In a major study that moves between path-breaking theorizing and analysis that is relevant to today's headlines, the author examines the process by which states expand and contract. His particular interest, triggered by concern about Israel's relationship to the West Bank and Gaza, is whether annexationists can realize their project of absorbing these Palestinian-inhabited areas, or whether the anti-annexationists will win the political struggle. Rather than facilely expressing an opinion on such a complex question, the author looks to theory and two related cases: Britain and Ireland, and France and Algeria. He develops a useful model of state expansion and contraction, focusing on how the issue of incorporating outlying territories is dealt with in the political arena. Is it an issue that can jeopardize an incumbents position? Or is it beyond debate? Before disengagement from a territory, internal political battles must be fought and won.
Concerning the Israeli case, Lustick sees the annexationist project as doomed to failure, but acknowledges that the relinquishment of the occupied territories will precipitate a regime crisis. He implies that the bolder the Israeli government is today in facing this issue, the more viable the agreement will be in the future. In short, if Israel settles for partial annexation, it may have a Northern Ireland-type problem on its hands for years. While the cost of full decolonization on the French-Algerian model may seem high, the chance for a viable Israeli-Palestinian agreement will be enhanced. In either event, however, the internal Israeli political debate will determine the outcome. While written before the recent Israeli-PLO agreement, this book has been made more, not less, timely by events that could only be guessed at when the author was writing this stimulating, often difficult but ultimately very rewarding study.