settle every corner of it. The enemies of Am Yisrael are now on notice: If needed, we will do it by force.

    Anecdotally, after World War II, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister (Conservative party), lost his position to Clement Atley (Labour party) after a landslide victory by the Labour party. Winston Churchill once said, “I see an empty limousine stopping by Downing Street 10, and out of it came Clement Atley.”

    One can say the same about Olmert. He is not Olmert but rather Kloomert. In Hebrew, Kloom means nothing!

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