Uri Savir on Negotiating Peace


How does one negotiate? I think it’s very important, when you meet your negotiating partners, to create a joint framework of where you can strategize together. You have to first understand what are the predicaments of the other side? What are the fears of the other side? What are the interests of the other side? And together, negotiations, good negotiations, is really a joint thinking process of how we can find those elements for the peace treaty that answers the interest of both sides, the emotions of both sides, the economies, societies and cultures of both sides. This is good negotiations. It’s not of having the upper hand. If you have an over kill in negotiations, ultimately you will lose. Both sides have to come out satisfied. There are many good negotiators. Paradoxically, maybe the best negotiator that I have encountered is Abu Ala, the PLO negotiator, a brilliant negotiator who understands also Israel’s predicament, who understands to build bridges and can be created. Dennis Ross is another superb American negotiator who negotiated with the Soviet Union, who mediated between us and the Palestinians. Terje Larsen is an excellent negotiator, the Norwegian who were the facilitator for Oslo. What they all have in common, I think, is a humanistic or humanitarian streak, because, at the root of it, it’s understanding human beings. I think the United State has an important role [vis-a-vis the] negotiations, not necessarily being part of these negotiations, although with Syria there may be no alternative, because the Syrians insist on that, but as facilitating the beginning and guaranteeing the end. Guaranteeing the end may lead ultimately, to an American Israeli security pact to American Arab security relations, anti-terror relations, and possibly American forces in the Middle East to be peace keeping forces, if the two sides agree. But negotiations mainly should be left to the parties themselves. There should be courage by the new American president to do that.

Uri Savir tells of his personal experience as a negotiator and the United States’ role in regional peace building.

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