The Typology of Issues for Negotiations Affects the Outcome

The typology of issues for negotiations has a systemic impact on the prospects for successfully reaching a deal, implementing it, and providing an answer to future problems that may arise between the sides.

Following the Annapolis summit, the Israeli cabinet is expected to decide on the establishment of 14 working groups for the forthcoming negotiations. These groups will deal with different issues that were identified: In addition to the six traditional issues (borders, refugees, Jerusalem, water, settlements and security arrangements), the group raised topics such as use of airspace and electromagnetic spectrum, as well as management of sewage / waste systems, tax / customs regimes, and border crossings.

The division of negotiation topics influences the agreement which can be reached. Each topic is assigned to a working group. Each group usually performs a ‘give and take' for their issue, creating an internal 'package'. Hence, how the negotiation issues are split has a systemic impact on the deal reached and its implementation.

In this context, the Reut Institute has identified two approaches to the typology of issues for negotiations:

  • Traditional Typology - This approach consists in splitting the agenda of negotiations into the six aforementioned traditional issues. This logic is 'backward-facing' in that it seeks to resolve the 1949 conflict between Israel and the Arab states and not to establish a Palestinian state.

  • Forward-looking Typology - This approach focuses on the creation of stable state-to-state relations between Israel and the future Palestinian state in Permanent Status.

    Such a forward-looking negotiation agenda would be designed around the clusters of issues that are likely to shape Israel's relations with the future Palestinian state: Intrusive Issues (i.e., use of airspace), Conventional Issues (i.e., waste systems), Personal Security Issues (i.e., border crossings) and Historic Issues (i.e., holy places). (See a table detailing the difference between the present negotiation agenda and the proposed forward looking agenda here.)

    Grouping issues in this way divides what would have been one cluster in the traditional typology (i.e., Jerusalem) into several different clusters in the forward-looking typology (i.e., holy places, security / movement arrangements, etc.), allowing trade-offs more appropriate to actual future state-to-state relations between the parties.

For more on this topic, please refer to Agenda of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations on Permanent Status and Gidi Grinstein's Blog 'Forward-looking Agenda'.