By: Fadi Zanayed
When my children were young, I wanted to instill in them the art of negotiating. I used what I call a “fixed deescalating incentive” lesson. For example, when my son wanted money I offered him $10 to cut the lawn. He would skillfully counter that he would do the chore for $20. When I would then offer $9 then $8 and $7 for his services, after he respectively countered with $18, $15 and $13, I would finally yield to the $10 price I originally offered. My children learned very quickly how to navigate me away from my original offer—they developed a knowledge that the consequence of my firmness and perceived strength was that I would end up doing the chore myself if I continued to negotiate in bad faith. The lesson taught was that they needed to attain a position of parity when negotiating in order to achieve their desired result.
I offer this example of negotiating skills to illustrate the type of negotiations the Palestinians have been engaged in with the Israelis for the last 20 years. I negotiated with my children out of power and then had to compromise when they established parity in those negotiations—when they convinced me that I will have to do the chore myself if I was not going to negotiate in good faith.
Palestinians have not reached parity with the Israelis and just like my children they had to accept Israeli demands or get nothing at all. It is only until the Palestinians establish parity in peace talks with the Israelis that they will achieve success in those talks.
In 1993 when I first learned of the Oslo Accords and then subsequently learned of the limited “authority” that was agreed upon, I said, then, that the Palestinians would have never entered into those talks had Yasser Arafat been a young man. Yasser Arafat accepted limited “authority” because he was in his waning years. He wanted to achieve something. He wanted to be the “father of Palestine.” If he did not accept what limited “authority” the Israelis gave him, he would have received nothing at all.
Arafat was not willing to fight anymore as he was in his early years and Israel sensed this. Thus, Israel offered him the $10 that I offered my son—limited authority in limited areas. And while Arafat gave the Israelis recognition, denounced violence and removed the “destruction of Israel” from the Palestine Liberation Charter, the Israelis did not budge at all. In fact, Oslo Accords’ commitment to enter final status talks by 1999 was taken off the table.
Because Palestinians allow Israelis to feel superior, as I continuously have argued in earlier articles, Israel continues to behave in ways that perpetuates the immorality of the occupation of Palestinians and Palestinian land. Israelis can continue the apartheid practices of checkpoints, the segregation mentality imbedded in the construction of a wall and the unlearned lessons of ethnic cleansing in its own people’s history because of this perceived superiority. Only when the Palestinians gain a position of parity with the Israelis will they achieve their desired result.
How do the Palestinians achieve a position of parity with the Israelis?
To start, the Palestinians must stop behaving like children.
Israel, through its Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, has floated the “bottom up” approach in which existing Palestinian Authority powers in the autonomous zones established in the 1990’s throughout the West Bank could be extended in various ways, with “other authorities, jurisdictions and powers.” While more authority is nice, it is not the ultimate goal—ending the occupation, providing for a just solution to the Palestinian refugees and establishing one contiguous Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinians must resist the child like reactionary temperament and resist these overtures to make the Israel’s look good in the international realm but place a wedge in Palestinian solidarity. Palestinians must stop accepting “limited authority in limited areas” and start demanding the end of the occupation now.
Second, Palestinians must unify.
Nothing signals the weakness of the Palestinians as does the disunity between Fatah and Hamas. These two political parties within Palestinian society must come together and present a united front towards Israel. The fact that Israel and the US will not talk to Hamas is not open to discussion because neither country can dictate as to who will represent the Palestinian people. Unity of Fatah and Hamas must be of paramount importance to all Palestinians.
Third, Palestinians must show Israel the prosperity of peace.
Palestinians must convince Israelis that peace has economic and social benefits. Normalization of relations with Arab countries, children on both sides do not have to live in a constant state of fear, increased tourism dollars and an Israel that is not isolated from the rest of the world can all become the by-products of peace.
Fourth, Palestinians must show Israelis the consequences of the status quo.
Israelis must come to understand that the Palestinians cannot continue to allow the status quo to endure. There needs to be consequences to the perpetual peace talks that result in nothing while more and more Palestinian land is confiscated. Thus Palestinians have to step up and strengthen the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement (BDS) around the globe. They have to continue the pressure of non-violent actions against Israel—boycotting Israeli products that come into the West Bank and bringing attention to Israeli immorality attributes of demolishing homes, uprooting olive groves, building illegal settlements and torturing Palestinian political prisoners.
In addition, Palestinians must keep the option of the stone as a consequence to failed talks.By adhering to these four points, Palestinians will have the fortitude to negotiate with the Israelis on parity. Palestinians can then demand that the occupation must end and end now.