March 2014 - On Video Conferences and Peace Talks

Is it possible that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is being negotiated via video conference?
The present round of peace talks began on July 30th 2013. It includes on the Israeli side, the Minister of Justice, Tzipi Livni and the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and on the Palestinian side, MP Saeb Erakat and Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen. The talks are being held under the auspices of the United States and are being mediated by Martin Indyk, the fomer US ambassador to Israel, John Kerry the Secretary of State and of course, President Barak Obama. Obviously there are many other participants from all the sides that are part of the peace talks in one form or other.
As you know, the participants in these talks are physically distant, and though the distance between Jerusalem and Ramallah, it’s a real factor for the Americans and their interaction with the talks.
We witness the face-to-face meeting that take place in Israel and in the US. Kerry comes to Jerusalem, Abu Mazen and Bibi fly to Washington and so on. So why not use video conferencing? Or, maybe, in addition to the face-to-face meetings that we hear about, there are talks that take place via video?
As far as we know, in addition to the physical meetings, there are also many phone conferences that take place between the parties involved in the negotiations.
And assuming that the negotiations don’t take place via video…why would it make sense to use video conferencing in this case?
Video conferencing has a number of significant advantages over face-to-face meetings:
Cost  - video conferencing saves the cost of flights, board, security and more. Sometimes the cost of an entire delegation in addition to the negotiating parties
Availability -  starting a video conference is just an issue of making a decision and coordinating schedules. There is no need to waste an entire day in travel in each direction.
Effectiveness – the negotiators won’t suffer from jet lag or exhaustion and can concentrate on the actual issue that they are meeting for in the first place, the negotiations.
Using video conferencing brings up two issues, technology and culture. From a technological standpoint, there is no doubt that the world of video is already there. In the above picture, we see an illustration of a video conference taking place on Veidan’s V-Connect. The service allows many participants to connect, host a conference, mute participants, share content, record the call for your records or partial publication to the press in our case.
You can enter a virtual conference room from a special video conferencing device or from simpler devices like a PC, tablet or smartphone with a security code that only with it can you enter the conference. The conference leader can also block other participants from entering the conference.
The service also allows you to host a conference call in HD and high quality audio, just like in a face-to-face meeting. You can also integrate an advanced Telepresence system which includes identical systems and rooms in two different locations and together create a complete feeling of being in the same room.
True, even with the high quality of the audio and video, people do need physical contact. Sometimes there is an added value to sitting in the same room, around the same table which can be critical during such negotiations. Even so, just like in the business world, there is place for a combination of both; a few face-to-face meetings and ongoing meetings via video conferences. Combining the two options obviously depends on the purpose of the meetings and you can easily move along the scale between physical meetings on one end and video conferences on the other end.
On the cultural side, adopting video conferencing technology depends on the business or organizational culture that we have witnessed growing and developing over the past few years. The change that organizations are making is from phone calls to video calls, from one dimensional meetings to two dimensional meetings.
The visual dimension that is added to the audio dimension enables us to convey our message to the other side in a better way. Of course, even with the technology of today, the senses of smell, taste and feel are still not in play, but that too will probably change.
Back to our peace talks. With the assumption that that most of the meetings are face-to-face, it seems that moving at least some of the meetings to video is needed and all its advantages will quickly be expressed.
But all of us, people of the business world that are not busy with peace talks, but are busy with daily meetings with colleagues, suppliers, customer or potential customers, can more easily adopt the technology that has already been around for a while. We can benefit from its advantages immediately to convey what we need to say in more effective manner.
Bye, peace…and see you soon.