The art of the what?

07chappatte-inyt-master768

The more the president talks about his approach to negotiation, the more painfully obvious it is he didn’t write a single word of The Art of the Deal. He probably didn’t even read it.

Take, for example, Trump’s head-scratching belief that he has a viable “proposal for peace” between the Palestinians and Israel:

“We have a great proposal for the Palestinians, it covers a lot of the things we discussed over the years.”

However, Trump then noted that the U.S. had taken the issue of Jerusalem out of the talks. “They never got past Jerusalem. We took it off the table. We don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

Given that the status of Jerusalem is one of the most critical issues for the Palestinians, and an essential element of any future two-state solution, this simply defies common sense, as Joshua Keating points out over at Slate:

I may not have written The Art of the Deal, but I’m pretty sure that this is not how negotiations work. If I were applying for a job and negotiating salary, benefits, and vacation days, then told that I would be getting no vacation days at all so that the issue would be “off the table,” I don’t think this would make me more willing to compromise on salary and benefits.

The Palestinians certainly aren’t buying what Trump is selling either.

“Those who say that Jerusalem is off the table are saying that peace is off the table. The holy city is in the hearts of each and every Palestinian, Arab, Christian and Muslim, and there will be no peace without East Jerusalem being the sovereign capital of the State of Palestine,” (Palestinian peace negotiator) Saeb Erekat said in a statement.

Trump seems to think he can blackmail the Palestinians to the negotiating table by threatening to withhold aid, as he did in Davos yesterday. But the Palestinian Authority isn’t some porn star who’s silence he can buy, or some contractor he can stiff on the bill.

“Trump could buy many things with his money, but he won’t be able to buy the dignity of our nation,” (Erekat) added.

As for that “great proposal” of a peace deal that Trump claims is on offer, the Palestinians have seen enough to expect it to be a farce. It denies them a capital in Jerusalem, allows Israel to annex West Bank settlements, gives Israel control over Palestinian airports, seaports, maritime and land borders, and leaves the Israeli military free to continue to operate in what is supposed to be a sovereign Palestinian state.

There’s no deal to be had there. And Trump can neither bully, nor buy, his way to one if those are the terms.

It’s official, the deal will stand

iran deal

This morning Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) announced that she will support the agreement reached with Iran curtailing it’s development of nuclear weapons technology.  With 34 votes in hand, Pres. Obama now has enough support to veto any bill coming out of Congress that would reject the deal.

This is being hailed as a major foreign policy win for Obama. At Politico the headline reads: “Obama prevails on Iran deal.” At Slate, the headline is: “The Iran Deal Will Survive. Now It’s Just Politics.” The New York Times has, “Obama Clinches Vote to Secure Iran Nuclear Deal,” while The Atlantic headlines the story with “Obama Seals the Iran Deal.”

By now, if you are one of the two or three people (shout-outs to my wife and my dad) that read my blog with any regularity, you know that I’ve written before about my support for the agreement with Iran first here and more recently here.  I don’t want to rehash any of that now, but I do want to say a few words related to the cartoon above.

It’s pretty simple: If you want an agreement to stick, if you want the parties to abide by the commitments they’ve made, it is far better for them to walk away from the table thinking they have won than for one or the other to believe that they’ve been taken to the cleaners.

Parties that walk away from the table thinking they’ve won do so with the implicit understanding that the deal satisfies their interests. And a deal that satisfies your interests is a deal that you will hold to. This is a deal you won’t try to subvert or undermine.  As I tell my students when I teach negotiation and bargaining, the win-win outcome is the holy grail of settlements.  These are the agreements that persist and deliver on their promise.

If we’re lucky, that’s the kind of deal that’s been made with Iran.