Israel on the Road to Peace: Accepting the Unacceptable
by Ziva Flamhaft
Boulder, Colo: Westview, 1996. 252 pp. $59 ($17, paper).
Reviewed by Samuel Lewis
Middle East Quarterly
Flamhaft describes, in often wearying detail, successive U.S. mediation efforts and peace proposals from the 1982 Reagan Plan to the 1993 Oslo declaration on the White House lawn. She generously treats tireless efforts by Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker to recapture the negotiating momentum lost after Camp David; then makes a much needed contribution by expertly analyzing the Israeli political context that so heavily influenced the outcomes.
Providing a needed corrective to "process-oriented" writing about Arab-Israeli negotiations, Flamhaft offers wise observations about domestic politics' placing limits on third-party mediation. She correctly concludes that "although third parties can be instrumental in helping adversaries negotiate a compromise, they cannot choose the time for such diplomacy. Instead, the warring parties themselves have to determine whether the time is ripe."
With the Likud Party in control for nearly all the years from 1982 to 1993, and determinedly opposed to recognition of the PLO and to any territorial compromise over the West Bank, Gaza, or the Golan, the most ingenious mediation schemes went repeatedly for naught. Although clearly unsympathetic to the Israeli political right, Flamhaft analyzes fairly and acutely the Likud leaders' ways of blocking the most determined efforts by U.S. mediators to make bricks with little straw. Baker's success in convening the Madrid conference in 1991 finally set the stage for progress, but only the 1992 Israeli election and Labor's return to office led to the Oslo breakthrough. Her emphasis on the domestic political context as the determinant for success in third-party mediation is not a new insight, but Flamhaft applies it clearly and impressively to the Arab-Israeli case, though Arab political constraints receive too little attention.
The book is marred by minor factual errors, probably the result of too heavy reliance on a few secondary sources, especially the Israeli press, and of too few interviews with key participants. Nonetheless, Flamhaft makes a real contribution by unravelling this confusing period of abortive peace initiatives and frustrated American mediators.
Related Topics: Samuel Lewis | September 1996 MEQ
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