War Egypt-Israël / Ukraine-Russia

The current stalemate in Ukraine bears similarities to the war waged by the Egyptians and Israelis in the 1970s. In response to the Arab attacks, Israel had invaded the Sinai, Egyptian territory, and occupied it heavily armed in order to prevent any surprising attack by Arab fighter planes.

As long as discussions remained on who was going to occupy the Sinai, talks ended in stalemate: neither party would accept to lose! Egypt demanded a complete Israeli withdrawal so as to recover its full sovereignty over the Sinai.

For Egypt, it was a non-negotiable precondition. But security is just as important for Israel!

The stalemate resides in the ‘either… or…’: EITHER Israel continues to occupy Sinai, OR Egypt recovers it. The solution is in an ‘AS WELL AS’: how to ensure that the national integrity of Egypt is restored AS WELL AS Israeli security guaranteed.

In 1978, Jimmy Carter invited the Egyptians and the Israelis to Camp David, where they spent several days. The mediators worked separately with each delegation, focusing on clarifying each side’s interests. As a result, they were able to negotiate legitimate interests and not irreconcilable positions in figuring out how to restore Egyptian national integrity whilst guaranteeing Israeli security. This approach enforced a negotiation process without a loser. 

The Camp David accords returned the entirety of the Sinai to Egypt and Israel’s security was ensured by a wide demilitarized zone positioned along the border. In addition, security was supported by warning systems making use of sophisticated radars deployed by the UN forces. This is an extract from my book The C-R-I-T-E-R-E method for improved conflict management, Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2009, p. 275.

The more the war will kill people and destroy at all levels, the more the belligerents will calculate their progress not according to their gains but according to the losses inflicted on the enemy, the more they will move away from this Win-Win process and the more it will take time and energy to return to this inescapable process of honoring the deep and legitimate needs of both parties.