Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy

Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy

Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy

Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy

Synopsis

An Oxford-trained historian who became Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami was a key figure in the Camp David negotiations and many other rounds of peace talks, public and secret, with Palestinian and Arab officials. He offers here an unflinching account of the Arab-Israeli conflict, informed by his firsthand knowledge of the major characters and events.
Clear-eyed and unsparing, Ben-Ami traces the twists and turns of the Middle East conflict and the many missteps of the Israelis and Palestinians. The author paints particularly trenchant portraits of key figures from Ben-Gurion to Bill Clinton, and gives us behind-the-scenes accounts of the meetings in Oslo, Madrid, and Camp David. He is highly critical of Ariel Sharon and the late Yasser Arafat ("the sad embodiment of an archaic political orthodoxy devoid of a vision for the future"). He sees Arafat's rejection of Clinton's peace plan as a crime against the Palestinian people. The author is also critical of President Bush's Middle East policy ("a presumptuous grand strategy"). And along the way, Ben-Ami highlights the many blunders on both sides, describing for instance how the great victory of the Six Day War launched many Israelis on a misbegotten "messianic" dream of controlling all the Biblical Jewish lands, actually making the Palestinian problem much worse. In contrast, it has only been when Israel has suffered setbacks that it has made moves towards peace. The best hope for the region, he concludes, is to create an international mandate in the Palestinian territories that would lead to the implementation of Clinton's two-state peace parameters.
Scars of War, Wounds of Peaceis a major work of history--with by far the most fair and balanced critique of Israel ever to come from one of its key officials. It is an absolute must-read for everyone who wants to understand the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Excerpt

'Do you think we can still make it?' I was asked by President Clinton when, on Saturday, 20 December 2000, I was leaving the Cabinet Room adjacent to the Oval Office in the White House where the President had just finished communicating to the Israeli and Palestinian delegations to the peace talks his final parameters for a settlement.

'I don't know, Mr President,' I replied, 'if we have enough political time left to wrap up an agreement, but what I am sure of is that if we fail, we'll all have plenty of time to write books about it.'

After the sad chapter of our failure, Israelis and Palestinians, to reach a final peace settlement during President Clinton's last year at the White House, I did write about it in a book published in France (Quel avenir pour Israel?) and, in a more comprehensive work written in Hebrew, my personal account and perspective of the evolution of the peace process in its last phases, A Front Without a Home Front: A Voyage to the Boundaries of the Peace Process.

When considering the preparation of an English version of those books, I decided that, however important a separate analysis of both the Oslo process and the latest chapter of the peace talks surely are for drawing the necessary lessons for any future attempt to solve the Israeli– Palestinian tragedy, it should not be seen in isolation from the wider history of the Arab–Israeli conflict and of earlier stages in the quest for peace in the Middle East. Our capacity to better understand the present and look with sobriety at the future needs to draw on, and be inspired by, a broader historical perspective. When we went to Camp David, Prime Minister Ehud Barak took with him Alistair Horne's book on the war of Algeria and the subsequent peace with France, A Savage War of Peace, while I looked for inspiration in Henry Kissinger's study on the Congress of Vienna and the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, A World Restored: the Politics of Conservatism in a Revolutionary Age. Neither of these books is, of course, a bad adviser for anyone willing to draw lessons for a transition from war to peace. But I later thought that an insightful overview of the history of the Arab–Israeli conflict, and especially that of the Palestinian dilemma, might certainly have been no less helpful to us both.

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