Sunday, July 04, 2010

"Game Theory and Negotiations with Arab countries

Last week I was sent an article by Nobel Laureate, Professor Yisrael (Robert) Auman about the "Blackmail Paradox", Game Theory, and Negotiations with Arab countries. The article is in Hebrew, but an English translation was just posted here. (I suggest reading the article in its entirety)

The preface is as follows:

"Reuben and Shimon are placed into a small room with a suitcase containing $100,000 of cash. The owner of the suitcase offers them the following: "I'll give you all the money in the suitcase, but only on the condition that you negotiate and reach an amicable agreement on its division. That’s the only way I will give you the money."

Reuben, who is a rational person, appreciates the golden opportunity presented to him and turns to Shimon with the obvious suggestion: "Come, you take half the amount, I'll take the other half, and each of us will go away with $50,000." To his surprise, Shimon, with a serious look on his face and a determined voice says: "Listen, I do not know what your intentions are with the money, but I'm not leaving this room with less than $90,000. Take it or leave it. I’m fully prepared to go home with nothing."

Reuben can not believe his ears. What happened to Shimon? he thinks to himself. Why should he get 90%, and I only 10%? He decides to try to talk to Simon. "Come, be reasonable," he pleads. "We're both in this together, and we both want the money. Come let’s share the amount equally and we’ll both come out ahead.”

But the reasoned explanation of his friend does not seem to register on Shimon. He listens attentively to Reuben’s words, but then declares even more emphatically, "There is nothing to discuss. 90-10 or nothing, that's my final offer!" Reuben's face turns red with anger. He wants to smack Shimon across his face, but soon reconsiders. He realizes that Shimon is determined to leave with majority of the money, and that the only way for him to leave the room with any money is to surrender to Shimon’s blackmail. He straightens his clothes, pulls out wad of bills from the suitcase in the amount of $10,000, shakes hands with Shimon and leaves the room looking forlorn.

This case in Game Theory is called the “Blackmailer Paradox." The paradox emerging from this case is that the rational Reuben is eventually forced to act clearly irrationally, in order to gain the maximum available to him. The logic behind this bizarre result is that Shimon broadcast total faith and confidence in his excessive demands, and it is able to convince Reuben to yield to his blackmail in order for him to receive the minimum benefit."

Israel has always been a rather poor negotiator because Israel tries to act rationally in the face of irrational enemies.

For example, Government after government has "offered" the Palestinians upwards of 90% of Yehuda vShomron (the West Bank), as a starting position for negotiations, while the Palestinian's opening negotiation point is always, 100% of everything with Jerusalem as the capital of "Palestine". There's huge fanfare when PA President Abbas announces that Israel could maintain a "presence" in the Jewish quarter of the Old City and part of the Western wall...

Of course, any land they "forfeit" in their opening negotiating position, is immediately qualified that they demand 100% of the land mass, with "land swaps" for any bit that Israel may get.

According to the report, Abbas proposes that a Palestinian state be established on the entire territory of the West Bank, but with a 2.3% land swap. This territory would include Gush Etzion, Givat Ze'ev and Modi'in Illit, as well as a strip of land near Ben Gurion International Airport.

In exchange, the Palestinians demand a similar area of land south of Hebron. The report made no mention of the Palestinian stance on Maale Adumim and Ariel (ynet)
While some dance for joy at the "moderate" position of Abbas, within hours, the PLO denies that such a position was even presented.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat denied reports on Saturday that President Mahmoud Abbas conveyed a list of proposals to Israel through US Middle East envoy George Mitchell on final status agreements.
Israel needs to get serious about negotiating with the Palestinians -- and let them know as our opening position, 100% of Yehuda vShomron is the historical land of Israel.

Otherwise, we're just going to lose again.

Over 300,000 trees burned down in Israel on June 29...
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


Mrs. S. said...

Very well said! May Hashem grant our leaders the requisite understanding, resolve, and strength to follow Professor Aumann's counsel.

LeahGG said...

and I was remembering something about two men holding a tallis...

NormanF said...

