Fletcher in the News

Professor Babbitt Discusses the Revival of Peace Talks in the Middle East

WAMU 88.5: The Kojo Nnamdi Show

Eileen Babbitt, Professor of Practice of International Conflict Management

Reviving Middle East Peace Talks

After years of inaction, Israelis and Palestinians recently agreed to return to the negotiating table. With all so-called "final status" issues — such as borders, refugee rights and the status of Jerusalem — on the table, many onlookers are guardedly optimistic. We explore what's at stake for both sides, as well as the negotiating tactics that could spell slow success, or quick doom, for this new round of talks.

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[Host KOJO] NNAMDI: Joining us by phone from Boston is Eileen Babbitt. She's a professor of International Conflict Management Practice and director of the International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Eileen Babbitt, thank you for joining us….

NNAMDI: …Eileen Babbitt, Secretary of State John Kerry has said, everything is on the table going into these talks. Is this the best way for two sides to go to the negotiating table without preconditions with a full comprehensive agreement as the expectation and with a solid deadline or goal?

BABBITT: It's actually a good opportunity to have all of the issues again on the table, as they actually have been in the past. And from a negotiation vantage point, if you're trying to create viable packages that parties can say yes to, you have to figure out what the most salient tradeoffs are that people will be able to make. One of the most pressing and, I think, challenging issues for the negotiators is what we would call a two-level game. They have the negotiations that are going on across the table between the Israeli leadership -- the Israeli government leadership and the Palestinian leadership, which is the level one game.

BABBITT: But they also have a level two game, which is what's happening on their own side. And they have to be quite mindful of bringing along as much of their constituency as they can. And different parts of that constituency have interests related to different issues. So the good news about having all of the issues on the table is that it gives the negotiators an opportunity to create options that will meet interests of various parties on their own side. And thereby hopefully bring them along as negotiations proceed.

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