Israeli Palestinian Game Theory

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gotten even more news coverage in the last few months than usual. From new resolutions at the United Nations to public feuding between Obama and Netanyahu to a French-led Mideast summit in Paris, the conflict seems to be top of mind for the world again.

Most of the attempts to solve the conflict to date have focused on getting Israel and Palestinians to directly negotiate (Madrid in 91, Oslo in 93 and Camp David in 2000). Other attempts include Arab led peace proposals (Beirut Summit in 2002), United Nations led solutions (starting with the original UN partition plan through resolution 242) and international summits like we’re seeing now in Paris.

The point of this post isn’t to debate which approach is best. Instead, it’s to outline a game theory based approach that’s been in the back of my mind since I took a course on game theory at McGill.


For people who don’t know what game theory is, check out wikipedia. It’s been so long since I took the course that I don’t even know if the below formally counts as game theory. Nevertheless, I like how it sounds so we’ll give it a go.


Premise: Israel will unilaterally develop a set rules. These rules will outline how Palestinian actions on the ground will result in changes to the status quo. Lack of the action (as defined by Israel) will improve the situation for the Palestinians. Occurrence of the actions will worsen the situation. These rules will be made public (literally on a website) and tracked for everyone to see.


How could this work in practice? Here is an example of one rule:

Rule Regarding Impact of Terrorist Attacks

This rule outlines the way in which terrorist attacks impact the expansion or contraction of settlements.

Action: Terrorist attacks occurring within a given month.

Lack of Action: If no terrorist attacks occur within a given month, Israel pauses construction within settlements in that given month.

Occurrence of Action : If a terrorist attack occurs within a given month, Israel will continue construction within settlements in that given month.

Lack of Action Streak: For each subsequent month with a lack of action (i.e. X months in a row with no attacks), Israel will pause construction of new settlements.

Occurrence of Action Streak: For each subsequent month with an occurrence of action (i.e. X months in a row with an attack), Israel will build a new settlement.

Lack of Action Super-Streak: Every Y months in a row (say 6 months), Israel will evacuate residents from and destroy 1 settlement. For each consecutive Y month streak, the number of settlements evacuated and destroyed increases in a fibonacci pattern (i.e. 2 settlements after 12 months, 3 after 18, 5 after 25 etc…).

Occurrence of Action Super-Streak: Every Y months in a row (say 6 months), Israel will annex 1 settlement into Israel proper. For each consecutive Y month streak, the number of settlements annexed increases in a fibonacci pattern (i.e. 2 settlements after 12 months, 3 after 18, 5 after 25 etc…).


The above is an example of one rule. I can imagine lots of other rules being developed as well, for instance tying rocket attacks with prisoner releases, stone throwing with checkpoints etc…

The overarching goal is to put control in the hands of the Palestinians. If they want a state, the set of rules should be designed to incentive actions that will lead towards their having a state. At the same time, it should incentive results for Israel that promote security.

Making all of this public (i.e. the rules and how specific terrorist attacks adversely impacted them) will hopefully cause positive public pressure within the Palestinians. The idea here is that we want to change public opinion from being pro attacks to being upset at attacks as they’re directly causing a known and clearly pre-determined negative impact on the Palestinians.


I realize that coming up with a set of rules on Medium is extremely different than making this work in the real world with real people. I also realize that even if the above were to be practical, it won’t directly result in peace. Instead, I’m hoping that it’ll leads to conditions on the ground that make peace more realistic down the line.

I’ll caveat all of the above by saying that the concept is far from fully fleshed out. I’m posting this mostly to get my thoughts on paper and to get feedback from others. What about the above is good? What about it is stupid? How realistic or unrealistic is this? Please leave comments and let me know.

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Hi, I’m Ron Jacobson. I'm the CEO of Rockerbox, lifelong fan of the Spurs, Startups, Israel and Tomatoes. Follow me at @rjjacobson

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