You Don’t Choose Negotiating Partners

Hat-tip to SLC in the comments: Michael Bloomberg gave his two cents on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and his advice really is worth about two cents. He said,

If [certain organizations] don’t renounce terrorism, if they don’t agree to abide by previous accords and if they don’t recognize Israel, then I personally don’t think Israel should speak with them.

Translation: Israel should negotiate with groups that already agree with it, instead of groups that represent the Palestinians. The way things are trending now, the Munich agreement’s most disastrous consequence is not going to be causing World War Two. Instead, it’s going to be giving nationalists an excuse not to negotiate, causing World War Three.

Neither Egypt nor Jordan recognized Israel at the time Israel negotiated with it. While Jordan had had relatively cordial relations with Israel for decades – King Hussein tried warning Golda Meir of the Yom Kippur War – Egypt hadn’t. Only a few years before Camp David, Sadat had teamed up with Assad in trying to militarily conquer Israel.

The main fear people have is that the other side uses negotiation as a salami method, as in Munich. And, in a way, it makes sense. If an equally powerful opponent demands cession of territory that it either doesn’t deserve or that you need to protect yourself, and if it’s about the fifth time he demands territory as a form of justice, you shouldn’t give it to him.

In the I/P case, however, a) Israel’s conventional military is far stronger than anything Palestine could muster, b) the goal of establishing a state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank but not beyond has been out in the open for at least 10 years, and c) Israel doesn’t need either of the two to protect itself because of its peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt.

15 Responses to You Don’t Choose Negotiating Partners

  1. SLC says:

    As usual, Mr. Levys’ analysis of the situation leaves much to be desired.

    1. The current Hamas Government has stated that it will never recognize Israel and has refused Abbas’ demands that it honor agreements made by previous PA administrations. This demand has been made not only by Israel, but by the Quartet which is supposed to be overseeing the implementation of the road map.

    2. The current Hamas Government has refused to halt terrorist attacks on Israel, i.e. homicide bombings and Kassems. This has also been demanded by the Quartet.

    Therefore, Mayor Bloombergs’ analysis of the situation is absolutely correct and accurate and Mr. Levys’ is absolutely incorrect and inaccurate.

    2. The current Hamas

  2. Alon Levy says:

    At the time Israel began negotiating with Fatah, Fatah wasn’t much better than Hamas is now. It wasn’t fundamentalist, but its program still called for the destruction of Israel, if I’m not mistaken. I suppose that some elements in it never changed, but simply moved to Hamas, but the bulk of the Palestinian left accepted the peace agreements, and many parts of it support non-violent resistance. The center and center-left still back suicide bombings, but only as a mechanism of getting Israel to negotiate.

    Now, it would be cause for concern if Palestine displayed center-shifting, whereby every time a major organization becomes less militant, another takes its place. Ireland has, to some extent. But the way domestic Palestinian politics is being set up, Hamas really is the final step. It’s possible that if Hamas moderates then Islamic Jihad will take over the task of killing Israeli civilians, but it’s not very likely.

  3. SLC says:

    Re Levy

    Islamic Jihad is already in the business of killing Israeli civilians. They’re the ones firing the Kassems.

  4. SLC says:

    Re Krauthammer

    My problem with Krauthammer is that he has been an apologist for the Bush administration for the last 6 years. Where is Charles Krauthammer, George Bushs’ Charles Krauthammer, his echo, his shadow, his suit of clothes (apologies to Vachel Lindsay).

    1. He has never criticized the administrations’ voluminous errors in the Iraq adventure e.g. too small an occupation force from the get go).

    2. He has supported the administrations’ positions on stem cell research and global warming, even though he surely knows better.

    3. His departure from the statement by Bush on Intelligent Design was tepid to say the least. He treated the statement as a joke.

  5. Alon Levy says:

    The Kassems are a nuisance more than anything, it seems. My reading of the situation is that Fatah is Hagana, Hamas is Irgun, and Islamic Jihad is Lehi. Irgun became Herut, but Lehi never became a serious political force after the formation of the IDF.

  6. SLC says:

    Hey, there’s a pretty good flame war going on over on PZs’ blog. I’m sure that Mr. Levy would like to weigh in.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/02/in_which_i_waffle_undecidedly.php

  7. Anatoly says:

    Translation: Israel should negotiate with groups that already agree with it, instead of groups that represent the Palestinians.

    You don’t have to agree with someone to recognize their right to exist. Bloomberg’s comments can definitely be criticized, but yours are much more unreasonable than his.

