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Home > Country profiles > Israel > Articles > Article detail

Even Israelis can mediate

Thursday, 9th June 2017

"Israelis are aggressive negotiators, but their directness and pragmatism can be advantages in mediation.



Native-born Israelis, colloquially known as sabras, are known as much for their prickly outsides as their soft inner core. Those known as Anglos have a hard time adapting to the straight talking and at times argumentative approach of Israelis, finding it rude and combative. The approach of Israelis is direct and unapologetic, which perhaps accounts for their thick skinned reputation. Abba Eban had this to say about the Sabra Israeli:

“In principle, I cannot find differences between Israelis and others. The Sabra construct, which is prickly from the outside and sweet from within, is only a myth. There is no peculiarity of the Israeli person besides the fact that he is boldly straightforward, sometimes showing courage, able to unite in times of predicament, and has the capability for entrepreneurship” ("Maariv" weekend supplement, January 5, 1996).

In negotiation, Israelis play hardball and are clear about their objectives. Bargaining is part of the game and they go in high and aggressive. This translates from the shuk seller selling apples, to the board room of the biggest companies. The discussions are heated and you have to be assertive to deliver your case. In my first Israeli negotiation I was waiting for my “opponent” to finish his sentence before I delivered mine. As you can imagine, I waited quite some time before I realized that I would have to interrupt him if I wanted to speak.

There are many myths about mediation, one of which is that mediation is only for people who are "low conflict" individuals, people who are easily willing to compromise, and that litigation is for those unwilling to back down at all from their position. In some instances this can be true. There are some people who can only agree when they are forced to by a judge or arbitrator. However, in most cases, even the hardest negotiators can come to an agreement in mediation. In many instances the propelling force to settle in mediation will be the BATNA (the best alternative to a negotiated solution) which is a return to the court litigation system, which is unpredictable and costly."

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Language: English

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