The Game of Peace

“The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it.”

From the Jerusalem Post (24 June 2011) and not available online and, in my opinion, worth reading:

“If you want peace, be prepared for war,” Nobel Prize laureate Yisrael Aumann told participants in the third Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.

Aumann, an expert in game theory, said that although he hated the Romans for having destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, he admired them for their understanding of game theory.

He also drew the conclusion that United States President Barack Obama understands peace, based on a single sentence from Obama’s address when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Quoting Obama more than once in the context of a workshop that he gave at the conference, Aumann stressed the significance in the meaning of the sentence: “The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it.”

Generally perceived as a hawk, Aumann asserted that he too wants peace, but a real peace. Shouting peace, making concessions and gestures, expelling thousands from their homes as happened with the people of Gush Katif will bring war, not peace, he declared, stating that there was a great body of historical proof to support this claim.

[He then mentioned mentioned (a) Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” which was doomed to failure because there was no resolve for military action on the side of the Allies; and (b) Nasrallah’s admission that Hezbollah would not have abducted two Israeli soldiers had it thought that this would lead to war and a war of such magnitude.]

The expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif sent the wrong signal to the Arabs, said Aumann, namely “that we are not here to stay. We have to convince them that we are here to stay.”

But such a campaign must not be based on harsh measures unless they are absolutely warranted, he stipulated. “We must expel nobody – not Jews [and] not Arabs from their homes. We should not adopt collective measures because it hits the people and not the leaders.”

Aumann thought it to be far more effective to create incentives as a disincentive to the present goals of the Palestinians, by making life more liveable for them.

“We have to improve the quality of life, and enable movement and commerce to be as free as possible” while responding to provocations in an immediate and predictable way, he said.

In Aumann’s view, one of the most important aspects of the Oslo agreement has been all but forgotten. “We have to insist on the Oslo provision calling for education for peace and tolerance. It’s the most important provision in the Oslo Accords – and the least remembered. We have to work to create incentives for peace so they will change their goals. The most intelligent kids swallow all the hate and then they become the leaders.”

Drawing a distinction between response to provocations and outright warfare, Aumann said: “There are no positive consequences of war.”

It’s interesting to consider Aumann’s views alongside those of former US envoy to Israel Dan Kurtzer whose interview, in the same issue of the Jerusalem Post is headlined as: ‘Sharon should have hit back hard when first rockets fell after Gaza disengagement.’ Hmmm.

He did not see any prospect of peace in the near future. While Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is promoted as a moderate, said Aumann, “the minute he makes a peace agreement with us, he’ll be out of power.”
Referring once again to the sentence from Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize address, Aumann said: “Our problem is that we want peace now.”

Too many mistakes have been made in the course of the peace process, and “we’re not going to fix things now,” he said. “It will take a long time. We have to start a big campaign for the way children are taught in the territories. We have to get used to the fact that nothing will happen now. We’ve made too many mistakes.”

An out-of-the-box thinker with a pronounced though slightly cockeyed sense of humor and a gift for delivering shockers, Aumann suddenly declared: “Helen Thomas did us a great favour.”

The most senior and most veteran White House correspondent was forced to retire after having been recorded as saying that Jews in Israel should return to Poland, German, America and anywhere else.

“Thomas was saying what a lot of people are actually thinking,” said Aumann. “We have to find strategies for belonging here.”