Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Arab-Israeli Conflict: Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Arab-Israeli Conflict: Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities

Article excerpt

Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities, by Laura Zittrain Eisenberg and Neil Caplan. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998. ix + 154 pages. Append. to p. 232. Bibl. to p. 246. Index to p. 252. $35 cloth; $16.95 paper.

Reviewed by William B. Quandt

Two historians have teamed up to write a useful textbook for students seeking to understand the recent diplomacy surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict. What the book lacks in surprising revelations or audacious interpretations it makes up for with steady, balanced discussions that present the evidence in a well-organized manner.

Laura Eisenberg and Neil Caplan start with the observation that, prior to 1977, Arab-Israeli negotiations had developed a pattern that insured failure. The reasons, in short, involved the parties' unwillingness to compromise on core issues, mutual non-recognition, distrust, unhelpful third parties, and poor timing. For negotiations to succeed, the authors argue, these old patterns had to be broken. To illustrate their point, they look in depth at the 1978 Camp David Accords, the abortive Israel-Lebanon negotiations of 1983, the 1987 Husayn-Peres London Accord, the 1991 Madrid conference, the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement, and the 1993 Oslo agreement. Each case is dealt with carefully and reasons for success or failure are identified.

On the whole, the authors go along with the notion that negotiations succeed when conditions are ripe, when psychological barriers have been lowered, and when a third party plays a helpful facilitating role. They are impressed by how easily Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Husayn managed to make peace once circumstances were propitious.

An alternative conclusion from the Israel-Jordan case might be that peace is not so difficult to achieve when the substantive issues are relatively minor. It is hard to imagine that Husayn and Rabin could have so easily negotiated the future of the West Bank or Jerusalem. But the authors are correct that leaders and their outlooks are crucial to the peace process. Writing in 1997, they give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (1996-) the benefit of the doubt, but note that the crucial element of trust between Netanyahu and Arab leaders may be lost. One can now see that Eisenberg and Caplan were unduly hopeful and that Netanyahu has reverted to many of the old, failed patterns of pretending to negotiate, while refusing to budge from rigid positions, that the authors rightly deplore. …

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