Mediation and Peace/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on August 27, 2016


Indira Gandhi was quoted as saying “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” It takes two parties to stoke a controversy. In a mediation, you would do well to get the parties, or at least one party, to take ownership over the dispute. Once this is done, the search for solutions becomes easier.

The fall of the Berlin Wall transpired during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. What did he do to memorialize these events? He gave a press conference. When asked how he felt about the falling of the most visible symbol of the Iron Curtain, the President responded that he was “very pleased.” He explained his reticence as a result that he was not “an emotional kind of guy.”  It is likely true that Bush’s relative silence prevented a militant backlash among hardliners in Moscow. President Bush sensed that showing a “closed fist” was the wrong thing to do at such ac tense time. A successful mediation is a disputed process needs to focus on this lesson. It takes two to carry on a dispute. And the clenched fist will be a bar to the ability to shake hands, resolve differences, and go on with life. The parties need to learn how to convert the clenched fist to the open hand that exhibits a peaceful solution.