Saturday, July 30, 2005

Negotiation Lessons 

I'm not an expert on the problems between Israel and the U.S. over the sale of arms technology to China, but a recent development reported in Haaretz struck me as in important lesson:

After Israel raised a white flag and acquiesced to most of the demands, the U.S. made additional, harsher demands, and was said to have shown contempt for the Israeli delegation.
The next time Israel is pressured by the U.S. and other 3rd party powers to make concessions to the Palestinians in exchange for the good will and expected compensatory concessions, this should be brought up. We already see a history of concession after concession in this very conflict being received with contempt and aggression in return. But now the U.S., probably Israel's most reliable and important friend in the world, treats Israel's white-flag concession in this issue as an admission of weakness and invitation to pile on. We have to remember that the rules of inter-personal relationships we all carry around, gleaned from our years of interacting with fellow individuals, do not always apply at the level of states. States are not people, and to count on the idea of mercy or kindness from them as if that is what they were is dangerous. I'm sure there are tons of links from Bismarck or Machiavelli out there if I had the energy to google for them.

One caveat: this is not an anti-disengagement lesson since there is no expected return from the other side in this unilateral concession. There are plenty of other challenges to the wisdom of the move, but I'm not saying this is one of them.

But if the idea of Disengagement II starts picking up steam, the U.S. should realize we're done taking IOU's written in invisible ink.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: