Israel Reflections–Negotiation Aikido Israeli-Style

Posted on Categories International Law & Diplomacy, Marquette Law School, Negotiation

On our very last day in Israel, with the sun shining and after spending an hour on the beach, we forced the students back on the bus to Tel Aviv University to have a joint class with Moty Cristal’s class from the International Master’s in Dispute Resolution program.  If ever I was worried that the students would really resent us, this presented the golden opportunity.  Luckily, Moty was outstanding and here are two student comments about his presentation:

From Mary Ferwarda: It was the last day in an exciting, but very packed and exhausting schedule. We had just come from free time on the beach in Tel Aviv on the most perfect morning — sunshine, light breeze, few crowds — and I, personally, was dreading having to sit inside for yet another lecture.  When we all packed into a room at Tel Aviv University, and the speaker pulled up his Powerpoint, I took a deep breath to pool all of my energy to pay attention.  I should have taken a deep breath to prepare to be blown away.  Mr. Moty Cristal lectured, or rather, preached, his piece on crisis negotiation to a roomful of rapt students and professors.  Combining a pointed wit, quick humor, and a couple of Hollywood movies, Mr. Cristal walked the class through his experience negotiating with Palestinian militants who barricaded themselves in the Church of the Nativity in 2002 to avoid capture by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). 

With this event as a framework, Mr. Cristal discussed the movement between the parties’ power, self-identified rights, and underlying interests throughout this negotiation. He also focused on the balance between controlling the negotiation process while holding a “mindset of uncertainty” to flex to the ever-changing nature of crisis.   Ultimately, Mr. Cristal left the class with a four-step method of approaching crisis negotiation:  1) Diagnose the situation before acting;  2) Analyze the options available in your (broad) toolkit; 3) Respond in appropriate measure; and 4) Don’t forget to breathe!   After just over an hour of the intense give-and-take of Mr. Cristal’s lecture style, I took yet another deep breath, this one full of energy, hope, and gratitude. I was energetic about the far-reaching effects of ADR, hopeful about the good people accomplishing good results in this highly-conflicted region, and grateful to have participated in a week of such transformational education through Marquette University Law School! 

From Aaron Vanselow: Professor Cristal, an experienced crisis negotiator, seemed to promote that rather than simply trying to follow BATNAs, WATNAs, and other formal negotiation strategies line by line, the real key is that negotiators must always keep an open mind and constantly keep track of the basics.  The most important point he sent home with us was “power.”  Be aware of it, know who has it, know the sources of it, and know how to use it effectively.  Therefore, to be effective negotiators, we should at all times be mindful of what state the balance of power is in, know how we can change the balance of power to be in our favor, and finally take advantage of the balance when it is in our favor by having creative solutions that are at least marginally acceptable to both sides (and if there are no terms that are marginally acceptable to both sides, rephrase it so that there are).  In negotiation and dispute resolution, power plays an exceedingly important role.  Power is perception.  The trick seems to be controlling the perception and negotiating with finesse.  Doing that effectively requires awareness and much more preparation than action.  After all, as Professor Cristal said, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem will always look like a nail.”

Cross posted at Indisputably.

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