For years, Benvenisti and his West Bank Data Project chronicled the seemingly unstoppable encroachment of Israeli settlers on Palestinian lands. Many assumed that Benvenisti was an Israeli dove warning that settlements would complicate the peace process with the Palestinians. But his views were always more complex than that, as this book makes clear.
Palestine-Israel, as he argues, is essentially one land in the view of both peoples, and neither will readily give up any part of it. The conflict between them is intercommunal, not that of colonizer and colonized. Benvenisti has generally been skeptical of diplomatic efforts to find a solution based on partition. Thus he was surprised by the Oslo accords, blinded, he admits, by his own ideology, and insensitive to the degree to which both sides in the dispute were simply exhausted. He professes surprise that the Palestinians would be willing to settle for so little of their historical homeland and views it as a sign that they have been defeated by the more powerful Israel. He speaks of a gradual evolution toward a binational state built on ethnically homogeneous cantons with extensive powers of self-government and national equality for the two peoples. But he admits that few Israelis and Palestinians now share his view. Whatever one thinks of his vision, Benvenisti provides a trenchant analysis, sparing neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians. A challenging, humane, and controversial book.