If you have ever been to an Arab market you have already learned this little secret, but for the rest of you come close to your computer screen so I can whisper this (The best negotiators in the world can be found in the Arab Markets). Remember that old episode of All in the Family where Archie Bunker goes to the Law Firm of Rabinowitz, Rabinowitz, Rabinowitz and sons because “dem joowse make da best lawyers” Well if he needed to negotiate he probably would have gone to Muhammad, Muhammad, and sons.

I have been complaining about the way Olmert and friends have been negotiating with the Palestinians—one sided concessions, not following through on threats etc. But it wasn’t until I read this piece by Moshe Sharon in NATIV that I could put it into context. Israel and the United States have been negotiating “Western-Style” when we should be negotiating like we were at the Arab Market

Moshe SharonEverybody says that his donkey is a horse.

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There is no tax on words.

(Two Arab proverbs) On December 25, 1977, at the very beginning of the negotiations between Israel and Egypt in Ismailia, I had the opportunity to have a short discussion with Muhammad Anwar Sadat the president of Egypt. “Tell your Prime Minister, he said, that this is a bazaar; the merchandise is expensive.” I told my Prime Minister but he failed to abide by the rules of the bazaar similar to all the Israeli governments and the media. In the bazaar of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the two sides are not discussing the same merchandise. While the Israelis wish to acquire “peace”, the Arabs wish to annihilate the Jewish state and get rid of the Jews. To achieve their goal, the Arabs took to the battlefield as well as to the bazaar diplomacy. The wisdom of the bazaar is that if you are clever enough you can sell nothing at a price, however in the bazaar only a foolish buyer pays for something he has never seen. In the present situation in the Middle East and in the foreseeable future “peace” is nothing more than an empty word. Israel should stop speaking about “peace” and delete the word “peace” from its vocabulary together with such phrases as “the price of peace” or “territory for peace”. For almost a century the Jews have been ready to pay the Arabs any price for peace. They have received nothing, because the Arabs have no peace to sell. Since this is the situation, Israel should openly declare that peace does not exist as an option in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that if the Arabs ask for peace; they must pay for it. For unlike the Arabs, Israel has this merchandize for sale and therefore, Israel should be the side demanding payment for peace and fixing its price Therefore, if anyone asks Israel for plans, the answer should be: “No plans, in fact no negotiations at all.” If the Arab side wants to negotiate, let it present its plans and its “ideas”. To which the Israeli answer should always be: “Unacceptable! Come with better ones.” Here are ten rules for bargaining in the Middle Eastern bazaar:

  1. Never be the first to suggest anything to the other side. Never show any eagerness “to conclude a deal”.
  2. Always reject; disagree. Use the phrase: “Not meeting the minimum demands,” and walk away, even a hundred times.
  3. Don’t rush to come up with counter-offers. Let the other side make amendments under the pressure of your total “disappointment”.
  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.
  5. Never change your detailed plan to meet the other side “halfway”. Remember, there is no “halfway”.
  6. Never leave things unclear. Always avoid “creative phrasing”. Remember playing with words is the Arab national sport.
  7. 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 honoring agreements.
  8. Emotion belongs neither in the marketplace nor at the negotiating table. Friendly words as well as outbursts of anger, holding hands and kissing, do not represent 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.
  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.

To these ten rules another one should be added:

  1. You should never agree to negotiate with more than one side. The Arabs will try to bring as many participants to the negotiating table to put you in an inferior position. Never agree to bring in even so called “friendly participants”. There is no such thing.

The Arabs have been practicing negotiation tactics for more than 2,000 years. They are the masters of words, and a mine of endless patience. In contrast, Israelis (and Westerners in general) want quick “results”. In this part of the world there are no quick results, the hasty one always loses.