In This Review

Palestine in Crisis: The Struggle for Peace and Political Independence After Oslo
Palestine in Crisis: The Struggle for Peace and Political Independence After Oslo
By Graham Usher
Pluto Press, 1995, 146 pp.

A journalist with extensive experience in Gaza casts a skeptical eye on the Oslo accords and their aftermath. Like many Palestinians, he resents the unfairness and inequality built into the accords and concludes that Arafat has been too intent on salvaging his position and not attentive enough to protecting Palestinian rights. In such conditions, he believes, Hamas and other radical opposition movements can be expected to grow. Usher argues that Arafat should find some means to correct the power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians (for example, clinging to the United Nations or evoking Arab solidarity) and should rebuild Palestinian society on a democratic basis. These are common themes among Palestinian opponents of the peace process, but it is not clear that Arafat, or any other Palestinian leader, could really get a much better deal than the current one. The Palestinian bargaining position, looked at objectively, is weak, and even a successful transition to democratic governance would not dramatically change that fact. Surprisingly, Usher speaks confidently about the sentiments of ordinary Palestinians but fails to make use of the valuable data that has been gathered through public opinion polls over the past two years. Even before the recent Palestinian elections, support for the Islamic movements, including Hamas, was clearly declining, and most Palestinians supported a continuation of the peace process, however slow and frustrating it may be. In fact, the most recent poll showed support for Hamas at no more than six percent. Still, the value of this short book is considerable, even if its conclusions are not always convincing. Many Palestinians remain frustrated and disillusioned by Oslo, Arafat's quixotic style of leadership has alienated many supporters, and the issues on the negotiating agenda look formidable. This is a good antidote for those who claim that the peace process is "doomed to succeed."