Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
No peace, No peace plans, No price for Peace
(A short guide to those obsessed with peace)
Everybody says that his donkey is a horse.
There is no tax on words.
(Two Arab proverbs)
On December 25th 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 merchandize 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 attached, 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 merchandize. 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 merchandize in question is “peace” and the Arabs give the impression that they actually have this merchandize 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’ behavior. 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,” “honor,” “matters of emotion” and other more patronising sayings of this nature. Does Israel possess no “sensitivities” or does it have no honor? 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:
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 looses.
Muslims marching in London during their recent "Religion of Peace” Demonstration."