Negotiation Theory can be as colorful as the Bible; both favor hard to forget metaphors.
In an advanced course on the first topic, a Scottish professor gave us an extraordinary example: “Imagine a Bedouin in the dessert. He owns a nice oasis; it is green, and it has a few palms surrounding a well. From far away, he spots a caravan of camels. He begins to calculate the amount of money he will make selling them water. A few hours later, the first camels, thirsty and tired, arrive at the oasis. Who is in a better negotiating-position, the camels’ owner or the oasis’ owner?”
For a while, they kept arguing on the topic. Complex theories were created and destroyed; students battled for intellectual hegemony. Most thought that the oasis’ owner had the better hand. The professor was clearly amused. “They both have the same bargaining power. The camels may go to the next oasis (maybe it is nearby, we don’t know),” he clarified for the sake of the more strident group. He was right; the pitfall of many negotiations is one of the sides forgetting that they need to reach an agreement.
In the first week of February 2013, Netanyahu is negotiating his future government. In a typical Israeli fashion, the negotiation process’ two main parties think that they both possess the oasis and thus that they have the upper-hand. The incredible picture accompanying this paragraph shows Yair Lapid, the second strongest politician in the elections’ aftermath, publicly celebrating his victory, posing as a rock star. Netanyahu is not behaving much better.
Both are losers
Let’s begin with the startling fact that both Netanyahu and Lapid own empty wells. There is no water in their rotten oases. Neither one won the elections. Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from the elections as the leader of the largest party in the 19th Knesset; Likud-Israel Beiteinu won 31 mandates out of 120. He needs the support of at least 61 members of the Knesset; a Minority Government with less than 60 members is technically possible, but has proven to be extremely unstable. The second largest party is a newcomer, secular-humanist Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid, with 19 seats. Even combined they fall short of the needed 61; moreover, as expanded in Treason Season, Lieberman may soon break the temporary pact he made with Netanyahu before the elections. This is why the coalitional negotiation is taking place: no side can impose its will on the other. Two losers fighting for an oasis hidden beyond a clouded horizon.
Hubris and urine
In Iran Won Israeli Elections, I analyzed the four main possible coalitions. The main conclusion is that it will be very difficult for Netanyahu to form a stable coalition without Lapid; difficult, but not impossible. On the other hand, Lapid could technically form a coalition without Netanyahu. On February 3, in a rather obvious and simplistic intimidation attempt—a poor negotiation technique—Lapid issued a threat through the Hebrew media. He claimed that if his requests during the negotiations won’t be met, then he won’t join the government, he will serve as the Opposition Leader and in 18 months he will bring Netanyahu down. Given the circumstances, his threat is realistic; achieving this goal will be easier for him that being part of Netanyahu’s government. Such threats are part of the local culture; Netanyahu was unlikely to react. However, Lapid threatened while publicly courting Naftali Bennet, leader of The Jewish Home. The latter has 12 seats and was the victim of Netanyahu’s Holocaust Weapon during the campaign. Together Lapid and Bennet equal Netanyahu in parliamentary force. Lapid asked Bennet to form an alliance so that they can negotiate as equals with Netanyahu. The three parties together had enough seats to form a coalition.
Breathless, the world waited for Netanyahu’s reaction an entire day. Today—February 4—”somebody very close to Netanyahu” as defined by Haaretz said, “Lapid’s piss went up his head,” a Hebrew idiom meaning that he thinks too high of himself. Apparently troubled by the vulgar language he used, the same source—probably Netanyahu himself—added, “Lapid sinned the sin of hubris. When he wakes up it will be too late.” On the same, Likud called for talks with the leaders of three other smallish parties in an attempt to bring some greenery to its depleted oasis; even if the three join him, he will still need Lapid.
Treason season is on, urine and hubris fill the candidates egos; rock star Lapid battles naked King Netanyahu.
Ro’i Tov is the author of “The Cross of Bethlehem.” His website is Words from a Christian Israeli Refugee.