Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The rules of the bazaar

The rules of the bazaar

Dror Eydar

1. The emperor has no clothes. Last weekend, American Secretary of State John Kerry threatened us with a third intifada if we did not hurry up and agree to the suicidal peace plan that his government has cooked up for us. Unbelievable as it was, Kerry's implicit message to the Arabs of the region was that if they began a campaign of terrorism against us, the United States would show understanding behind the scenes even if it issued a public condemnation.

What does Kerry know about our region that we don't? Nothing at all. But his efforts are bearing fruit. This week, I also heard an Arab Knesset member threaten: "Just wait. Just you wait." We are waiting. A third intifada, another installment of the constant rampaging (with time-outs) against the Jews' return to their homeland that has been going on for the past hundred years, will ruin the Palestinians just like it did the previous times.

Kerry's brilliant influence on our conflict was not enough for him. Right afterward, he flew off to Geneva to ruin yet more negotiations. The New York Times wrote this week that there were differences of opinion about why the round of talks with Iran failed. While John Kerry put the blame on the Iranians, a New York Times editorial quickly countered with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's version of events: that Kerry's "conflicting statements" had damaged confidence in the process. The New York Times was not satisfied until it put the blame on the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, who called the talks a "'fool's game' just as negotiations were at a critical point." That was really wrong of you, Laurent. Why did you annoy the Iranians? Don't you know how delicate their feelings are? Everyone else does.

The farce goes on. "It would be alarming if his comments seriously impair chances of a deal," states the editorial. Mr. Foreign Minister, shut up! You are supposed to go outside waving a piece of paper (can we do without the umbrella?). It is not every day that a person is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just for statements. There has to be some content to them. But there's more. The fourth reason that the New York Times, the newspaper of the defeated members of the global left-wing movement, gave for the failure of the talks was ... wait for it ... Netanyahu. Oh, Saudi Arabia and the American members of Congress who opposed the agreement were to blame as well.

All this in a newspaper that, we are told on a regular basis, is the most important in the world. Did somebody say something about the emperor's new clothes? This self-important group of pallid liberals is acting like a bunch of rank amateurs concerning an existential issue on which not only Israel's security, but also the security of the entire Western world, depends. Does that remind us of anything?

2. The real reason the talks failed is the West's own attitude toward the Middle East and Islam. That is the simple truth. The West prides itself on its scientific achievements, but fails time and again to understand how negotiations work in the Middle East. The countries of this ancient region have refined the art of negotiating to such a degree that Western diplomats are no match for them.

Twenty years ago, Professor Moshe Sharon, one of the world's most prominent experts on Islam and former Prime Minister Menachem Begin's adviser on Arab affairs, published an essay, entitled "The Middle Eastern Bazaar," which enumerated the rules for negotiating in the Middle East. These rules also hold true for Iranians, those artists of trade.

"In Middle Eastern diplomacy, agreements are kept not because they are signed but because they are imposed," Sharon writes. He continues: "The most important rule in the bazaar is that if the vendor knows that you desire to purchase a certain piece of merchandise, he will raise its price."

In our own case, where the merchandise on the table is Iran's nuclear disarmament, the West is bending over backwards to buy it. The Iranians are creating the impression that they hold the keys to the warehouses where these highly desired goods are kept, but in truth the warehouses are empty. The Iranians have no interest in giving up their ability to obtain nuclear weapons. Although they have said so, implicitly and explicitly, any number of times, the West has lost its sense of hearing.

Anyone with a scrap of discernment and even superficial knowledge of what is published in the Arabic and Iranian press, and who listens to the statements of Iran's leaders, including those of the current Iranian president in an interview on Iranian television that was broadcast worldwide, knows that Iran has no interest in supplying the goods that the West longs for so much. The opposite is true: the Iranians want nuclear capability. Since they are having a hard time doing so because of the sanctions and isolation that have been imposed on them, they are making noises of moderation that they hope will get the embargo lifted and give them some breathing room. During this time, they will gather enough strength to push on to the final stage of their nuclear program. When they return to their evil ways and the West howls in protest, another round of talks will begin, and the next John Kerry, whoever he may be, will race to placate the Iranian merchants. But this time, he will find that he is too late, and the bad guys already have the real thing in their warehouses.

3. "This is the wisdom of the bazaar: if you are clever enough and the other side naive or foolish or both, you can sell nothing -- and at a high price. The Arabs sell words, they sign agreements, and they trade with vague promises, but are sure to receive generous down payments from eager buyers," Sharon writes. This is exactly what the Iranians are doing.

This week, I heard a story from Gen. (res.) Yossi Peled about Gen. Antoine Lahad, the commander of the South Lebanon Army, whom he described as a French gentleman. Yitzhak Rabin was angry about a cruel retaliatory operation that the SLA had carried out in a Shiite village in response to a terror attack. "That's not how we behave," Rabin told him. As the story goes, Lahad turned red in the face and said to Rabin: "I dress like you and speak like you, but I am not really like you. The rules here in Lebanon are different from the ones that are conventional in the West. If I do not follow them, I will not survive."

Despite the Iranian regime's cruel repression of its own people; despite the global terrorism that Iran exports everywhere it can; although everyone knows that Iran is behind the Islamofascist ferment in Arab countries and throughout the Muslim world, including within the West; despite direct Iranian involvement in the massacres in Syria in which more than 120,000 men, women and children have been killed, despite all that, the Iranians have won legitimacy. Their regime is recognized by every country on earth, and they are invited to international conferences as respected representatives, give speeches about human rights everywhere, continue to spread their venom throughout the world and openly threaten our destruction. As if all that were not enough, they are also developing nuclear weapons (for peaceful purposes, of course).

But even with all that, the West still does not get it. The Iranians have set conditions, demanding high prices for the West's security. How dare they do that? They dare because they have discovered that the world ignored their transparently cruel acts and even justified them.

The West has merchandise that the Iranians want: a lifting of the economic sanctions, diplomatic relations and removal of the military threat. Sated as the West is with Iranian promises and lies, it should offer Iran nothing but a continuation, and even a worsening, of the current situation. If the Iranians want peace, fine. Let them pay the price they know will be demanded: complete dismantling of Iran's nuclear facilities. Will the West learn?