The Brink of Peace: The Israeli-Syrian Negotiations

Princeton University Press
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A major casualty of the assassin's bullet that struck down Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was a prospective peace accord between Syria and Israel. For the first time, a negotiator who had unique access to Rabin, as well as detailed knowledge of Syrian history and politics, tells the inside story of the failed negotiations. His account provides a key to understanding not only U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East but also the larger Arab-Israeli peace process.

During the period from 1992 to 1996, Itamar Rabinovich was Israel's ambassador to Washington, and the chief negotiator with Syria. In this book, he looks back at the course of negotiations, terms of which were known to a surprisingly small group of American, Israeli, and Syrian officials. After Benjamin Netanyahu's election as Israel's prime minister in May 1996, a controversy developed. Even with Netanyahu's change of policy and harder line toward Damascus, Syria began claiming that both Rabin and his successor Peres had pledged full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Rabinovich takes the reader through the maze of diplomatic subtleties to explain the differences between hypothetical discussion and actual commitment.

"To the students of past history and contemporary politics," he writes, "nothing is more beguiling than the myriad threads that run across the invisible line which separates the two." The threads of this story include details of Rabin's negotiations and their impact through two subsequent Israeli administrations in less than a year, the American and Egyptian roles, and the ongoing debate between Syria and Israel on the factual and legal bases for resuming talks.

The author portrays all sides and participants with remarkable flair and empathy, as only a privileged player in the events could do. In any assessment of future negotiations in the Middle East, Itamar Rabinovich's book will prove indispensable.

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About the author

Itamar Rabinovich is Professor of History at Tel Aviv University, where he holds the Yona and Dina Ettinger Chair in the Contemporary History of the Middle East, and A. D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. Among his books are The War for Lebanon: 1970-1985, Israel in the Middle East, and The Road Not Taken: Early Arab-Israeli Negotiations.
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Additional Information

Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 1, 2009
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History / Middle East / General
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In The Lingering Conflict Itamar Rabinovich, a former chief negotiator for Israel, provides unique and authoritative insight into the prospects for genuine peace in the Middle East. His presentation includes a detailed insider account of the peace processes of 1992–96 and a frank dissection of the more dispiriting record since then.

Rabinovich's firsthand experiences as a negotiator and as Israel's ambassador to the United States provide a valuable perspective from which to view the major players involved. Fresh analysis of ongoing situations in the region and the author's authoritative take on key figures such as Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu shed new light on the long and tumultuous history of Arab-Israeli relations. His book is a shrewd assessment of the past and current state of affairs in the Middle East, as well as a sober look at the prospects for a peaceful future.

While Rabinovich explains the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians—a classic dispute between two national movements claiming the same land— The Lingering Conflict also considers the broader political, cultural, and increasingly religious conflict between the Jewish state and Arab nationalism. He approaches the troubled region in an international context, offering provocative analysis of America's evolving role and evaluation of its diplomatic performance.

This book builds on the author's previous seminal work on geopolitics in the Middle East, particularly Waging Peace. As Rabinovich brings the Arab-Israeli conflict up to date, he widens the scope of his earlier insights into efforts to achieve normal, peaceful relations. And, of course, he takes full account of recent social and political tumult in the Middle East, discussing the Arab Spring uprisings—and the subsequent retaliation by dictators such as Syria's al-Asad and Libya's Qaddafi—in the context of Arab-Israeli relations.

Like its two predecessors in the "Collected Papers "series, this volume is based on the proceedings of an international colloquium held at Tel Aviv University. The colloquium was organized in March 1978 by the Shiloah Center in cooperation with the University's newly established Center for Strategic Studies.

As the title and subtitle imply, special emphasis was laid on the images and perceptions that people of the Middle East and the United States have had of one another, and the way in which their relationship is viewed from within the area, from Washington and from other pertinent vantage points. The conference also dealt with five other major issues: the historic background and evolution of American policy in the Middle East (papers by Elie Kedourie from the London School of Economics and Wilfrid Knapp from Oxford University); American interests in the Middle East (papers by Uzi Arad from Tel Aviv University, Gad Gilbar from Haifa University, and Bernard Reich from George Washington University); the international context within which American policy in the area is conducted (Ya'acov Ro'i from Tel Aviv University, Richard Rosecrance from Cornell University, and Udo Steinbach from the Orient Institut in Hamburg); the formulation of American policies in the Middle East (Steven Spiegel from UCLA); and America's bilateral relationship with several Middle Eastern states (papers by Yoram Dinstein, Yair Evron, Gideon Gera, Itamar Rabinovich. anc Shimon Shamir from Tel Aviv University, and John Waterbury from Princeton University); the papers which dealt directly with views, images, and their depiction were presented by Bernard Lewis from Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, and Haim Shaked from Tel Aviv University.

"Contents and Contributors: "Introduction / Background and Evolution "Elie Kedourie, "The Transition from a British to an American Era in the Middle East; "Wilfrid Knapp. "The U.S. and the Middle East: How Many Special Relationships? /Formulation of American Policies "Richard Rosecrance, "Objectives of U.S.-Middle East Policy; "Bernard Reich, "U.S. Interests in the Middle East; "Steven L. Spiegel, "The Carter Approach to the Arab-Israeli Dispute / The International Context "Udo Steinbach, "The European Community and the U.S. in the Arab World: "Yaacov Ro'i, "The U.S. Role in the Middle East / The Regional Development "Bernard Lewis, "The U.S., Turkey, and Iran; "Itamar Rabinovich, "The Challenge of Diversity; "Gideon Gera, "Libya and the U.S. / Oil and Economics "Gad G. Gilbar, "The Economics of Interdependence; "Uzi Arad, "The Short Term Effectiveness of an Arab Oil Embargo / Cairo and Washington "Shimon Shamir, "Egypt's Reorientation Towards the U.S.; "Haim Shaked, "A Stereotype Illustrated: An Egyptian Cartoonist's Preception of the "U.S.', John Water-hurry, "The Implications of Infitah for U.S.Egyptian Relations / Strategic and legal Aspects "Yair Evron, "Some Political and Strategic Implications of an American-Israeli Defense Treaty; "Yoram Dinstein, "International Guarantees and the Middle East Conflict

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