On Negotiations from Strength

By: David M. Weinberg

Jul 21, 2013

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The new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations should not begin from any 65 year old armistice line forced upon us by Arab aggression; nor “from the point that talks last left off” five years ago under a previous, defeatist Israeli government; nor from the defensive “security fence” forced upon us by Palestinian terrorism; nor from any borders high-handedly dictated by the international community. Israel’s baseline position at the outset of the talks should be that 100 percent of the West Bank belongs to Israel. Only then can it hope to obtain a sensible compromise.

Published in Israel Hayom, July 21, 2013.

peace hands shaking

As Israel enters a new round of diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians over the future of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), it is critical that Israel assert its full rights to the entire Land of Israel; to all of Judea and Samaria. We have religious, historical and legal rights to the entire territory, in addition to holding physical possession (“chazaka” in Talmudic lingo) of the disputed territories for good reasons.

After all, the Palestinian Authority begins these negotiations claiming 100 percent of the West Bank, based on the so-called 1967 lines (which really are no more than the 1949 armistice lines). And it seems that the United States bases the talks on the 1967 lines too. Yet Israel’s claim to the full territory in dispute is no less valid, substantive and sustainable. It is richly buttressed by political experience and security necessity.

This should be our starting point: We rightfully claim 100 percent of the territories. The negotiations should not begin from any 65 year old armistice line forced upon us by Arab aggression; nor “from the point that talks last left off” five years ago under a previous, defeatist Israeli government; nor from the defensive “security fence” forced upon us by Palestinian terrorism; nor from any borders high-handedly dictated by the international community.

The talks should begin from the beginning. The beginning is that the land in dispute is all ours.

Every Israeli ought to understand this simple principle: If you begin a negotiation with inferior or reduced claims, the other side has the upper legal hand and a moral edge and will win the day.

Talmudic sages of two thousand years ago knew this well. The tractate of Bava Metzia opens with a detailed legal discussion of monetary dispute where two disputants are grabbing hold of a garment (a “tallit” or prayer shawl) and claiming ownership. If they each claims total and exclusive rights to the talit (“kula sheli”; it is all mine), and neither side can definitively refute the claim of the other, they end up in logical compromise: equally splitting the value of the object.

But if one side claims 100 percent ownership, while the other claims only a 50 percent ownership, the first disputant is awarded 75 percent of the total value of the object. The first claimant gets half of the value in dispute (equaling 25 percent) along with the base 50 percent that the second claimant admitted wasn’t his to begin with. The less-certain claimant is crushed by the certainty and absoluteness of the unyielding claimant.

Of course, different laws of possession generally apply to land which is lived upon and cultivated, and to which historic, geographic, demographic, political, security and strategic considerations also apply. But the dynamics of negotiation and the underlying forces of moral persuasion regnant in the dispute over that Talmudic tallit are still valid to our current situation.

If we are convinced of the justice and logic of our unqualified claim to Judea and Samaria and united Jerusalem; if the talks begin from “kula sheli”; and if we tenaciously lay out the logic of our baseline position – we stand a good chance of obtaining a sensible compromise result from the negotiation with the Palestinians.

But if we aren’t ourselves convinced of our absolute rights; if at the outset we don’t assert our total claims; if our starting point and negotiation demands aren’t as resolute as those of our adversary – we are likely to end up with a result to our severe detriment.

Prime Minister Netanyahu should take heed.

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About David Weinberg

David M. Weinberg is a spokesman, speechwriter, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »


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