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IACM 2023

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Mediator-Plus (mediator+)

The study of negotiations traditionally offers the following typology: negotiation is the process in which two parties talk directly with one another; mediation is the process that involves a third party which assists the sides to negotiate; and arbitration is the process in which a third party decides for the sides how negotiation will end. Mediation, therefore, is supposedly a process in which the third party does not decide how the conflict will end, does not affiliate with one of the sides, but serves as a facilitator who helps the sides to resolve their dispute. In practice, there are situations in which the third-party-mediator has a double role: on one hand she assists the sides to negotiate, but at the same time negotiates on behalf of one of them (or both). Such situations can occur in different conflicts, but are mostly observed in two kinds of cases that are currently seen more than they did in the past: when the sides are reluctant to even talk with one another and therefore the third-party-mediator negotiates on behalf of one of them (for example, when one of the sides is a terror organization); and when conflicting sides are not official entities, in the “new war” era, and therefore it is harder to have official agreed-upon representatives in the negotiation table and as a result third parties have an extended role. Such is the case, for example, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which one of the Israeli ministers declared that “We are not talking with Hamas. We are negotiating with Egypt. They serve as mediators” and by that framed the Egyptians both as a side to the negotiation table and a mediator at the same time. Likewise, the Qatari envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was quoted saying “We have reached agreements with Israel in the issues of electricity and the sea lane”, a statement from which it can be construed that while being a mediator he was also a side in the negotiations – a representative of the Palestinians. One of the most important roles of mediators is to allow communication between the opposing sides. But the cases to which I refer to are ones in which third parties do not only deliver messages, assist the sides to communicate, formulate ideas of how to end the conflict, or such actions – but actually position themselves as a side in the negotiation and represent one of the sides. I therefore suggest a new term: mediator-plus (or mediator+) which describes the extended role of the mediator. I will present examples showing the need for this term by looking at the role of third parties in various conflicts around the world and how the existing terms do not encompass the actions of mediators in them. I will further elaborate about its place in the range of definitions between negotiation and mediation, explain its characteristics, and provide some thoughts about how to define it. I see this paper-in-progress a continuation of academic work by me and by other scholars in the last couple of years, aimed to fine-tune existing terms in the field that are needed both from a theoretical perspective, and from better knowledge of the actual practice of negotiations in today’s world.

Yuval Benziman
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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