Compromising with the Other

How do we convince political leaders to compromise and negotiate, when compromise is tainted with notions of surrender, betrayal and weakness? But compromise is critical for reconciliation, and a prerequisite to compromise is respecting the values and identity of the other.

When one accepts the other side as legitimate and acknowledges the way it defines its identity, it is empowering to both sides. “I never saw compromise in the negative,” says Israeli Parliamentarian and peace activist Naomi Chazan. “Compromise is a practical necessity, a way of affirming, rather than forfeiting, collective identities.” 

In the book, Beyond Conflict, Chazan talks about having spent her whole life compromising between Israelis and Palestinians.  She believes leaders around the world are able to achieve compromise without calling for the other to change identity.

“By definition, compromise means giving up something that is valuable,” and it is neither easy nor pleasant.  Too often, Chazan says, certain positions are elevated to the sacred, whether it is a plot of land, an object or a perceived right. Hence any compromise constitutes a collapse of a sacred value or a betrayal of one’s very history or ancestry. Chazan has seen this dynamic in Northern Ireland, the Balkans and elsewhere.  And she has also seen people in those places change their mindsets. “You are not negotiating history, values or identities: you are instead negotiating interests and needs.  You are negotiating your ability to fulfill your dreams.”

Now, she wants others to adopt this mindset that compromise must be seen, not as a bending of one’s values, but as recognizing the other’s identity, beliefs and needs.

Ultimately, compromise is empowering.

To read more, please see our book