Monday, December 10, 2007

Now I figured it out

In one of my Shabbat discusions with a friend, I finally came to understand the essence of why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is destined to continue, and why around the world we are so misunderstood:

Good will.

Online definition:
"An attitude of kindness or friendliness; benevolence.
Cheerful acquiescence or willingness.
A good relationship, as of a business with its customers or a nation with other nations."

The American/western culture, in essence, values the "other" and sees conflict as a way of resolving misunderstanding. In other words, if 2 parties have a disagreement, it results from misunderstanding each other. Since the parties really want to resolve their differences, negotiation is really about problem solving and increasing each side's understanding of the other's needs and interests, thereby finding a creative solution. Everybody wins. American negotiation is characterized by pragmatic problem solving, with "goodwill" gestures and avoiding dirty tricks.

This is not part of Palestinian Arab culture, which sees negotiation more as a zero sum gain. I win and you lose. They are not men of good will. Gestures on our part, which we and the Americans see as "goodwill", are seen by them as concessions out of weakness, to be pocketed, and used in the future against us. Have we ever seen a "good will" gesture from them? I'm not saying we're all sugary with them, but there is a gulf between us in our basic approaches to negotiation. Herein lies the problem. We approach peace talks from a problem solving point of view, they view it as a method to defeat us, in lieu of or in parallel to, military force. In this case the rules of negotiation are very different than ours. Lying, cheating, and trickery are legitimate tools in negotiation to defeat the enemy. (They quite openly still refer to us as the "enemy"). Witness Iran's antics in dealing with the West.

Here in Israel I work for a medical HMO. We have branches in East Jerusalem, run by local Arabs. I am told by my administrative colleagues that doing projects with them is nearly impossible. Why? Because we'll set up a meeting, come up with agreement on a plan, and shake hands over it. Later, when the plan isn't implemented, when the local Arab administrative head is confronted, he behaves as though no plan was agreed upon and we have to start all over.

So the Americans and Europeans see the problem as an issue of misunderstanding, whereas in truth, we understand each other all too well.

Therefore, I don't see a resolution in the foreseeable future, until the Pals lose all hope of defeating us.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, they wont give up on destroying us untill they are all dead.

DrJ said...

And the world won't let us get them all dead...

young_activist said...

Maybee if you didn't treat them like shit in the first place there wouldn't be a problem now.

DrJ said...

young activist,

I think that you are mixing up cause and effect. Like the Gaza terrorist groups saying that they are firing rockets because we are pursuing them, not vice versa. As President Peres said, we took every soldier and settler out of Gaza, so why are they firing rockets? Just like Hizbullah, when we withdrew to the UN border, they just couldn't control their hatred of us and had to attack anyway.

Read Ray Hanannia's essay in the JPost from a few days ago. He's an American Palestinian. He notes that the Pals just can't get post their sense of victimhood, in order to get down to practical problem solving, not blaming and revenge and obtaining their "just rights".

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