Note well the title of Thomas Friedman’s latest column: “Telling Middle East Negotiators: ‘Have a nice life.’”
In his opening paragraph Friedman describes a scene that took place on the eve of the 1991 Madrid peace conference that Pres. George H. W. Bush convened after winning the first Gulf War.
In Friedman’s words:
In the Times review of the American Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross’s important new history of Israeli-U.S. relations, “Doomed to Succeed,” a telling moment on the eve of the 1991 Madrid peace conference caught my attention. The Palestinian delegation had raised some last-minute reservations with the secretary of state, James A. Baker III. Baker was livid, and told the Palestinians before walking out on them: “With you people, the souk never closes, but it is closed with me. Have a nice life.”
Did you note the way the Times introduced its own special anti-Israeli bias in the headline? Though the headline says that James Baker was walking out on “Middle East negotiators,” in truth he was excoriating the Palestinian delegation for failing to act in good faith. He was dismissing them because, in his view, they were trying to walk back from an agreement they had negotiated.
These are not the kinds of people you can do business with. If they do not know how to be good to their word, there is no real point in negotiating with them. It's the first lesson you learn in your negotiation course.
By making it appear that Baker had dismissed both Palestinians and Israelis, Friedman or the Times headline writer was suggesting--in fact, Friedman argues it in the rest of his column-- that both sides are equally culpable, that today they must both make concessions in order to forge a durable peace agreement. And yet, if only one side is capable of keeping its word, what is the point of the concessions… except to advance the final Palestinian goal—the destruction of Israel.
And, think about this angle. When our current Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated his recent sell out to the Iranians, giving them everything they wanted and more, can you imagine him telling the Iranians to have a nice life.
It seems clear that Kerry was charged with getting a deal at any price. Surely, he was the right man for that job. the Iranians knew it and they played him skillfully.