Across-the-Table Strategy

The term refers to a political strategy based on negotiations and coordination. It is conditional upon the existence of Partnership between the parties.

Definition

The concept of “Across-the-Table Strategy” (ATS) refers to an Israeli policy of engaging in direct negotiations, coordination or cooperation with the Palestinians. As such, this strategy requires Palestinian consent.

Background

ATS is an alternative to an Off-the-Table Strategy, which refers to an Israeli unilateral or third-party-coordinated action vis-à-vis the Palestinians which is not dependent on their consent.

The existence of a Partnership is a precondition for an ATS, i.e, there has to be mutual synchronization of the components of Partnership:

  • Agreed upon objective for the Israeli-Palestinian political process;
  • Similar perceptions of time frame (See: Leverage of Time in Negotiations);
  • A mutual Will to engage with each other, accompanied with the Delivery Capability and Legitimacy to sustain the requirements of the Partnership (see the document: What Makes an Israeli-Palestinian Partnership?);

In a rational calculation of interests,1 the Israeli top executive may determine that an ATS is superior to its Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).

Advantages to Pursuing an ATS

  • International Legitimacy – Negotiations are perceived as more legitimate in the eyes of the international community, whereas unilateral actions need to be justified as part of broader agreed upon processes.2
  • Reciprocity – Negotiations have the advantage of reciprocal concessions, e.g. possible Israeli use of Palestinian airspace in exchange for Safe Passage;
  • Support for the interlocutor – Accepting the authority of the other party can strengthen its domestic legitimacy, giving it the power to promote an outcome serving the interests of both parties (See: Upgrade of the Sovereign Status of the PA);
  • Particular Issues – Several issues can only be resolved with a Palestinian consent, i.e. the Permanent Borders of the Palestinian State.
  • Legitimacy for Unilateral Moves – Demonstrating a willingness to negotiate – or a failed negotiation – will make third parties more understanding of future unilateral actions.


1 Rational "in the sense that it is aware of its alternatives, forms expectations about unknowns, has clear preferences and chooses its actions deliberately after some process of optimization." - Rubinstein, Ariel & Martin Osborne, A Course in Game Theory, MIT Press, 1994. p. 4.
2 The international community only endorsed the Disengagement Plan after the Government of Israel explained it as leading to the renewal of the Roadmap. Click here for a text of the Bush letter of affirmation.