Through Secret Channels
by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen)
U.S.-PLO Dialogue: Secret Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution. By Mohamed Rabie. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995. 204 pp. $34.95.
U.S.-PLO Dialogue: Secret Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution
by Mohamed Rabie
Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995. 204 pp. $34.95.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
As the Palestine Liberation Organization's specialist on Israel, Abbas had a key role in the secret negotiations of 1993. The publication of Through Secret Channels in Arabic in 1994 set off a storm in Israeli politics due to its report of meetings between Sa`id Kan`an, a pro-PLO figure from the West Bank, and "a prominent Israel Labour Party figure" who is "close to Yitzhak Rabin and who now occupies an important position." The latter quickly came to be identified as Ephraim Sneh, the minister of health and a former administrator of the West Bank. This prompted a curious argument in which the Likud Party promoted Abbas's veracity and the Labor Party denied it. In all likelihood, the story (complete with minutes, letters, and what governments call paperless papers) is a fantasy.
Of course, a book whose accuracy raises so much doubt has limited usefulness, especially when one factors in its many spelling errors (Thomas Freedman?), the factual mistakes, and the lack of information on those things the author actually knows about -- the PLO's inner thinking during the negotiations with Israel, its disputes, and his own views. Perhaps, once other information about the negotiations comes out, this account will help fill in the gaps; but right now, it's so full of holes as to have very little value.
Drawing largely on Abbas's files, Rabie explains how the U.S.-PLO dialogue came into existence in December 1988, what transpired over the next year and a half, and how it ended in June 1990. Rabie, a former professor of economics and now a journalist, took an active part in furthering the dialogue and makes known, in a reliable fashion, what he learned in that capacity. He also conveys the "excitement, surprise, and disappointment" of the whole experience in a way that the jaded Abbas does not, making this in all ways the superior book of the two.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, Palestinians, US policy | Daniel Pipes | September 1995 MEQ
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