25 August 2011

Haggling for peace in the Middle East

Moshe Sharon, Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, penned an article with a long title:


The conclusion Mr Sharon reached about the long and bumpy road to the undefined goal of peace agreement with out neighbors is that it doesn't lead anywhere, at least not in its present form. And that our partners at the negotiating table are selling something (peace?) they don't actually have or intend to sell even if they did.

As for the future: at that highly hypothetical time when the sides will sit down for serious negotiations, he offers the following ten rules of haggling:

  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 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.
  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.”
I think that these are good guiding points for that future. Only one thing bothers me: our Arab cousins, as is their habit (see hummus and falafel wars for instance), upon reading these rules will say that they have invented these rules many thousands years ago. To prevent this claim from being ever voiced, here is documentary evidence to the contrary: Jooz are the inventors of haggling:

So there.


Yitzchak Goodman said...

Those ten rules are clever and shrewd, but they have no practical application, although there is a practical conclusion to be drawn.

IsraeliSatireLab said...


This reminds of the Seinfeld episode "The Opposite". All we have done until now in these negotiations has failed miserably, so maybe, just maybe - we should do the opposite. 
Hopefully, one day, our people will embrace this attitude.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Well, the author says that the rules will be relevant in case of really serious negotiations. Which is sometime in the far future.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yes, hope springs eternal.

Dick Stanley said...

Amazing, the ancient Jews had thick, British accents. Who knew?

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Well, you know what they say: "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for you" ;)

jams o donnell said...

h Snoopy you trump all with the Monty Python's finest ever!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

So I suspected.