No Peace, No Peace Plans, No Price for Peace
(A Short Guide for Those Obsessed with Peace)
Everybody says that his donkey is a horse.
There is no tax on words.
(Two Arab proverbs)
On December 25, 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
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
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 patronizing 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
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:
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.
reject; disagree. Use the phrase: “Not meeting the minimum demands”,
and walk away, even 100 times. A tough customer gets good prices.
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!”
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.
Never change your detailed plan to meet the other side “halfway”. Remember,
there is no “halfway”. The other side also has a master plan. Be ready to quit
negotiations when you encounter stubbornness on the other side.
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.
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
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.
of popular beliefs about the Arabs and the Middle East – “Arab honor” for
example. Remember, you have honor too, but this has nothing to do with the
issues under negotiation. Never do or say anything because somebody has told you
that it is “the custom”. If the Arab side finds out that you are playing the
anthropologist he will take advantage of it.
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”.
To these 10 rules an 11th
one should be added:
should never agree to negotiate with more than one side. The Arabs will try to
bring as many participants into the negotiating table to put you in an inferior
position. Never agree to bring in even so called “friendly participants”. There
is no such thing. Every participant brings with him his own agenda that could
never be yours. For this reason never take part in “conferences” convened to
deal with you, in which you will always be on the losing side.
The Arabs have been practicing negotiation tactics
for more than 2,000 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.
in London during their recent