Off-the-Table Strategy

This concept refers to a unilateral or third-party-coordinated action vis-?-vis an adversary that is not dependent on his consent.

Definition

The concept of an Off-the-Table Strategy (OTS) refers to a unilateral or third-party-coordinated action vis-à-vis an adversary that is not dependent on his consent.

In the context of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, an Israeli Off-the-Table Strategy would be an Israeli action vis-à-vis the Palestinians that would not be dependent upon Palestinian consent.

Background

An Off-the-Table Strategy is an alternative to an Across-the-Table Strategy (ATS), which refers to a strategy that is negotiated and coordinated directly with the second party (see also the document: Complementary Divergence in the Political Process).

Reasons for Israel to Pursue an OTS

In a rational calculation of interests1, Israeli decision-makers may determine that an OTS is the best option if it is superior to what could be obtained through negotiations, and if it provides the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).

The following considerations may serve Israel in determining whether to pursue an OTS:

  • Lack of a Partnership – Israeli decision-makers may perceive that
  1. The Palestinian interlocutor is not a Partner in that it does not possess the Will, Delivery Capability or Legitimacy for a political process (See What Makes an Israeli-Palestinian Partnership?)2,
  2. Israeli decision-makers may not possess the Will, the Delivery Capability and/or Legitimacy to withstand political risks in the political process.3
  • Quagmire Effect of Negotiations – a dynamic set of circumstances in the course of negotiations which lead to 1) the inability to breakaway from the negotiation process due to internal or external pressures, and 2) the inability to conclude an agreement due to the other party.
  • Parties can pursue an OTS also in order to strengthen their ATS options, by exhibiting the viability of its negotiating alternatives.

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 For example, ambiguity exists regarding whether the PLO or the Palestinian Authority carries the Responsibility of representing Palestinian interests. Therefore, questions arise as to whether Palestinian interlocutors can be considered addresses (i.e. have Delivery Capability) and thus, by definition, Partners in the political process. (See Who Should Be the Interlocutor: The PLO or the Palestinian Authority?)
3 For example, the Israeli political system is characterized by volatility and high turn-over of governments making Israeli politics one of the most unstable among developed nations with the past 5 Prime Ministers not completing their full terms. (Yitzhak Rabin (1992-1995); Shimon Peres (1995-1996); Benjamin Netanyahu (1996-1999); Ehud Barak (1999-2001); Ariel Sharon (2001-2003)).