Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Can negotiations hinder conflict resolution? Think about the stalled peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and how many proposals keep getting floated on an almost-daily basis to attempt to resolve the conflict. Somebody comes up with a new formula for peace, and somebody else immediately denounces the idea. One side holds out what they describe as an olive branch, and the other side responds that the proposal just proves they are not serious. Third parties urge the parties to resume negotiations, but the conditions never quite seem right for a breakthrough. All of this suggests that negotiations are not the only the path to peace, and might even create obstacles to reaching an agreement. Recognizing that the disputes that I […]

Starting in Contracts class in law school, lawyers are conditioned to think of ambiguity in agreements as a bad thing.  If a contract is ambiguous, it could be nullified as based on a mutual mistake. (I always think of the case of the two ships named Peerless.)  Even if an ambiguous document creates an enforceable contract, parties may be compelled to resort to the laborious practice of examining course of dealing, customs and practice and external evidence of the parties’ intentions, in order to discern the contract’s meaning.  There are times, however, when the parties find it advantageous deliberately to allow some ambiguity to creep into a written document in order to reach agreement in the first place.  Case in […]

Many conflicts can be resolved without examining the underlying causes of the conflict too deeply, just as the common cold can be treated by dealing with the symptoms rather than the disease. For an ordinary lawsuit, removing the costs and uncertainty of continued litigation may present reason enough to settle the case, without any need to discuss the pathologies of the parties’ relationship or the flaws in the way one party or the other conducts their business, that caused the conflict. Focusing on problems rather than solutions may even impede resolution of a conflict in many cases, as these discussions tend to inflame parties’ passions. (See my prior post on solution-focused mediation.) But for the most intractable and difficult conflicts, […]

According to this report, Syrian President Assad is willing to move forward with peace talks with Israel, and Turkey is available to mediate, but there is “no Israeli partner willing to move forward.” According to the same report, however, as well as this Reuters story in the New York Times, Prime Minister Netanyahu has given assurances that Israel is prepared to resume negotiations unconditionally.  But Israel says it would prefer to negotiate directly with Syria, or use a French mediator, rather than through Turkey, according to the Jerusalem Post. What is going on here? Is this some kind of elaborate courting ritual, where each side is waiting for the other to ask for a dance? Or do the parties mean […]

President Obama yesterday succeeded in getting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas to meet in the same room in New York. The President said “Simply put, it is past time to stop talking about starting negotiations, and time to move forward.” (quoted in the Los Angeles Times) According to a Netanyahu aide quoted in the New York Times, the meeting was to take place “without preconditions, as the Prime Minister has always wanted.” This is obviously a reference to the Palestinian insistence on a settlement freeze prior to any serious negotiations. But the Israelis have also set preconditions to various meetings in the past, and Israel and the United States still will not negotiate with Hamas unless Hamas […]