The negotiating process – where do we go from here?

A proposal for a tree-climber’s code of conduct.

Netanyahu Abbas 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Netanyahu Abbas 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Palestinian insistence on a renewal of the settlement freeze has become such an issue of principle that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is now utterly unable to climb down from his proverbial tree. Similarly, Israel’s demands for recognition as a Jewish state and for a negotiating atmosphere devoid of preconditions – including the settlement freeze – place it up its own tree from which Netanyahu will be hard put to climb down.
Add to this is the ongoing pressure by Presidents Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as other leaders, whose political fortunes depend to a certain extent on a positive outcome, and the internal political dilemmas that constrict any freedom of action by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and we have the components of a classic deadlock.
In the event that the equation of the settlement freeze with recognition as a Jewish state is not accepted or considered viable, then the parties might prefer to set out the following set of rules.
ONE WAY of enabling all sides to climb down from their respective trees would be to determine an agreed-upon “Code of Conduct” for the negotiating process that would bind all concerned, satisfy their requirements in general terms and hence obviate the need to impose individual and partisan preconditions. This could enable each side to proceed within the confines of the agreed code.
Such a Code of Conduct could be based on the following principles, equally applicable to all:
1. All negotiating parties acknowledge and reaffirm the continued validity and relevance of previous agreements between them, and specifically reaffirm the preambular paragraphs of those agreements by which they recognize their “mutual legitimate and political rights.”
2. Within the context of the negotiations, and with a view to ensuring a positive ambiance, the representatives of all negotiating parties will refrain from expressing any reservation or threat regarding the subject matter of negotiations, their continuation, the anticipated outcome of any topic or the negotiations in general.
3. All negotiating parties will refrain from dictating preconditions for entry into, continuation of or completion of negotiations on any topic.
4. All negotiating parties, when discussing any specific issue, will refrain from actions related to that issue that could influence the outcome of negotiations on that topic, or on the negotiations in general.
5. All partners to the negotiating process will seek, as partners, through their public statements and interviews, to ensure ongoing public support for and encouragement of the negotiating process, as well as a positive negotiating ambiance, and to this end will refrain from derogatory statements regarding other parties to the negotiation or their representatives.
6. With a view to maintaining a constructive negotiating atmosphere, the parties will refrain from initiating or supporting actions in international or nongovernmental organizations, or in foreign countries, directed against another party or its representatives, leaders or officials.
7. With a view to maintaining a bona fide negotiating atmosphere, the parties will refrain from initiating, organizing or supporting economic or other sanctions of any kind on another party, its representatives or commercial enterprises.
8. Negotiating parties will ensure freedom of movement by representatives of the other negotiating parties to all locations in which negotiations are being conducted.
9. Every effort will be made to avoid unilateral cessation of the negotiations, and any issue that could cause such cessation will be discussed and clarified through open diplomatic and other contacts.
If this Code of Conduct could be seen as a regulating factor for all involved, perhaps the deadlock could be broken. Time will tell.

The writer served as the legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and as ambassador to Canada. He is currently a partner in the Tel Aviv law firm of Moshe, Gicelter & Co.