INTIMATE ENEMIES: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land by Meron Benvenisti

INTIMATE ENEMIES: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A rambling but occasionally insightful study of the political, economic, and psychological dynamics between Israeli Jews and Palestinian and Israeli Arabs, particularly during the period between the Temple Mount Massacre (Oct. 1990) and the Rabin-Arafat handshake at the White House (Sept. 1993). Benvenisti, Jerusalem's former deputy mayor (1971-78) and currently a columnist for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, has very critical things to say about both sides of the conflict. He faults Israel for practicing a kind of malign neglect of Palestinian economic and political needs, for repeatedly trying to internationalize what he feels is inescapably an intercommunal conflict (e.g., by playing the ""Jordanian option"" when dealing directly with the Palestinians has seemed too fruitless or exasperating), and favoring the structurally unachievable goal of separation of the two communities. As for the Palestinians, besides geopolitical misjudgments culminating in support for Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War and Arafat's apparent fiscal corruption and political heavy-handedness toward internal opponents, Benvenisti feels they mistakenly view the conflict as an anticolonialist struggle, such as that of the Algerians against the French during the 1950s. He raises the possible solution of an ""Israel/Palestine"" confederation that ""combines ethnic and cultural separation within a common geopolitical framework on the basis of national equality and a clear definition of the rights and obligations of the two ethnic components."" But given each community's ties to a diaspora, the sharp economic inequality between, their very different political traditions, and a long history of enmity, such a confederation seems utterly unrealistic for the foreseeable future. But then, the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict is anything but predictable. It's clear how knowledgeable and passionately engaged he is in his subject, but Benvenisti's overly academic style and lack of historical and anecdotal material makes this book less appealing than other recent works on the conflict.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0520085671
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Univ. of California