Sunday, January 22, 2006

It's all a game - and the cards are stacked

The Nobel-prize winning Professor Israel Aumann has been spending his newfound fame on giving advice about how game theory affects the Middle East conflict. What he says makes sense, and I like his backhanded swipe at "Peace Now."
Rushing to surrender territory to Israel's enemies in an effort to increase security and foster peace is a bankrupt policy that will only lead to further bloodshed.

So said Nobel Laureate Professor Israel Aumann Saturday evening during a speech to participants in the Herzliya Conference on the folly of Israel's “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria.

Aumann explained the problem is most Israelis, unlike their Islamic foes, have become convinced they are out of time.

“The Arabs always said they have time, and that they can wait 10, 20 or 50 years until we disappear,” he noted.

But Israelis, “we're in a hurry. We're destroying beautiful, flourishing communities in the name of peace, because 'something has to be done.'”

Instead, Aumann lectured, Israel should be patient and wait until the Arabs truly accept the fact of Israel's existence, regardless of how long it takes.

“If we had patience,” he said, “We might really achieve peace. [But] anyone who wants peace now won't ever get a lasting peace.”

“The very act of running headlong after the longed-for peace is precisely that which distances it from us.”

The man recognized as one of the world's leading game theorists also criticized his government's failure to demand any reciprocity from the Arabs, while under Western pressure Israel continues to dole out concessions.

“The wretched Oslo Agreement,” as he referred to it, “includes a clause in which the Palestinian Authority agrees to stop the unbridled incitement in their schools against Israel and the Jews... This clause has never been carried out, and the incitement gets worse and worse each year.”

The rape of impressionable young minds with such hate-filled propaganda “is much more serious than any terrorist acts or Kassam rockets,” the professor warned.

“If children learn in school that the state of Israel should be wiped off the map, they'll become adults who believe the same thing. And not long from now, they'll be the leaders.”

His point about time is very important.

A little-known and counter-intuitive fact is that if you go to Vegas and bet on a coin toss for an arbitrary number of times, the odds are not 50/50 - the house has an edge. The reason is because the house has unlimited funds and you don't, so it is possible that you will go on a losing streak and lose everything but that is impossible for the casino.

This may be similar. The sheer number of Arabs and Muslims who are dead-set against Israel make even equitable-sounding agreements severely tilt towards the Arab side in reality. Israel does not have unlimited time, unlimited territory ,unlimited population or unlimited resources, and the Arab world has great advantages in all those areas.

There is a well-known saying - the Arabs can afford to lose many wars against Israel, but Israel cannot afford to lose one. I believe that this fact needs to be a major part of the strategy that Israel uses when deciding whether to give more concessions or to cave to more Western pressure. Those who push for a solution now are the ones who ultimately hurt Israel, even if their hearts are in the right place.