by Uri Savir ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 1, 1998
A leading Israeli diplomat's insider view of the intricate negotiations between his country and the Palestinians from May 1993, four months before the conclusion of the Oslo agreement, through May 1996 and the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Savir, former Israeli consul-general in New York, became director general of his country's Foreign Ministry under the late Yitzhak Rabin. When it became apparent that the secret Oslo talks begun in early 1993 had a real potential for a diplomatic breakthrough, he was named head of the Jewish state's negotiations with the PLO, and then the Palestinian Authority, during the three-year period he chronicles. Norwegian mediators half-jokingly, half-seriously introduced his Palestinian counterpart, Abu Ala, to Savir as ""your enemy number one."" The two often conveyed sharply conflicting views and instructions from their superiors, yet not only learned how to work together but developed a deep respect, even fondness, for each other. Savir is most revealing in relating how fraught with basic national yearnings and symbolism even the most seemingly technical issues became: The Israelis were desperate for security and an end to terror, the Palestinians equally insistent on not being condescended to or humiliated by the Israelis, and upon a recognition of the trappings of a national identity. Savir also writes with an admirable capacity to criticize Israeli leaders in a thoughtful and restrained way. For example, concerning Israel's closure of the Gaza and West Bank borders and its concomitant focus on Arafat's inadequate efforts to combat Palestinian terrorists, he acknowledges that ""we tended to be so focused on the Palestinian leadership that we often failed to see Palestinian society as a community of needs and aspirations that its leaders must serve and reflect."" Passages like this will make Savir open to charges of not being a hard-headed enough diplomat and historian; others will rightfully praise him for possessing the skilled negotiator's necessary qualities of empathy, vision, and an ability to compromise.
Pub Date: May 1, 1998
Page Count: 320
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998
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