The Deadly Embrace: The Impact of Israeli and Palestinian Rejectionism on the Peace Process, by Ilana Kass and Bard O'Neill. Lanham, MD and London: University Press of America, 1997. xviii + 339 pages. Index to p. 345. $64.50 cloth; $24.50 paper.
Beyond Peace: The Search for Security in the Middle East, by Robert Bowker. Boulder, CO and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996. xii + 190 pages. Bibl. to p. 201. Index to p. 210. $49.95.
These are two very different books on international relations in the Middle East. The Deadly Embrace is an eminently readable analysis of Israeli and Palestinian "rejectionists," those who repudiate political settlement or territorial compromise based on religious or ideological grounds. Beyond Peace is a more abstract musing on the need for, and the obstacles hindering, the development of "cooperative security" between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
The premises of The Deadly Embrace are that the conflict is between two nations, neither of which will go away; and that rejection of compromise poses a paramount threat to Israelis and Palestinians alike. This makes the peace process necessary, but, unfortunately, not inevitable. The authors' stated goals are to compare and contrast the historical roots, goals, strategies, organizations and activities of Israelis and Palestinians opposed to compromise. Kass and O'Neill accomplish these goals with a nuanced and diverse portrait of non-monolithic opponents to peace on each side. The analysis is somewhat encumbered by security-field jargon of "insurgency" theory, but this does not detract from the authors' overall research achievement.
Kass and O'Neill elect to focus in greater detail on Israeli rejectionism as the more recent and less understood phenomenon. There are already many volumes on Palestinian resistance as an entrenched movement engaged in armed struggle for decades. The central contribution of this book lies in its illumination of Israeli rejectionism, which the authors claim "constitutes a deeply rooted and increasingly active insurgency, complete with a unique world view and a fully-fledged action program" (p. 75). The authors bring a sense of urgency to this discussion stemming from their perception that danger from the Israeli right-wing extends beyond derailment of the peace process to threaten the very existence of Israel as a democratic secular state and of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) as portent of statehood. Missing here is a sufficient analysis of why a small religious minority in an overwhelmingly secular state gained so much power over the past 15 years. '
The authors achieve a decent sense of interface between political and religious identities among both Israeli and Palestinian rejectionists. They grasp the essentially secular nature of both societies and the mix of secular and religious opposition to the peace process. One nuance lost, however, is the existence of left-wing, progressive Orthodox Jewish groups. There is a tendency of scholars to collude with the media in presenting any religious Orthodoxy as synonymous with reaction. This obscures the important presence of devout Christians, Jews and Muslims who advocate progressive policies based on their traditions.
The authors explore how quirks and vulnerabilities in Israeli coalition politics feed the conflict. For example, in May 1995 two Arab parties in Israel reacted to the Labor government's expropriation of 131 acres of Arab-owned land by submitting a no-confidence motion. The entire Israeli right-wing joined forces with these Arab left-wing parties. The fall of the government became imminent when Likud conspired with Palestinian representatives they accused of being enemies linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This alliance forced Labor to back down from expropriation of land which Likud had actually wanted (p. 127). Thus, coalition politics makes government an end in itself rather than a means for necessary action. …