An assiduous assault on the management of the apparently defunct peace process that has eluded Israel and Palestine.
With this earnest addition to the expanding shelf of commentary on the seemingly irresoluble Arab-Israeli conflict, journalist Thrall, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, offers, under the rubric of “Forcing Compromise” (the first third of the book), a detailed history of failed efforts to reach accord in the Holy Land. The problem is more than settlements, recognition of the State of Israel, the eventual status of Jerusalem, or even the number of casualties. It is well-earned distrust on both sides. Writing mostly of Israeli activities and American reactions, Thrall reviews the failures of Camp David, the Wye River meetings, and the Oslo agreements. Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Benjamin Netanyahu were and are wrong; ditto negotiators Marin Indyk, Dennis Ross, and John Kerry. So, too, in various ways, were many American presidents who were, in the author’s view, too easy on the Israelis. Thrall proposes increased American and European pressure on the parties without elaborating on what the pressure would be or how it would work. Meanwhile, Arabs and Israelis accept the status quo as their best alternative. The remainder of the book consists of reprints of reviews and essays published elsewhere. The author provides copious footnotes (with many secondary sources cited), and he frequently mentions “Mandatory Palestine” in comparison to the Jewish state. The looming Arab nations in the neighborhood and the Arab League’s support of Hamas (which runs Gaza and whose goal is still destruction of “the Zionist entity”) are not recognized as threats to peace. Certainly, each party faces legitimate, fundamental problems: rockets, suicide bombers, checkpoints, land grabs, and internecine conflicts. However, as earnest as he is in illuminating the problems, Thrall remains partial and selective in probing them.
A troubling and truculent history of the still-stalemated search for peace in the Middle East.