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Relational Frames and Their Ethical Implications in International Negotiation: An Analysis Based on the Oslo II Negotiations

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In a recent set of papers, Donohue and colleagues used Relational Order theory to describe the relational context that evolved during the first Oslo negotiations held in 1992–1993. However, many relational shifts have developed between Palestinians and Israelis since Oslo. The question is have these shifts established a context that allows for the parties to bargain in good faith? Negotiations conducted to satisfy political agendas that are likely to fail because of stressed relationships between the parties make it difficult for parties to bargain in good faith. Relational Order Theory was used in the current article to better understand the relational context leading to the 1995 Oslo II accords and thus, the ethical sanction of the negotiations. Editorials and interviews from Palestinian and Israeli leaders leading up to the negotiations were analyzed to determine the extent to which the relational context was more affiliation-oriented or more focused on power and domination. The results indicate that the relational context leading up to Oslo II shifted dramatically over the course of several months as parties shaped their perspectives on the negotiations. However, the competition for power expressed by the exchanges suggested a less ethically defensible context for negotiations. The ethical implications of forcing negotiation in the face of a fairly aggressive relational context are discussed.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-121, USA (E-mail:; 2: Department of Communication, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-121, USA


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