hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Sunday, June 23, 2002
Anyway, concerning Israel, I was struck by a recent
Jonathan Chait piece in which he asserted that the
current Palestinian conventional wisdom goes something
like "it may take a long time, but eventually if we
hang tough the Israelis will cry Uncle and give us
everything we want."

Currently, the only idea the Israeli left has is to
build a wall, unilaterally withdraw from 75% of the
West Bank, stop the suicide bombings as much as
possible, and wait till the Palestinians are ready to
negotiate. This is not a terrible approach, though
the major caveat is that no one knows if a wall would
really stop terrorism (especially if Israeli Arabs get

Anyway, here's my possible suggestion:

The key point of the current crisis is both sides are
determined to outlast the other guy.

Here is how the Israelis can tip the stalemate in
their favor: Suppose an Israeli Labour leader were to
propose a very generous peace plan (lets call it
"Taba plus") as the *maximum* the Palestinians were
*ever* going to get , though some details/parameters
were amenable to negotiation. And suppose this Labor
leader were to give the Palestinian leadership a
certain amount of time (three months?) to agree to
call off the intifada, and began negotiations for a
final status agreement within the general framework
of "Taba plus".

What happened if the deadline passed and the
Palestinians had not budged? Then the generous "Taba
plus" plan would be made somewhat less generous, with
this "modified Taba plus" plan being announced as the
*new* maximum the Palestinians would *ever* get. In
other words, by dithering/making war for past three
months, they had sacrificed something (however small
that "something" might be) *permanently*.

A new deadline could be issued on the basis of
"modified Taba plus", and if that deadline passed,
then the maximum the Palestinians would *ever* get
would be ratcheted down still further, and a new
deadline would be issued, and so on. . .

I hope I have been clear enough so that you can see
what I'm getting at. Right now the Palestinians are
thinking "if we wait for a long time, we can get
everything." If an Israeli labor leader were to
adopt this "permanent deadline" policy, however, then
the Plaestinian thinking might change to: "if we act
quickly, we can get (almost) everything. If we wait,
we will get much much less." I.e. it adds an urgency
to Palestinian desire for peace, plus it gives
Israelis an incentive to wait it out.