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Nobel Prof. Aumann: The Frantic Desire for Peace Only Brings War

Nobel price winner and mathematician Professor Yisrael Aumann believes game theory can be applied to peace talks. Otherwise, they can lead to war.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/12/2010, 5:13 AM / Last Update: 10/12/2010, 8:15 AM

Prof. Yisrael Aumann, Nobel Laureate and noted American-Israeli mathematician and game theorist, spoke at the beginning of the week during activities to mark the beginning of the academic year at Bar Ilan University. Aumann is also known for his view that the principles of game theory can be successfully applied to the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

For an explanation of his theories written for the layman, click here.

Aumann was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He and his family fled to the United States in 1938, two weeks before Kristallnacht. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1950 with a B.Sc. in Mathematics, and later received both his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Today, Aumann is a professor at the Center for the Study of Rationality in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. He holds a visiting position at Stony Brook University and is one of the founding members of the Center for Game Theory in Economics at Stony Brook. Aumann received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis.

Speaking to Israel National News on Monday, Aumann reiterated the position he expressed during a previous speech at Bar-Ilan University, but  be added that in order to achieve peace, the calls for peace must be stopped and that in fact preparations should occur for a war.

“The calls for peace which we have been hearing (mainly from our side) for the past 90 years, do not bring us closer to peace but actually take us further from it,” said Aumann. “Peace is like honor. If you chase it, it runs away. This is not just game theory; it has been proven in history.”

He brought the example of the Roman Empire, which managed to bring about peace for a period of 400 years, despite having destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem. “It turns out that the Romans were champs in making peace. Their motto was that if you want to make peace, you need to prepare for war. They knew game theory.”

Aumann explained that preparing for war does not only entail physical preparation, but mainly mental preparation. “This may be opposite to common sense, but it is true. The spiritual preparation to kill and be killed is what will ultimately prevent the need to kill and fight. First, you need to be spiritually ready.”

Aumann said that he while he wants peace, “the way in which we have gone for decades is not leading towards peace. The expulsion [from Gaza brought about the Second Lebanon War, the bombing of cities in the south, Operation Cast Lead, and the flotilla events. The expulsion was supposed to bring about peace but brought war.

“We think that posters with pigeons will bring about peace, but that isn’t true and will only bring about war,” added Aumann and cited the example of British Prime Minister Chamberlain, who handed over Czechoslovakia to Hitler in exchange for a guarantee that this would be the Nazi leader’s final demand. “Hitler did not want to start a war, but Chamberlain brought him into the war by chasing peace,” said Aumann decisively.

In terms of the current situation between Israel and the PA, Aumann said that gestures towards the Arabs, such as the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, will ultimately bring about war and prove that applying pressure on Israel leads it to fold. “We are sending a signal of weakness to the other side and telling them that if they pressure they will get what they want. This is wrong.”