Mistrust behind inevitable failure of Middle East peace



New research concludes Middle East peace negotiations are bound to fail, no matter how robust the system of negotiation, because the crucial issue of trust remains unresolved.

Victoria University dispute resolution expert Professor John Zeleznikow said negotiation support systems could be used to reach outcomes acceptable to both parties in disputes ranging from divorce to industrial relations.

Professor Zeleznikow’s Family Winner and Asset Divider software have been successfully used to support family law property negotiations by offering disputants advice on how they can best meet their goals by trading off what they don’t strongly desire and being offered what is very important to them in return.

But Professor Zeleznikow said when that system was applied to the Middle East peace negotiations to arrive at acceptable sacrifices for both parties, the process fell down due to lack of trust.

“Lack of trust, and not the absence of satisfactory options to either party, is the crucial underlying factor preventing any resolution of the Israel–Palestinian dispute,” Professor Zeleznikow said.

The researcher’s dispute resolution system suggested a Palestinian State be created with East Jerusalem as its capital as long as the Palestinians recognised Israel, stopped or heavily limited terrorism and ceased asking for a right of return.

Israel would also need to dismantle the fence and most settlements, whilst Palestine would need to discourage other Arab States and Iran from being belligerent towards Israel, he said.

“Interestingly enough this suggestion is similar to the successful Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt, where Israel gave up territory for recognition and security,” Professor Zeleznikow said. “But the reason such a solution has not been adopted is that the disputing parties have a long history of distrust.”

He said unfortunately negotiation support systems had not been able to build trust between the disputants in this case and a circuit-breaker was needed to achieve that before any progress would be made.