"Creative ambiguity" has become one of the buzz-words of the Arab-Israeli peace process since the Oslo accords were signed in 1993. U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian negotiators have often stressed the importance of "creative ambiguity" in reaching agreements and keeping deals from falling apart during their implementation stages. For critics, however, the weakness of the Oslo process lies exactly in the ambiguity that allows leaders to sell them to their people – but then also permits the parties to renegade on key agreements. From Belfast to Jerusalem, it is becoming abundantly clear that "creative ambiguity" is not the answer to providing long-term viable peace agreements to deep-rooted historical conflicts.
Despite this record, Sharkansky, in Ambiguity, Coping and Governance has constructed a framework in which ambiguity is a necessary tool for Israeli policy makers. For example, he argues for the benefits of leaving Jerusalem outside any deal, finding this the best of many bad options for the holy city. In other words, if no agreement on Jerusalem can satisfy the aspirations and demands of both sides, then maintain the status quo of Israeli direct control over the city while increasing Palestinian participation in its affairs through such offices as Orient House.
Sharkansky argues that both sides of the political divide in Israel have used ambiguity to their advantage. He emphasizes that Rabin and Peres took the easiest steps of the peace process with the Palestine Liberation Organization and left more difficult stages to subsequent governments in Israel Here, at last, an Israeli academic presents a more balanced view of the difficulties that the Netanyahu administration encountered as a result of Rabin's actions: reaching agreement over Hebron, and insisting on greater Palestinian compliance with agreements Arafat had signed.
Ambiguity, Coping and Governance contains not enough theoretical background to provide support for the author's hypothesis nor enough detailed information fully to develop new perspectives. In the end, it does not convince.