Friday, August 19, 2016

The Naiveté of Appeasement: 

A Policy Mistake When Parenting or Confronting an Adversary

Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker 

World Sentinel, April 09, 2008

Whether the subject is parenting or confronting an recalcitrant adversary, be it Israel dealing with the Palestinians or the G5+1 attempting to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from going nuclear, the same principles are at work: it is a mistake to continually seek negotiations, make concessions and offer ever greater rewards for compliance, as the opposition quickly learns that rejection of the current offer is advantageous—it results in a bigger prize being proffered in the next round of talks. In fact, both Israel and the West have almost guaranteed that their respective negotiations will fail because both have fallen into the trap of assuming that a larger carrot will serve to entice an agreement. But since the Palestinians—because of their ever increasing demographic weight—and the Iranian government—because of its ever closer proximity to the gateway of the nuclear club—feel no pressure to accept the current terms being offered in their respective negotiations; neither sees any reason to come to acceptable terms with the other side. Put simply, time is—in their view—very much on their side.

Just as a parent needs to delineate clearly that procrastination by the child in complying with parental desires will result in successively graver consequences, both Israel and the West must begin to convey the message that time is not in their opponents´ corner, and that delay will result in less advantageous terms or graver consequences for both the Palestinians and the Iranians. Any other approach guarantees that the adversary will refuse to negotiate in good faith because there is no advantage gained in so doing. Negotiations only prove ultimately successful when both sides see definite advantages in ending the conflict peacefully. When a basic balance of interests is not achieved, either the negotiations break down or the treaty is eventually abrogated by the "aggrieved" party.

In dealing with the Palestinians, the Israelis have attempted to act fairly by offering a negotiated two-state solution to end the over six-decade-old conflict. Speaking to the Palestinians and the Arab world in general, Israel has attempted to demonstrate her interest in a peaceful resolution that allows for the Jewish state to retain its unique Jewish character at the same time as it becomes integrated into "the neighborhood". For the most part, Israel´s offer has been rejected by the Palestinians and most of her Arab neighbors. With exceedingly rare exception[1], Palestinians have demanded that Israel cease to be Jewish or simply vanish from the map, depending on whether one is talking to the Palestinian Authority of Dr. Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah) or an Islamist such as Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. Given that Ehud Barak´s 2001 Taba Conference offer of 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza was rejected by the late Chairman Arafat, the Palestinian side has failed to show good faith, the Gaza Strip alone having launched over 7000 rockets at Israel in the period since the breakdown of the Taba Conference.

Rather than continue on the path of appeasement and concession which has netted it no real solution to the conflict, it behooves Israel to remember the neighborhood in which it resides. By this I mean that Israel needs to shift the desire for peace to her adversaries. It is time for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Ministry to announce to the world that Israel has abandoned the search for peace; uncomfortable as it may be, Israel has gotten used to living under attack. If the Palestinians and the other Arab states want a peace treaty, they will have to make it worthwhile for Israel to come to the table. In the meantime, Israel will begin/continue to expand such cities as Jerusalem, Ma'aleh Adumim, Efrat, and Ariel. The longer that the Arab/Palestinian side waits, the smaller the territory that Israel will concede for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. The current window of opportunity ends on January 20, 2009. Such a position needs to be advocated by the left wing Israeli political parties such as Labor and Kadima as well as by Likud, so that the Palestinians understand that waiting for a change in Israel´s government will not change the equation in their favor. 

Given the fact that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and Fatah´s al-Aqsa Brigades continue to rocket Israel, any agreement reached will be a "shelf agreement" until all violence against Israel ceases before implementation takes place. Should the extremists choose to resume attacks after implementation, Israel would hold the government of the State of Palestine responsible and would respond with the full force of her military might; the sovereign State of Palestine would risk perishing in its infancy.

A very similar situation exists in the West´s attempts to get the Islamic Republic of Iran to forgo its nuclear program. So far, five and a half years of negotiations have only permitted the Iranians to advance so much closer to their possession of a nuclear device as well as nuclear armed missiles. Three rounds of U.N. sanctions have put additional pressure upon Iran, but they have done nothing to slow down the Iranian race to acquire the bomb. The release of the National Intelligence Estimate for Iran this past December served to deflate much of the latent threat of President Bush launching a strike against Iran´s nuclear research sites. At present, Iran has no reason to stop its nuclear program, and very little reason to slow it down. 

