Talking with the Enemy: Negotiation and Threat Perception in South Africa and Israel/Palestine

Talking with the Enemy: Negotiation and Threat Perception in South Africa and Israel/Palestine

Talking with the Enemy: Negotiation and Threat Perception in South Africa and Israel/Palestine

Talking with the Enemy: Negotiation and Threat Perception in South Africa and Israel/Palestine

Synopsis

This analysis of the breakthrough agreements between adversaries in South Africa in 1990 and in Israel/Palestine in 1993 draws on Lieberfeld's original interviews and on unpublished archival sources. He offers a comparative, theoretically informed framework for understanding decisions to end intense, protracted conflicts.

Excerpt

This study began with the question of how conflicts that seem intractable become negotiable. How do enemies who see each other's fundamental goals and aspirations as implacably hostile to their own decide to come together and peacefully resolve the issues that divide them? I initially pursued questions of conflict transformation with practitioners of dispute resolution whom I had come to know in the course of working in Boston with a program for court-referred mediation. Those with whom I spoke reflected on their experiences of change as it took place among individuals and groups in conflict. Some spoke of points at which people in adversarial relationships glimpsed their common humanity during a humorous moment, or in the course of a shared meal.

Inspired by such accounts I sought to identify turning points in conflicts between national groups. Almost immediately it seemed that, for all the mysteriousness of processes of change in individuals, the politics of change in protracted conflicts between national groups was at least as complex. Not only did change take place over the course of generations, but it also reflected societal, regional, and international factors, as well as individuals' personalities and perceptions. On the other hand, processes of change in the South African and Israel--Palestinian conflicts seemed all too simple: As I repeatedly heard from those involved, the moves to negotiate could be explained by considerations of power. the discourse that pervaded their analyses was that of power politics and national interests. in response to my question, "What changed?" those with lifetimes of political experience emphasized the inability to prevail by force and the elimination of choices other than compromise.

Yet, within the realist discourse offered by decisionmakers and close observers I also heard reference to factors that sounded akin to those described . . .

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