Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I started thinking about the Middle East thing again. By thing I mean the whole peace process.... The problem with it is twofold. First there are final status issues that can't be immediately agreed upon, partially due to underlying support for contradicting positions within the two populations, and partly due to the lack of trust between the negotiating parties (the Israeli and Palestinian governments). Second, there is the issue of marginal groups, both inside and outside the governments flexing their muscles by playing the wrench in the machine. Without a final status outline it is nearly impossible for either side to deal legitimately ruthlessly with these minorities. One can not act forcefully to facilitate a final status agreement when one isn't sure whether there will be one in the first place.

This was the problem with the Oslo accords. For all their fine language they create essentially no barriers to cheating by either side, or create any rewards to either side for dealing with rowdy elements. The original idea of Oslo was that it would create trust between the negotiating parties, while in fact it did the opposite, because it created incentives for cheating. The Israelis were busy prejudicing final status negotiations by building settlements (something not expressly prohibited by Oslo, in spite of what some may read into it). The Palestinians were in no hurry to deal with their terrorists or to instill the principles of peace and coexistance in their people, quite understandably as well, as these steps are what would be required of them in the implementation of the final status settlement. Once time came for the final status negotiations the two sides were no further in trusting each other than they had been during the Oslo negotiations. Their populations were likewise unwilling to compromise following consistent cheating by both sides.

One possible way of resolving the problems of the Oslo game is to add some major rules to the game. First one needs a proper scorekeeper. Lets say the Quartet (US, EU, UN, Russia) can do this job. Second one needs a means of blurring certain final status issues. This can be done by presenting a range of final status outcomes, say one has Palestinian sovereignty over the entire area of East Jerusalem, the next only gives them the Arab and Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, but only the Muslim & Christian quarters of the old city, the third gives them only the Arab neighborhoods of the city and the Muslim areas of the old city. The next gives them some Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, but nothing in the old city and the last gives them a capital in Abu Dis, outside the borders of Jerusalem and gives the Israelis full control over East Jerusalem. The sides would select a base case to start with, but it would not necessarily be the final one.

Third one needs to build trust and prevent cheating. This can be done by setting up some sort of a scoring system whereby the trangression or failure to act by one or another side would be an own-goal of sorts and would give points to the other side. Thus a terrorist incident would mean x number of points to be awarded by the judge [the Quartet] to the Israeli side. An assassination of Palestinian militants could be x points to the Palestinians. At the end of the prescribed time period of the game, the final status outcome would be chosen from the possible range based on the score to date whereby the 'winning' side would pick from the range of final status outcomes made available to it by its score.

Fourth and most important, there must be a clear definition of one side or the other abandoning the game. Equally important is a penalty on the side that walks away first. The penalty must be very very significant. Say for the Israelis the loss of US financial support and for the Palestinians the loss of their own EU financial support and the Quartet acquiescense of Israeli annexation of major settlement blocs.

The last problem is that of actually getting the sides to sit down and agree to such a game. And of course the problem of formalizing the idea into a formal plan with rules and all.

In all actuality the odds of either side agreeing to anything remotely similar to this is negligible. Such a game would severely limit the options available to both players and places a very high cost on walking away.


Blogger E$ said...

I love the idea of a points system. Very inventive. And it seems to be fair to both sides... Small chance of being implemented, but who's to say that they don't do something like this but less formally.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

It could work in theory. In practice the Israelis would never agree to it. The current processes always favors them due to the disparities in power.

The second problem is of course the problem of actually negotiating the rules of the game... It becomes damn near impossible when deep values are involved. How many dead Israeli civilians are the equivalent of an assassinated Palestinian terrorist?

There probably can not be a negotiated final status agreement anyways... At some point the Israelis will pull back behind their walls and close the gates.

11:10 AM  

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