    In the real world, you do choose negotiating partners. Negotiating with a “partner” that openly calls for your destruction and proclaims they’ll never renounce that goal isn’t an especially clever line of behavior, usually. It may be that the circumstances in this particular case warrant it – that remains to be shown; pretending that it’s obviously the right course of behavior is not convincing.

  8. Alon Levy says:

    Israel successfully negotiated with Fatah, which at the time called for its destruction. It successfully negotiated with Sadat only a few years after he tried conquering it by force. Kennedy negotiated with Khrushchev even after the “We will bury you” comment, though he was still too aggressive; afterward, Khrushchev was discredited, and his successor, Brezhnev, was far more conservative.

    There are elements in the Israeli government that call for attacking civilian targets in Palestine. When I criticized Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, many people told me that Lebanese civilians were fair game because Hezbollah was part of the coalition government. Considering that Israel Beitenu is part of the coalition government in Israel, everything that could apply there applies here.

  9. Ran Halprin says:

    Talking to someone who doesn’t recognize your existence is rather stupid, isn’t it? I mean, they probably wouldn’t talk back, so it’s pointless to waste time on it.

    Re this matter specifically, if Hamas want to become a political power and not just a terrorist group, its not enough for them to win an election. Winning an election does not mean u can ignore things your predecessors did. Hamas adheres to the treaties signed by the Fatah and continue from there. What they chose was to take these treaties and break them, and that pretty much means declaration of war on Israel. Israel has been rather patient with this (mostly because of US pressure and the fact that IDF is strong enough to keep civilian deaths to a “tolerable” level), but at some point something must fall. A one-sided war is not a stable situation, even if the aggressive side is very weak.

  10. Anatoly says:

    Israel successfully negotiated with Fatah, which at the time called for its destruction.

    Israel insisted that the recognition of Israel’s right to exist be an obligatory part of any agreement with the PLO. At the time of negotiations, the PLO formally called for Israel’s destruction but was willing to renounce that call, which is why negotiations were possible at all. Hamas is not willing, and has said so repeatedly. The analogy does not hold.

  11. SLC says:

    Re Khrushchev

    Khrushchev later clarified his remark by saying that what he meant was that communism (actually state capitalism) would bury capitalism.

  12. Alon Levy says:

    mostly because of US pressure and the fact that IDF is strong enough to keep civilian deaths to a “tolerable” level

    If that’s tolerable, Israel needn’t do anything. Civilian casualties from terrorism within Israel are at a far lower level than what you consider tolerable, with or without scare quotes.

    At the time of negotiations, the PLO formally called for Israel’s destruction but was willing to renounce that call, which is why negotiations were possible at all.

    But it didn’t actually renounce that part of the PLO program until something like 1999, years after the PLO was cooperating with Israel against Hamas.

  13. Anatoly says:

    But it didn’t actually renounce that part of the PLO program until something like 1999, years after the PLO was cooperating with Israel against Hamas.

    No, it renounced that part publicly long before 1999, and in fact Arafat committed to its renouncement before Israel signed anything. Whether it renounced it formally became the issue when Netanyahu needed more excuses to stall the negotiations with the Palestinians. The formal renouncement arguably never came because the new version of the PLO National Charter was never prepared, although the PLO voted that it should be prepared with all the offending artickles deleted from it.

    There is no analogy with Hamas which never said it would be prepared to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

  14. Alon Levy says:

    The words “right to exist” are a bit misleading. Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel. The US didn’t recognize China until 1971. China doesn’t recognize Taiwan.

    Arafat committed to renouncing the destruction of Israel, but only after negotiations started. Israel didn’t sign anything before Arafat recognized it, but there’s a difference between negotiating and signing.

  15. Ran Halprin says:

    Arafat did not renounce the destruction of Israel in the name of Fatah, but rather in the name of the Palestinians, who elected him as their leader (sort of). Hamas can’t decide otherwise, no matter what their charter says.

    It’s just like a US political party cannot rise to power and “not recognize” black people’s right to vote. They could actively try and pass a new law which states that black people don’t have a right to vote, but they can’t just say “I’m ignoring the constitution, my party’s charter is the law cuz I said so”.

    Israel gave things in return of agreements from the Palestinian side (mostly money and weapons), the Palestinians violated these agreements (back in Fatah days, actually) and didn’t return the goods. Now Hamas wants to take things another step backwards, so the Israeli people would need to give Hamas more weapons and money in return for agreements that have already been signed. This makes NO SENSE.

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