19 October 2008

19 October 2008 - Israel's Awful Negotiating Posture

Ehud Barak now says Israel is considering the Arab peace initiative first proposed by Saudi Arabia (actually, by columnist Tom Friedman) in 2002. The initiative called for full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries in exchange for full normalization of relations with the Arab world, but left the question of refugees uncomfortably open.

The reason to re-consider the plan, Barak is quoted as saying, is that separate negotiations with the Palestinians and Syrians seem to be going nowhere.

This is a classic example of bad negotiating tactics. One of the first lessons you learn in any decent negotiation course is never to bid against yourself. Yet that is exactly what Israel has just done. Because the Syrians won't let Israel keep a sliver of land near the Sea of Galilee, and the Palestinians won't let Israel keep a small percentage of the West Bank in exchange for land swaps elsewhere, Israel is now offering to give away all of that territory in order to sign a deal with the Arab League as a whole.

I am all for peace, but if there were ever a reason to reject the lame Labor-Kadima government, Barak has just provided it. The government's mandate has evaporated and it is competing with itself to offer ever more drastic concessions in exchange for the same old nothing. It doesn't even help the Palestinians to have such a weak negotiating partner, because now they can put off the internal reforms they need in order to be able to honor agreements and succeed as a political project.

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