U.S.-PLO Dialogue: Secret Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution

U.S.-PLO Dialogue: Secret Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution

U.S.-PLO Dialogue: Secret Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution

U.S.-PLO Dialogue: Secret Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution


In December 1988 the United States announced its decision to start a dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization. A year and a half later, it suspended the dialogue. In the months between, two men with no government ties, Mohamed Rabie and William Quandt, were catalysts in the short-lived talks. This memoir explains in detail their efforts to persuade both the United States and the PLO to focus on "shared" objectives, the difficulties encountered by all sides, and the disappointment they experienced as the talks were suspended. Rabie also discusses the developments that led to the U.S.-PLO dialogue and the activities that made it a reality, offering insights into the decision-making process within the PLO as well as an analysis of prominent PLO personalities.


On September 13, 1993, the world's attention was riveted on a historic handshake between Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, at a ceremony on the White House lawn in Washington, D.C. the handshake symbolized a landmark step toward resolution of the deep-rooted conflict between their two peoples.

In the "Israeli-P.L.O. Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements" signed that day, two tracks converged. Each was essential.

First, the official peace process reached back to the shuttle diplomacy of U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger that produced three interim Arab-Israeli agreements in 1974 and 1975. These were followed by the Camp David Accords and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, mediated in 1978 and 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. On-again, off-again through the 1980s, the official peace process was rejuvenated by Secretary of State James Baker through the Madrid conference of October 1991, which launched official talks in Washington between Israel and each of its other neighbors.

Second, there might well not have been an Israeli-PLO declaration of principles but for the countless nonofficial dialogues and mediation efforts over those two decades. One of these dialogues--moderated by the Norwegian foreign minister--produced the principles in the September 1993 agreement.

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