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By Nir Eisikovits (auth.)

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Not easy ... it will take a long time and a lot of money ... ” The tyrant agrees, but not before he repeats his threat. The rabbi goes home and knocks on the door with excitement. “Bluma,” he tells his wife, “Look! ” she exclaims. ” The rabbi tells her. Bluma’s face turns gray. “What have you done? You can’t teach a dog to speak! ” “Slow down, Bluma,” the rabbi replies. “Five years is a long time. Maybe the dog will die, maybe the tyrant will die, or maybe the Messiah will come. ” Truce thinking emphasizes immediate benefits – temporary relief, rest, quiet, over more abstract considerations regarding the rights of the parties, mutual acknowledgment, and settling questions about distributive justice.

Ambivalent concepts, 34 A Theory of Truces on the other hand, are perceived as inherently double edged. Compromises are ambivalent in this way; they are both vital for the attainment of practical goods such as peace and coexistence and, at the same time, require giving up dearly held principles and beliefs. Compromises, Margalit writes, are indispensible because of the confluence of two facts about human beings: we compete for scarce resources, and we can cooperate. 10 Compromising involves not only bargaining over disputed goods but also an implied or direct recognition of one’s negotiating partner as possessing viable interests and as worthy of cooperation.

But that view accounts for only a fifth (the last fifth) of truce thinking. I have more to say about situating truce thinking within contemporary realism in Chapter 4. 8 He attributes this lacuna to an excessive focus on ideal theory, which neglects the way political and moral agreements are actually reached, in favor of what they should, under perfect conditions, look like. 9 In considering an essentially contested concept, disputants agree that a term denotes something good (say, democracy) but disagree on how to properly interpret it (thus, communitarians and liberals have competing understandings of democracy).

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