An Israeli leftist believes that right-wing Prime Minister Neyanyahu can bring peace:
“The left wants to make peace but cannot, while the right doesn’t want to but, if forced to, can do it.”
Why can a right-winger make peace, while a left-winger cannot? There might be many reasons but the one mentioned in this blog must of course draw from Crawford-Sobel’s Strategic Information Transmission which has become the canonical model of the game-theoretic notion Cheap Talk. The key intuition was identified by Cukierman and Tommasi in their AER paper “Why does it take a Nixon to go to China?” (working paper version).
Suppose an elected politician knows the true chances for peace but also has a bias against peace and for war. The the median voter hears his message and decides whether to re-elect him or appoint a challenger. Given the politician’s bias, he may falsely claim there is a good case for war even if it is not true. It is hard for a politician biased towards war to credibly make the case for war. He risks losing the election. But if he makes the case for peace, it is credible: Why would a hawk prosecute for peace unless the case for peace is overwhelming? So the more a politician proposes a policy that is against his natural bias, the higher is the chance he gets re-elected. If the case for peace is strong, a war-biased politician can either propose war in which case he may not get re-elected and the challenger gets to choose policy. Or he can propose peace, get re-elected and implement the “right” policy. In equilibrium, the latter dominates and Nixon is necessary to go China, Mitterand is necessary for privatization etc…
Is this why Netanyahu believes he can make peace? Maybe he cares about leaving a legacy as a statesman. This would make him a less credible messenger – via the logic above, he is biased towards peace and any dovish message he sends is unreliable. Let’s hope that the stories of his strongly his Zionist father and hawkish wife are all true. And then Hamas should fail to derail the negotiations…And Hezbollah should fail in its efforts… And the other million stars that must align must magically find their place….