Failing Negotiation 101: The United States

One Party that can deliver

US Secretary of State John Kerry invested heavily in Israel-Palestinian Authority peace talks from July 2013 to March 2014. In the wake of the failure, many people looked to blame one of the two parties for the talks’ failure. A recent New York Times article quoted Israeli left-wing politician Tzipi Livni as blaming the Palestinians for the collapsed negotiations (a surprising statement, as in Israeli election season she only criticizes her political opponent Benjamin Netanyahu.)

In reality, it was the US that was to blame.

The US did not fail for lack of effort. It did not fail in trying to find creative solutions. It failed because the entire basis of having negotiations in the current format was a fool’s errand.

The process was doomed from the outset because Secretary Kerry deliberately ignored Negotiation Rule 101: negotiations between parties that can deliver. A negotiation between parties without authority is meaningless. A person without authority or control could theoretically promise anything – but deliver nothing. That was precisely what Secretary Kerry insisted upon when he pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate with a straw man named Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas has no mandate. Mahmoud Abbas was elected to a four year term as president of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005. After his term expired in January 2009, no new elections were held. He no longer has a mandate.

Abbas has no backing. The reason that no new elections for the PA have been held is that everyone knows that Abbas and his Fatah party would lose. One year after Abbas won the presidency, his Fatah party was trounced in legislative elections. Hamas won 58% of the parliament. Every poll taken since then has shown that Abbas would lose in a presidential election.

Abbas has no control. Gaza, with its population of 1.7 million people, is under complete control of Hamas. Hamas routed all PA forces in 2007 and Abbas has no ability to control any activities from the region. Hamas controls thousands of missiles which it fires at Israeli population centers with or without Abbas approval. Therefore, what “peace” can Abbas deliver?

Despite these enormous glaring flaws, the US pushed forward a peace process that was doomed from the start because of the very essence of one of the negotiating parties. Netanyahu was forced to sit across from a counter-party who could not deliver any compromise that he may have offered. As Netanyahu’s authority was clear, any negotiating point that he made was secure; Abbas could “bank” every concession. However, any compromise that Abbas would theoretically offer, could be negated by the Palestinians. Just as the Palestinians complained that they were never asked about the British Mandate in 1922, they could once again complain that the public was never consulted about the peace process, as a mothballed politician without backing negotiated the agreement.

Further, Abbas’ lack of control meant that he had no means of enforcing the agreement. Israel would be left (at best) with making peace with those parties that accepted the peace agreement, but still be at war with those that rejected the agreement. With Abbas unable to enforce the compromises and the peace, it would continue to fall on Israel to confront those Palestinians that were still at war with the country. Noting how the world reacted to Israel’s defensive operation against Gaza in 2014, could Israel have any sense of security that it could effectively counter-act Palestinian aggression post a mock peace deal?

Secretary Kerry compounded the mistake of the bogus negotiation by building up expectations. His earnest and persistent involvement aggravated the talk’s failure. By investing so heavily in the process, Kerry made the failure that much more pronounced. While there was no direct line linking the talk’s collapse to the July-August battles with Hamas, the environment was poisoned.


Abbas gets no R-E-S-P-E-C-T music video (music by Aretha Franklin):



NY Times on Tzipi Livni impression on talks failure:

Related First One Through articles:

Abbas 10-year anniversary for a 4 year term:



Kerry’s “Apartheid” comment and coverage by the New York Times

NYT April 28, 2014 Said that Kerry took step to apologize for saying Israel could become apartheid state:
1. NYT article starts that Kerry made “an unusual statement Monday evening expressing his support for Israel“. Hey NYT idiots- he often praises Israel. why do you lead with something that makes it sound completely opposite of his feelings and the position of the United States? Oh- because the NYT has those feelings.
2. NYT language of “politically charged phrase he used in a private appearance” makes it sound like Republicans were blowing something out of proportion for a private aside. Did the NYT use similar language that the NBA blew LA Clippers’ Don Sterling’s private comment out of proportion? No- the Times used dozens of quotes from around the league to show that the language was offensive to all

3. The article continues that “Republicans” were critical of the apartheid reference, reiterating the claim that this is totally political. Why not mention Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer who called Kerry’s comment “nonsensical and ridiculous” and Democrat Senator Mark Begich “I am disappointed with Secretary Kerry’s reported remarks

4. Language that “Mr. Kerry has repeatedly warned that Israel” makes it sound that the apartheid comment is not news, and that Israel just continues to ignore Kerry and reality

5. The phrase “Israel did not negotiate an agreement” makes it sound like it is all up to Israel and the blame only rests with them as opposed to the fact that the PA partner didn’t take any steps towards compromise and doesn’t even have an elected leader
6. Hamas is referred to as a “Islamic militant group” and not a terrorist organization (considered by the US, EU and other countries)
7. J Street is referred to as a “pro peace Jewish organization” and not a left-wing group (a phrase which the NYT only reserves for “right-wing” groups). They are quoted as a defender of Kerry to make it sound that Jews in favor of peace also are not in favor of calling out Kerry over his apartheid remark
8. In using quotes to show ‘balance’, the NYT did not use quotes from around the country to show disgust with the Kerry remark (other than from Republicans above), but instead only used analyst quotes stating the comment was “unproductive” and “ill timed, ill advised and unwise“- again, leaving the reader to take away that the apartheid comment was appropriate and just being used for political fodder.