Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Game theory - Israel vs ???

I think I got a little bit away from a major point which until now I've been gradually getting clear in my head; the thing that gets me the most riled about Israel: The thing which I've put a lot of intellectual investment into - the thing I think has truth on its side and therefore I must endeavour to prove. Modelling the Israel-Palestine issue as game theory, at this stage Israel (and US + most casual observers) see the game being played this way: Israel is rewarding Palestine for "good" behaviour, punishing the bad behaviour in its process to improve the situation for the average Israeli. The one big assumption that everybody seems to be making is that it is a two player game - that blocking off borders, and assassination attempts are equivalently punishing the Palestinians for doing the wrong thing - the wrong thing being primarily terrorist strikes. Surely it makes a lot more sense to see it as a multi-player game, where some actions are rewarding terrorist groups while punishing the "Palestinian Authority" (what a misnomer that is!) and visa versa. This makes a BIG difference to what constitutes good policy in Israel (and in the near future Iraq as well!). Please tell me that you DON'T think there are only two sides to this "Game". Please tell me that you will help research this aspect and either contradict me with your well thought out logic, or tell me that I'm right and to write to the Prime minister of Israel!

1 comment:

Dr. Clam said...

The kind of three-player game you are talking about is essentially the 1993-2000 orthodoxy, and may be the post-Arafat 2005-? orthodoxy, if Condi has anything to say about it. The E.U., the US, and Israel poured vast amounts of money into setting up the Palestinian Authority, handed almost the entire Arab population over to it to administer, and let it build a heavily armed police force several times larger than stipulated by the Oslo treaty obligations, on the premise that it would assert its authority over all the obstructionist groups that rejected the 'peace process'. This did not happen, because it was a multi-player game where the actions of all the major Palestinian players were highly correlated with each other: interpreting his actions in the most favourable possible light to him, Yasser Arafat was unwilling or unable to move against the rejectionist forces, so did not act as an independent player. Hope springs eternal, so once again there is a tendency to treat the Palestinian Authority as an independent player- that is obvious from this week's media reports. Everyone hopes that Abu Mazen will be willing and able to act independently, and is prepared to make concessions for this to happen. The question of how the West can strengthen the hand of moderate groups in Palestine is something that is endlessly debated in the Israeli press. If the US, or even worse, Israel, says nice things about you and tries to support you, you will lose all credibility as a Palestinian leader.
You will have noticed from my earlier posts on this issue that I consider a very important player in this game to be the established Arab states, and the portents seem to be that they are trending towards more helpful behaviour. Egypt certainly seems to be taking a more active and positive role, the Israel-Jordan agreement was the one solid achievement of the heady 90s, the Syrians are buying fruit from Druze settlements on the Golan, and Khaddafi has invited the Jews who fled Libya years ago to come back...

I do not think it is worthwhile trying to model this situation with game theory. You would be much better off spending your time immersed in Israeli and Palestinian websites until you can view the situation simultaneously from both viewpoints...