A friendly brew (The Economist)

Having been introduced to international diplomatic work this year, I particularly appreciated this letter to the editor to The Economist, in regards to breaking the ice in negotiations:

A friendly brew

SIR – You told a tale of how “hummus can promote peace”, when Israeli and Syrian negotiators came together in a “moment of heartfelt agreement” that the chickpea dip served to them by their American hosts tasted awful (“An emotive issue”, November 14th). After the 1991 Madrid peace conference, Arab and Israeli negotiators convened at America’s State Department to start talks, but the different Arab delegations couldn’t agree on the modalities for actually talking to the Israelis.

One morning, after several days of unsuccessful attempts to break the ice and get the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to sit at the same table with the Israelis, the habitual American coffee-cart was wheeled in. After both Abd al-Salam Majali, the senior Jordanian delegate, and myself had tasted the unappetising brew that goes for coffee in America, I remarked: “Don’t you think that this coffee is terrible?”, to which he enthusiastically agreed. From that moment on the talks started, culminating eventually in the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty.

Zalman Shoval
Former Israeli ambassador to the United States
Tel Aviv

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