If, on the other hand, (although —Russia and China cannot be counted upon to aid the West in stopping Iran), —the West--led by the United States, and including the U.K., France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, Australia, and Israel--were to end all trade with Iran, and threaten the use of their combined military might if Iran refuses to cease its nuclear program and become totally transparent to regulatory inspection by the IAEA by a specific date, say for example, September 1, 2008, Iran might feel it worthwhile to comply. To demonstrate the possibility that military action would indeed be initiated, a small demonstration of Western power would be in order, such as a missile strike on Iranian training camps where the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps currently trains the Iraqi Shiite Badr and al-Mahdi militias as well as Hamas and Hezbollah operatives, or possibly against the convoys supplying weaponry and explosives to Iran´s proxies in Iraq. A few cases of hot pursuit into Iranian territory, especially by U.S. fighter aircraft might cause the mullahs and the IRGC to ponder whether President Bush and friends are as trigger happy as their own President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggests himself to be when discussing Israel´s right to exist. Creating doubt as to Western rationality could serve to act as a deterrent because as other-worldly as Ahmadinejad, Khameneí, Rafsanjani, and Mesbah-Yazdi might be, they still enjoy the pleasures of this life and may not want to forgo the present life quite so quickly. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) only works when both sides have reason to fear that the other side would actually use its military might. At present, the Iranians do not have much reason to fear a unified Western military attack, and so Iran continues to actively pursue its nuclear program. But if it had good reason to fear a Western military assault, its behavior might just become a bit more cautious.

The above suggested policies, particularly concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are based in large measure on an essay by the eminent Israeli scholar of Islamic History and Culture, Professor Moshe Sharon, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose article, "Negotiating in the Bazaar", was published in The Jerusalem Post on October 10, 2006.[2] In this essay, Professor Sharon reminds us that the venue is the Middle East where the bazaar/v/suq mentality informs the negotiating policies of the locals. Applying a Western or European outlook on negotiating anything, whether it is the price of a rug or a peace treaty, will prove both exceedingly expensive, and possibly catastrophic. Sharon indicates that the Arabs— and so too, the Iranians, of course —have learned to apply bazaar diplomacy. Laying it out plainly, Sharon writes: "In the bazaar, the most important rule is that if the vendor knows that you desire to purchase a certain merchandise, he will put its price up."[3] He continues: "The bazaar has another rule, which holds for the negotiating table too: The side that presents its terms first is bound to lose, since the other side builds its next move using the open cards of its opponent as a starting point."[4] Sharon concludes his remarks with the following observation: "The Arabs have been practicing negotiating tactics for more than 2,000 years. By contrast, the Israelis, and Westerners in general, want ´quick results'. In this part of the world, there are no quick results. He who is hasty always loses."[5] The diplomatic corps of Washington, D.C., London, Paris, Berlin, and Jerusalem would do well to heed Professor Sharon's sage advice.

Saul Singer, editor of the editorial page of The Jerusalem Post, in a recent column entitled "Interesting Times: A synthesis to win"[6], published on March 13, 2008, suggests that American administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have not done nearly enough to prevent rogue states from supporting terrorism with impunity. He writes: "Unlike its predecessor, the League of Nations, the UN Charter had teeth, and soberly laid out escalating tools—from trade and diplomatic embargoes to military action—to maintain international order. … the West did not proceed with a belated crackdown on terror-supporting regimes. … The 9/11 attacks should have made such a crackdown an obvious imperative. Even then, however, the US chose to demand UN support for American-led action rather than demand that the UN take simultaneous and comprehensive action against all terror-supporting nations."[7] 

After analyzing the three remaining presidential candidates and their suggested responses to the Iranian threat both as regards the nuclear issue and the Islamic Republic of Iran´s widespread support of terrorism, Singer makes the following recommendations:

Accordingly, the next president should hit the ground running with two goals, one the immediate and the other long term. The immediate goal should be to convince Europe to end the 1 percent of its trade with Iran, which is 40% of Iran´s trade with the world. The wider goal should be to ensure that any nation that supports terrorism is punished by UN Security Council sanctions.

Together, these goals require a new foreign policy synthesis that infuses diplomacy with muscle in order to achieve concrete objectives.

The West has no shortage of economic, diplomatic and military power. Yet the refusal to deploy these tools in an integrated way has rendered the West impotent in the face of a highly vulnerable, third-rate power. A post-Bush foreign policy—championed either by a Democrat or a Republican—can transcend standard categories and end Western helplessness.[8] 

President Theodore Roosevelt, a little over a century ago, borrowed a West African proverb that we would do well to remember: "Speak softly, and carry a big stick; you will go far." It is time for the West to relearn the benefits of "Big Stick" diplomacy; our adversaries have certainly proven themselves adept at learning their own native regional strategies. The price of failure this time is too great to even contemplate: democracy, liberty, and the dignity of the individual are not concepts that belong in the dust-bin of history. Should we fail to stand up and fight to defeat the terror of Islamic fundamentalist fascism, the dust-bin is exactly where those sacred Western concepts will find their final resting place. 
Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker is founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching government officials and the public of the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism and the need to establish genuine democratic institutions in the Middle-East as an antidote to the venom of such fundamentalism. The organization´s web site is


1. Professor Sari Nusseibeh, president of al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, is virtually unique in his willingness to accept that Israel is a Jewish state. See also:

2. Moshe Sharon, "Negotiating in the Bazaar", The Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2006,

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Saul Singer, "Interesting Times: A synthesis to win", The Jerusalem Post, March 13, 2008,

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

No comments:

Post a Comment