by Moshe Sharon
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
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
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
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 merchandise, 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 lose; 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,
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
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
Since this is the situation,
From now on
Therefore, if anyone asks
1). 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.
2). Always reject; disagree. Use the phrase: "Not meeting the minimum demands," and walk away, even a hundred times. A tough customer gets good prices.
3). 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!"
4). 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.
5). 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.
6). 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.
7). 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.
8). 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.
9). Beware of popular beliefs about the Arabs and the
10). 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 practicing 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
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