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Friday, February 13, 2015

The greatest political poker game ever

Here's a guest post from Akiva M.

In July of 1978 my family wandered the Arab market of the old city of Jerusalem. Anyone who recalls the ‘shuk’ in those years will remember a bustling market with the welcoming gestures from every store, the rainbow of colors of the dresses and clothes, the smell of spices and fresh baked rolls, along with the occasional mule carrying a cart of merchandise along the paths. It was here that I got my first lesson in negotiation. My father asked a store owner about a Turkish coffee set. I’m not sure that he really wanted to buy it, but, he had unknowingly started a negotiation. The price was 200 Lira ( ~33$ USD) .. My mother pulled on his shirt, “ come on let’s go." She didn’t really want a Turkish coffee set, and she was more interested in going on to our next stop. As she pulled his sleeve and nudged him away, the price started dropping; 150 Lira, 100 Lira, She kept on pulling, “let’s go." The harder she pulled, the lower the price, 80 Lira, 65 Lira.. Much to my mother’s dismay, my father eventually bought the coffee set. To the best of my recollection it survived for over 20 years and never had a drop of coffee in it. But he spent only 30 Lira on it. The lesson I learned from this is if you want to successfully negotiate, you need a strong person on your side pulling you away.

While dozens of world leaders fully comprehend the implications of Weapons of Mass destruction in the hands of a radical Islamic regime, almost none are willing to say so out loud. Anyone paying attention to Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s reaction during Operation Protective Edge last July can get a clear picture of where they stand on Iranian and radical Islamic influence. No sane world leader wants a nuclear Iran. Which brings us to the current negotiations between Iran and the US led committee on lifting of sanctions on Iran in return for dismantling their nuclear program. Obama clearly wants to have the political ‘win’ of an agreement with Iran, and the Iranians clearly want to have the sanctions lifted; the question is what agreement can they reach which really serves the interest of the world. Will it be an agreement with little substance that wins in the headlines “bringing peace in our time” or will it truly set Iran’s clock back five years and ensure a mechanism to track their program going forward.

As the leader of the free world Obama wants an agreement of substance, but unfortunately the Iranian’s offers don’t provide this depth. They know he needs a ‘win’ in foreign policy and that he will most likely accept their offer, even if it’s not substantial enough. And then comes Benjamin Netanyahu, openly criticizing the agreement taking shape. The same Netanyahu who, contrary to every other world leader who stayed silent on this issue, has used every possible international stage to raise the awareness of a the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Netanyahu is openly criticizing the US President, telling him “Come on, let’s go”. And every time the issue is raised again, I can picture the disappointed looks of the American negotiators who tell their Iranian counterparts, “We'd love to make this deal, but it just won’t wash with our congress – so you’re just going to have to try harder." They can honestly say, the President has done everything he can to silence the Israeli Prime Minister, but now it’s the Iranian’s turn to add some concessions. While outwardly appearing disappointed, in secret Obama and his team, along with many other world leaders are most likely thanking Netanyahu for sticking his neck out and having their backs as they trudge through these negotiations.
I happen to know Akiva's parents. That story is completely believable. 

But is it the case that Obama and his team are thanking Netanyahu in private for sticking his neck out? My guess is that the sane people on Obama's team are thankful that Netanyahu has courage that Obama is lacking, but that Obama himself and a few true believers (like Valerie Jarrett) really wish Netanyahu would stay home.

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