Michael Tsur, an internationally recognized expert and professor of negotiation, conflict resolution, crisis management and mediation, presented, “Negotiating for Gilad Shalit: From Capture to Release,” sponsored by the Professor David Cobin Memorial Fund of Hamline University School of Law, the Hamline Dispute Resolution Institute and Beth Jacob Congregation on Sunday, July 15, at Sundin Hall on the Hamline University campus in Saint Paul.
Tsur shared his perspective as a professional negotiator on the five-and-a-half-year ordeal of Gilad Shalit, the 19-year-old Israeli soldier kidnapped by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam militants in June 2006, who was returned to Israel in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in October 2011. Tsur addressed the factors that led to the safe release of the young soldier – political factors that existed as a result of Arab Spring.
As a negotiator close to this crisis, Tsur described the process followed by government and security officials. He provided insight into the decisions made and actions taken during the time the young soldier was held by Hamas on the Gaza Strip. Tsur asserted that lessons learned from this crisis can be applied to reduce human costs and wasted assets in future crises.
Tsur’s motto, “The best crisis negotiation is crisis prevention,” undergirds his teaching of negotiation as a professional practice, one based on learned skills, structure and methodology. Tsur, who teaches at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Hamline Law and Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, noted that the most important tools for any negotiator are honesty, patience and the capacity to listen.
“In this chaotic reality, we can neither predict or prevent crisis, so what is important is how our decisions in real time will affect the day after,” Tsur said. As a professor and negotiation practitioner, Tsur urged politicians, public and military officials to consult and work with skilled negotiators as crises arise and develop. He maintained that it is never too late to involve a skilled negotiator.
The son of a Yemeni mother and German father, Tsur came to his profession having grown up in a Jerusalem neighborhood characterized by contrasts, from secular to extreme religious views, and extremes of poverty and wealth. He became aware of the wide range of contrasting yet legitimate opinions, and he found ways to combine those differing viewpoints. “By listening and asking questions in a respectful and authentic way,” Tsur said, “there is almost always a path to the resolution of differences.”
As a visiting professor of Hamline's Dispute Resolution Institute for the past seven years, Tsur is a member of the Israeli Defense Force Hostage Negotiation Unit. He has extensive experience in high-risk negotiations, including the disengagement/evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005, the stand-off at the Church of the Nativity when it was taken over by Palestinian militants in 2002, and the release of Fox News journalists kidnapped to the Gaza Strip in 2006.
Tsur is the founder and general-director of the Mediation & Conflict Resolution Institute-Jerusalem. Since 2000, he has been an associate director at Consensus, a New York-based consultancy specializing in negotiation, conflict resolution and peace-building. For the last ten years, Tsur has been a member of various international teams in overseeing negotiations, including commercial and business, and cross-cultural challenges. Since 1996, Tsur has been an adjunct professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, teaching in the Law Faculty, the Business school and in the master’s program in public policy. Tsur has garnered years of expertise in resolving emergency situations, ranging from hostage crises to breakdowns in cross-national business negotiations.
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Negotiating for Gilad Shalit: From Capture to Release
Michael Tsur: michaeltsur.com