What Can Israel Learn From the Japanese?
Japanese culture is non-confrontational. In negotiations, for example, the Japanese always give their negotiating partner an exit strategy; they might make a ridiculous offer that has to be refused. That way, neither side feels defeated.
Here is an over-simplified example to make the point: You ask a Japanese if he would like to buy the iPhone you are using right now for a million dollars.
An Israeli or a Serb or a Mexican would be furious: “Do you think I am an idiot? Why would I pay you a million dollars for an ordinary iPhone?”
But the Japanese will smile and make a counter-offer that you will have to reject. “Sure,” he’ll say, “and I will repay you one cent per year.”
Suddenly, you are the bad person, breaking a potential deal by taking the offer off the table. The Japanese, on the other hand, appear to have been positive and willing.
Why am I telling this story?
I am in Israel, where about half the daily newspaper front pages every day are devoted to debating the United States’ request that Israel freeze construction beyond the green line (the pre-1967 borders), where the Palestinian state may eventually be located. Obama’s administration claims such a freeze would build the Palestinians’ trust of Israel, which is essential for reaching peace in the Middle East.
This request is causing lots of political pain in Israel. The politicians on the right, members of Netanyahu’s current ruling coalition, are against such a freeze, and if Israel acquiesces to the U.S. demand, Netanyahu’s government might lose its majority in the Parliament, forcing new elections.
But if Israel rejects the idea of a settlement freeze, it will nurture the already common perception around the world that it is an arrogant occupier that is not willing to make accommodations for peace.
How should Israel react?
Well, what would the Japanese do? A Japanese politician would respond positively, but ask for some concession that the Palestinians have previously refused to make. Then it would be the Palestinians who appear to be the deal-breakers.
Israel’s reaction to demands for a settlement freeze should not be ”No,” or even “Maybe.”
It should be: “Yes—and …” and the “and” should refer to what the Palestinians must do to increase Israeli’s trust in them, too.
It has to be an action that increases mutual trust.
“Israel welcomes initiatives that promote peace.
“Israel will freeze new construction beyond the Green Line to manifest its commitment to negotiate a sustainable peace with the Palestinian people, as soon as the Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza, show their own commitment to building trust by removing the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel material from their school textbooks, as well as material glorifying the shahid, and substituting messages promoting peace.”
In other words, give the Palestinians a political hot potato—one that is just as hot for Palestinian politicians as is a concession freezing settlements to the Israelis.
The Palestinians refuse to come to the table to negotiate until the construction of settlements is frozen. Israel should play the same game, refusing to come to the table as long as the next generation of Palestinians is being educated to hate and kill Israelis.
Israel should have an active policy to show the world that it seeks peace. The Palestinians should be put on the defensive for rejecting Israel’s peace initiative.
Currently, most of the world has the opposite impression: that the Palestinians appear willing. It is the Israelis who are the reluctant ones.
Please note how effective Palestinian public relations are, and how absolutely disastrous Israeli public relations are.
Israel has already retreated from Gaza. When he was Prime Minister, Ehud Barak made a most generous offer for peace. Despite never missing an opportunity to reject Israel’s peace initiatives, the Palestinians are still believed to be peace seeking, while Israel is seen as the warmonger.
In Israel, more than 100,000 people have marched to demand “Peace now!” while Palestinians have never marched for peace. And yet Israel still appears to be on the warpath while the oppressed Palestinians want peace.
I understand that the Palestinians are underdogs and Israel is the mighty force of the Middle East.
But images can be controlled
By not taking control of its image abroad, Israel is losing the PR war, which in today’s environment of TV, Internet and other media cannot and should not be underestimated as to its power.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes