Quagmire Effect of Negotiations

This concept refers to a dynamic set of circumstances in the course of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations which lead to an inability to break away from negotiations but a simultaneous inability to conclude an agreement.


The concept Quagmire Effect of Negotiations refers to a dynamic set of circumstances in the course of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations which lead to:

  1. Inability to breakaway from the process due to internal or external pressures; and
  2. Inability to conclude an agreement.


The Quagmire Effect of Negotiations may cause Israel, in certain instances when dealing with the Palestinians, to consider utilizing:

Characteristics of the Quagmire Effect:

  • Expansion of the Negotiating Agenda – As an agreement on issues seems to be in sight, Palestinians raise additional issues for discussion.
  • Escalation of Claims – The setting of impossible conditions before entering into negotiations, or the raising of the level of Palestinian demands during the course of negotiations.
  • Prolonging of Negotiations (for tactical purposes) – The extension of the duration of negotiations by the Palestinians past the previously agreed upon timeframe, to a period close to Israeli elections in order to elicit additional Israeli concessions.
  • Violence and Strategic Terror – Periods of increased terror leading up to central milestones in the political process with the intention of weakening it.

Causes of the Quagmire Effect – A number of causes exist for the Quagmire Effect of negotiations, including:

  • Palestinian Perception of Time – Asymmetries between Israeli and Palestinian political and societal structures lead the Palestinians to perceive that time is on their side:
  1. Mismatch of Tenures – A discrepancy between the duration and stability of tenures of the Israeli and Palestinian top executives engaged in negotiations;1
  2. Leverage of Time – Within the Israeli-Palestinian system, demographic trends grant the Palestinians an exogenous time lever.
  • Palestinian Delivery Capability – Having a Partner on the other side of the negotiating table enhances the possibility of reaching an agreement.

One determinant of a Partner is a political entity that has the Delivery Capability – i.e., Carrying Capacity and Responsibility – to fulfill their portion of an agreement:

  1. Palestinian Carrying Capacity – Palestinian negotiators are constrained by the need to appease all factions within the Palestinian community. This hinders their ability to offer concessions during negotiations.2
  2. Palestinian Responsibility – PLO or Palestinian Authority? The PLO represents the entire Palestinian people, and holds the status of The Sole Legitimate Representative of the Palestinian People. The PA formally represents the residents of the West Bank and Gaza on issues relating to their day-to-day existence. It has no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people. (See: Who is the Partner – the PLO or the Palestinian Authority?)
  • Instability of Israeli Political System – The effectiveness of Israeli decision-making is dependent upon the ability of the Prime Minister to build stable coalitions within the Knesset. The Israeli political system is traditionally characterized by volatility and high turn-over of governments making Israeli politics one of the most unstable in the democratic world.
  • Mismatch of Legal-Status – Asymmetric relations between sub-state organizations (PA and the PLO) and a state (Israel) are not fully incorporated into international law.

1 Though the Israeli political system remains unstable and governmental coalitions remain susceptible to collapse, it is still not clear how the death of Arafat (11/04) and the realignment of the Palestinian political system influence the Mismatch of Tenures.
2 A major factor which inhibits the Palestinian community from reaching a consensus is the dominance of the Palestinian Ethos of Struggle. This refers to the political, diplomatic and military efforts geared towards attaining the Palestinian Right to Self-Determination through the liberation of all of Mandatory Palestine while negating the Jewish Right to Self-Determination (See: Israel's Interface with the Palestinian Constitutional Structure).