chapter  4
18 Pages

Cautious rapprochement: A rational choice approach to understanding the Oslo talks

The interpretation of the Oslo talks in the previous chapter argued that the initial phase of the Oslo talks was decisive for the successful development of the normative framework of a future strategic bargaining process. The Oslo talks were a ‘constructed process’ based on compatible ideational worldviews, mutual acceptance and empathy, and achieving principled understanding on the broader context of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Rationalist decision theory, however, offers an alternative approach to the analysis of the first stages of the process. According to the rational choice line of argument, the main function of communication processes between two unitary rational utility maximising actors is the exchange of information which reveals their underlying preferences over outcomes and strategies in the conflict. By 1992, Israel and the PLO had developed preferences conducive for conflict resolution and negotiations. Consequentially, if both sides wanted to reach an agreement, they had to inform the opponent of their willingness in principle to enter into talks. Once engaged in a bargaining process, the two sides would work towards reaching an agreement that was of higher value for both opponents than no agreement.