Exactly. Israel's secular elites, by ignoring G-d and the Jewish ties to the Land Of Israel in peacemaking, encourage Arab Muslim intransigence and extremism. The Israel-Arab conflict is not going to be resolved by goodwill and talks because the Arabs believe Israel's weakness shows Israel has no right to exist, period. And until Israel's Jews learn to be as uncompromising and extreme in defense of their faith and the rights to ALL of Eretz Israel - 100% of it and every last square inch of it, they will never gain the Arab respect they crave.

In the Middle East, the weak perish swiftly. Israel's leaders would do well to stop accommodating Arab demands and start defending the right of Jews in Yesha and committing Israel to claiming its rightful sovereignty over the entire area in the future - for historical and religious as well as national security justifications.

Israeli Jewish servility in the face of the Arabs buys them their contempt and rejection, not admiration and acceptance of Israel as their moral and political equals.

Jewish Odysseus said...

Heeeyyyyyy...Why shd Israel leave the Biblical lands east of the Jordan off the table? It's not like the Kingdom of Jordan is an eternal reality.

Remember the old IZL and LEHI flags?

BTW, by indulging in hostile propaganda, Egypt is already in breach of the Camp David agreements. Who do you think will replace the octogenarian Mubarak? Not Mother Teresa. So keep an eye on the Sinai as a future chip, too.

Funny, the old stereotype of the Jews was a weak, cowardly people who were nonetheless so crafty and cunning that they walked away from the table with the prize. For the last 60 years Israel has won it fair and square on the battlefield, and in peace-time...Yet throws the winnings away in stupidity every time.

Come on, my brethren, let's start some real negotiating! How bout this for a starting point: the lands 1 mile east of the Euphrates, to one mile west of the Nile. ;- )

jonathan becker said...

if the "suitcase" is yehuda and shomron, why hypothesize a 3rd party who "owns" it and can give or withold it as it pleases? who is this third party, the u.n.? the international community? let's remember that the "suitcase" is currently in israel's possession. the very idea that israel has to negotiate, either with "shimon" or the hypothetical "owner" of the suitcase is fallacious. the whole thing is a false analogy. this from a nobel laureate?

the fact is the suitcase is booby-trapped. it contains not only the money (the historical heartland of israel, strategic depth, water resources, etc.) but a time bomb (a murderous fifth column). the problem is not as stated in this fanciful bit of game theory.

ProfK said...

I have to agree with Jonathan that there is a fallacy present in the analogy given--that the suitcase is owned by someone else. In the case of Israel, Reuben owns the suitcase. As the owner, he should not be speaking first, to make an offer to Shimon. It is Shimon who wants the suitcase contents--Reuben already has possession of those contents--and it is Shimon who needs to be made to understand that he is not negotiating from a position of strength but is in the supplicant's position.

Jewish Odysseus said...

Prof. Auman's brilliant piece (just click on the link) never said there is an exact analogy between this "game" and Israel's position. But it clearly demonstrated the inevitability of failure given "Reuben's" clueless attitude.

The good Professor wisely recommended a "perceptual change" on the part of Israel/Reuben, so as to enable it to confront its enemies more effectively.

Nachum said...

Two things I'd do:

1. Because I can be a jerk sometimes, maybe, but I'd walk out of the room. I wouldn't have lost anything (after all, I had no money going in) apart from a few minutes, and I'd have gained a moral victory, not only over Reuben but over the sick b*****d (i.e., the owner) who decided to play his little game with us.

I know, I know, that ruins the whole idea of game theory. But I'm a literal-minded guy. And in the case of Israel, it just might work. It'd certainly teach "Reuben" a lesson.

2. Start by demanding the full 100,000. See Reuben react to that. In a world of jerks, you have to be one yourself. The problem with the US and Israel elites is that they suppose that the whole world is as rational as they are. Newsflash: They aren't, particularly the ones who bow to Mecca.

Don Cox said...

I am inclined to agree with Nachum. The Arabs were offered a two-=state solution decades ago, and have consistently refused it.

The Israelis should now demand the whole of the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the Golan heights. Gaza could be offered as a concession.

Nachum said...

Why stop there? There are chunks of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt Israel should be happy to take.

Arab dictators understand force. And not-so-deep-down, they are terribly frightened people- of their fellows, their people, and, above all, Israel. Give them something more to worry about by letting them know you'd like parts of their countries.

And who says that colonial borders are so sacrosanct, anyway?

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