A Place Among the Nations: Israel Among The Nations

The Netanyahu view of Middle East history is simple: endless betrayal by the West of promises made to the Jewish people, ferocious hostility from the Arabs, and heroic achievements by the Israelis. In his version of the Balfour Declaration, illustrated with a uniquely misleading map, Britain promised all of Palestine, east and west of the Jordan River, as the Jewish national home. The only problem with this image, and much of the rest of the historical sections of the book, is that it is not well grounded in fact. This is history as reinvented to suit political purposes. (If you have any doubts, read the actual text of the Balfour Declaration, which for some reason is not included in the many appendices to the book).

Despite the many footnotes, most reflecting casual scholarship at best, this is more a book of conviction and ideology than anything else. Read as such, the book is a true reflection of mainstream views within Israel's Likud party, which Netanyahu now heads. When he finally comes to the awkward question of what to do with the large Arab population that will remain under Israeli control if the West Bank and Gaza are retained, Netanyahu admits that there is a problem, but says that it will be solved by massive Jewish immigration, allowing the Palestinians to live as foreigners under Israeli rule, and perhaps to become citizens after a prolonged period of good behavior. In short, the kind of deal that Israel and the PLO have recently reached is anathema to Netanyahu. He is convinced that peace can only be achieved through an overwhelming display of Israeli power and radical transformation of the Arab world. While Netanyahu is harsh in his critique of the perfidious West and the untrustworthy Arabs, his real quarrel seems to be with the position of the majority of the Israeli public that is ready to reach a negotiated agreement with the Arabs involving the return of occupied territories in exchange for Arab commitments of peace, security and recognition. His book serves the useful purposes of making clear the nature of the dividing line in Israeli politics and of reminding moderate Arabs that they have every reason to negotiate with a Labor-led government, since Likud's views would preclude any agreement based on territorial compromise.

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