The Norway Channel: The Secret Talks that Led to the Middle East Peace Accord

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The Norway Channel: The Secret Talks that Led to the Middle East Peace Accord

By Jane Corbin
The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994
213 pp. $22.00

This engaging account of the secret negotiations that resulted in the Oslo accord between Israel and the PLO has all the strengths of first-rate journalism, as well as some of its limitations. The story of the talks is told well, the narrative has a you-are-there quality and is timely. The individuals involved in this remarkable diplomatic episode come alive, especially the author's favorites, the Norwegians who shepherded the project, Terje Larsen and Mona Juul. There is also much to be learned here about the conduct of negotiations and the role of mediators. Like other instant histories, however, this account is richer in description than in analysis, and the reader is left wondering how the Oslo accord is connected to the broader issues of the Middle East. As with so many journalistic accounts, this one relies heavily on "quotations" that cannot literally be the words that someone spoke. At best, these are "remembered" quotations, as are the thoughts and feelings attributed to the various protagonists. This technique makes for a lively account, but creates a text that often reads more like a novel than analytical history. In short, this is certain to be the best version of the Norway channel for some time to come, but eventually it will be supplemented by those that provide more context, more analysis and more rigorous use of sources. In the meantime, read and enjoy.

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