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Reviewed by:
  • Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities
  • Angelika Timm
Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities, by Laura Zittrain Eisenberg and Neil Caplan. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998. 268 pp. $16.95.

After the election of Labor’s Ehud Barak as Israeli Prime Minister in May 1999, hope was raised that the peace process frozen under the “Hawk” Benyamin Netanyahu would be revived and agreements between Israel and the Palestinians could be reached within a few months. Barak implemented the Wye II Agreement, started peace talks with Syria, and promised to get Israeli soldiers out of South Lebanon within one year. The prospects for peace in the Middle East at the end of the twentieth century are indeed better than a decade before, but the Final Status Talks have not been completed yet, and at least another decade will be necessary to put their results into practice. In order to understand the current problems and to assess prospects for the future in a realistic way, it is appropriate to analyze previous attempts to settle the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Both Laura Zittrain Eisenberg, Visiting Associate Professor in the History Department at Carnegie Mellon University, and Neil Caplan, teaching in the Humanities Department at Vanier College in Montreal, are familiar with several aspects of the Middle East conflict, having authored a number of books on the subject. Eisenberg is the author of My Enemy’s Enemy: Lebanon in the Early Zionist Imagination, 1900–1948 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994); Caplan’s publications [End Page 134] include Palestine Jewry and the Arab Question, 1917–1925 (London: Frank Cass, 1978); The Lausanne Conference, 1949: A Case Study in Middle East Peacemaking (Tel Aviv University, Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 1993); and Futile Diplomacy, a Multi-Volume Documentary History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (London: Frank Cass, Vols. 1–2, 1983London: Frank Cass, Vols. 1–2, 1986; Vols. 3–4, 1997).

The authors base their new book on former research results but focus on six contemporary examples of peace negotiations—the Camp David peace process (1977–1979), the Israel-Lebanon agreement (1983), the Hussein-Peres London Document (1987), the Madrid Conference and subsequent Washington talks (1991–1993), the Jordanian-Israeli peace process (1993–1994) and, finally, the Oslo peace process between Israel and the PLO (1993–1996). Looking for similarities and differences, Eisenberg and Caplan analyze each case study under the following seven headings: a) previous experience negotiating together; b) variety of purposes and motives for entering into negotiations; c) questions of timing that affected decisions to enter into or refrain from negotiations; d) status of negotiating partners; e) effect of third-party involvement; f) proposed terms of agreement; and, finally, g) psychological factors affecting both leaders and followers. As mentioned in the subtitle of the book, the examination refers to patterns, problems, and possibilities of the negotiations and, thus, provides the reader with a tool for understanding success and failure of previous attempts to settle the conflict. At the same time, the difficulty of the current peace process becomes obvious.

The authors follow for more than two decades all of the above-mentioned tracks and show their interconnection. They conclude that successfully negotiated settlements since 1977 demonstrated changes in virtually all of the seven elements; only deviations from the complex negative historical patterns made the peace efforts promising. Unfortunately, there was only limited room for elaboration on the link between domestic and foreign policy, the Cold War, and party politics. The United Nations as a major player in the 1970s and 1980s is rarely mentioned, and the Middle East politics of the European Union—in the 1990s obviously more a payer than a player—are not reflected at all. Eisenberg and Caplan speak about “two separate but intertwined struggles”—the Israeli-Arab and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (p. 5). At this point, the involvement of third parties is not mentioned, but it should be asked whether an additional level of conflict resulting from foreign interests in the region was always present. As briefly mentioned on p. 77, one of the key factors of the peace process in the 1990s lies in the end of the Cold War...

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