The Olive Branch can best be described as an attempt at political alchemy—an effort to conjure up something from nothing, to create political substance where none exists. The book, replete with unconvincing historical inferences and non sequiturs, is essentially an attempt to resurrect an obscure 35-year-old document and, through torturous arguments and dubious reasoning, artificially to imbue it with vast significance.
Segal, an American academic philosopher and conflict-resolution practitioner, focuses on a document known as the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, adopted on November 15, 1988, in Algeria by the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It purported to proclaim an independent State of Palestine in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip without having any impact on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict then or at any time since.
The author ignores this reality and attributes two highly significant facets to the declaration. First, he interprets the mere declaration of independence as a real step toward statehood, as opposed to empty rhetoric, unfulfilled over the decades. Second, he considers that declaration a start towards accepting Israel as a Jewish state and, therefore, toward peace, which it self-evidently was not.
Indeed, in a startling passage, Segal concedes that the Palestinian perception of the declaration's significance contradicts his own. Thus, he writes:
Despite the fact that the Declaration acknowledged the international legitimacy of Israel's establishment as a Jewish state, when faced with demands for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Palestinians, rather than pointing out what has been in place since 1988, have responded by firmly rejecting the demand.
The Olive Branch reads like a work born of despair and desperation in a frantic, futile effort to salvage the viability of an irrelevant, defunct document.