As Israeli and Palestinian leaders continue with the latest rounds of peace talks, I wonder if they would be more successful if they weren’t seeking peace. For as long as I can remember, the Middle East Conflict has been in the headlines. In all of my adult years, so have peace talks.
While it is a lofty goal, peace is not a starting point for discussions or an attainable objective of negotiations. It is something that is achieved over time.
Strategic planning for long-term goals is an indicator of a high level of education and success in our society. While a single-mother on welfare may not be able to see beyond trying to get dinner on the table today, those who are much more fortunate have trust funds that were established before they were born and will provide for their heirs after they have died. This is not only a matter of their financial reality, but also of their education.
A single parent may also be working a day job and investing in themselves, going to night school in order to provide a better future for themselves and their children. This is the experience of many immigrant families who make a choice to suffer a short-term sacrifice in order to reach a long-term goal.
In my business, as well as in advising my clients, we often take a similar strategic long-term approach, taking baby-steps, measuring success with empirical metrics, adjusting as necessary while we work towards medium and long-term goals. We try to be as specific as possible in defining our goals and I have found that the more we focus, the more we draw a picture of what success looks like, the easier it is to achieve.
As a parent, I have no problem going without something I want, allowing me to put money away. I know that by doing this with twenty-year foresight, I will have accumulated savings so that my children will have a head-start when they start their adult lives. However we have a hard time doing this as a society when looking at national or international issues.
A politician has a very limited lifetime. Perhaps he will be around two years, maybe four years, even eight. He will probably not last more than a decade in a position of international decision-making power.
However NGO and business ties span decades and sometimes centuries. They have strategic plans and, if they are successful, usually operate with short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. These almost always involve strategic partnerships outside of their own entity.
In laying the groundwork for the future of our children, shouldn’t we apply the same principles in politics as we do in education and financial success?
While we may have general agreement about our long-term goals, if we forced people to negotiate what a final solution looked like before we were ready, none of our relationships would succeed. Imagine not asking someone for a first date, but for marriage commitment they are clearly unable to make; imagine a job interview after which a potential employee is offered a partnership predicated on first completing a ten year commitment upon which he must decide now; imagine a college which only accepts based upon your alumni activities and promises of your professional achievements.
In each of the above scenarios, we may have general agreement about expectations and the general direction we would like to proceed, but demanding final commitments at an early stage is almost guaranteed to result in failure. We make commitments at different stages as we are ready.
Perhaps in the Middle East it is too early for roadmaps and final status negotiations. The hubris of politicians sets them up for failure, thinking they can achieve in years what it may take a century or more to accomplish.
As people, businesses and NGOs establish long-term relationships and build bridges step-by-step over many years, our politicians would do best in working towards peace by establishing short-term domestic policies which would facilitate the long-term objectives of those capable of achieving them.
At a conference I attended partially sponsored by the EU in Tel Aviv, Israeli businesses met with potential Palestinian outsourcing companies. When an Irishman suggested that we need more government intervention, both Palestinian and Israeli businessmen reacted quickly saying that government is only an impediment to success. When businesses operate to achieve their goals in a mutually beneficial arrangement, they can overcome many obstacles, even those of government bureaucracy and centuries of tribal mistrust.
Instead of pushing forward in negotiations, in order to truly achieve peace, politicians should take steps on the ground to help business relationships, investments in infrastructure and educational initiatives succeed.
For one such success story, take a look at how Cisco Israel is doing business in Palestine and the results both in business and in attaining peace which they have successfully reached at . The video, “CSR 2009 : Society : Cisco’s Investment in Palestine“ makes many good points and I urge you to watch it. This is the vanguard for peace, not political negotiations.