Futile Diplomacy, Vol. 3: The United Nations, the Great Powers, and Middle East Peacemaking, 1948-1954; Futile Diplomacy, Vol. 4: Operation Alpha and the Failure of Anglo-American Coercive Diplomacy in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1954-1956
This is fine traditional diplomatic history, relying heavily on American, British, and Israeli diplomatic records, plus Arab media to compensate for the relative unavailability of official records from the Arab side. Caplan has also consulted the massive scholarly literature on the subject and carefully addresses its divergent interpretations. These volumes, following on his Early Arab-Zionist Negotiation Attempts, 1913-1931 (1983) and Arab-Zionist Negotiations and the End of the Mandate (1986), are refreshingly old-fashioned in adopting a narrative reconstruction of what the principal actors were thinking and doing at the time. Caplan is concerned to relate what happened, not bring any party to judgment. His books offer a reliable reference for anyone needing to check fine points of the historical record. They can also be read to illuminate the distinctive pattern of Middle Eastern diplomacy (outside powers competing and interacting with regional states or would-be states) that endures despite the many changes since 1948-56.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.