Getting Unstuck: An international perspective. How peace today can make us unsafe tomorrow

israel vs. palestineIn my latest book, Getting Unstuck: Using Leadership Paradox to Execute with Confidence, I demonstrate that paradoxes are found in all facets of life. Understanding how to manage them is an important life skill that for both organizations and individuals. It is a major determinate of success.

Wherever there is tension, there is the likely to be at least one paradox stoking the flames. When addressed as a problem, the underlying paradoxes become even more inflamed. On a political plain for example, the Middle East is fraught with many paradoxes which, because they are dealt with as problems by the more powerful nations, keep those societies, nations, and peoples in constant state of semi-chaos and warfare. Therefore, often good intentions are followed by pernicious results. Here is an example.

The article, “A Linkage Still Unrecognized: Palestinian Statehood and Jihadist Terror” by Louis René Beres lays out one of the central paradoxes facing rapprochement between the Israeli’s and Palestinians and clouds notions of fairness and reasonableness. It is a local battle which has international ramifications. From the perspective of solving the long standing problem, President Obama might think that getting a signature on a peace deal between the parties is a victory. On the other hand, if there is validity to Beres’s perspective, the peace deal which is intended to make the world safer, may actually put Western nations and Israel at greater risk. We may feel safer in the short term, but more at risk in the longer term.

Also mentioned in Getting Unstuck is the challenge of dealing with parties that have different values and mindsets. In the Middle East, how do the two parties:  one who values valiance in perceived honorable death with its neighbors who seek morality in this life, move forward in a way that is mutually beneficial. One seeks war to find what it believes a higher cause and the other seeks peace on earth.

This seems to be a potential root cause for the stalemate which has defied years of negotiation. Compromise, for example trading land for peace, the usual avenue for resolution, is unlikely to move the two parties beyond the status quo. It is a sobering realization. The paradox perspective provides an alternate possibility.  Perhaps the approach could be this: As long as leaders on one side maintain eternal life through suicide, no negotiated settlement will be sustainable as long as the other side focuses on life. Trading land for peace as was done in the Sinai with Egypt will not work here. Each land concession will likely be followed by a demand for the next one.

Instead, Israel will then need to face the battle with two balanced approaches. For those citizens who wish to seek reconciliation it will provide economic cooperation. At the same time, the country will do everything it can to protect itself and its future with strong defenses and proactive action.

For the Palestinians it means that they too must create two levels of dialogue within its political infrastructure. For those in their midst who seek to maximize their time on this earth, they must provide ways of finding reconciliation and stronger voice rather than promote hatred. It will also have to find ways for those who seek martyrdom through valiant death an outlet. From this perspective it may be a more challenging struggle within the Palestinian ranks. Rather than see them as victims, this narrative suggests the Palestinians taking greater responsibility for themselves. The recent agreement between Jordan, the Palestinians, and Israel on water rights provides an excellent example where more productive dialogue has led to effective action.

The value of the paradox concept is that it creates new possibilities at all levels from the deeply personal to the global political.

What are the paradoxes in your life that are keeping you from moving forward?