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War Games

War Games

Not even game theory can save the Israelis and the Palestinians.

That’s the view of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor emeritus who shared the Nobel Prize in economics this week for his work using game theory to understand conflict resolution.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "irreconcilable" and there is nothing Israel or the international community can do to bring about peace, Professor Robert J. Aumann told The Jewish Week.

"One of the insights that game theory yields is that you analyze not only what you want but what the other side wants. We want to live here with a minimum of security, and the Arabs don’t want us here. It seems to me to be an irreconcilable conflict. … They also want peace, but with us out of here."

Aumann, 75, who was born in Frankfurt and fled Nazi Germany with his family for the United States in 1938, made aliyah 50 years ago after earning his doctorate in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then joined the faculty of the Hebrew University and became professor emeritus in 2000. He shared the Nobel Prize with Thomas C. Schelling, a professor at the University of Maryland.

In a phone interview from Jerusalem, Aumann that Israeli-Palestinian peace might be achieved in the future if attitudes change. But he said that is not going to happen as long as Palestinian textbooks depict Israelis as occupiers of all of Palestine.

Aumann, who has five children and lost his elder son in combat during the Lebanon War, described himself as being "on the right side of the political map."

"You have to take that into account," he said. "This is not a purely scientific analysis."

He said he received a congratulatory phone call from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after the prize was announced and that he accepted Sharon’s offer to meet with him and share his views.

That doesn’t mean the Nobel prizewinner sees eye-to-eye with the prime minister. "The [disengagement] in Gaza was really crazy," Aumann said.

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