The Decline of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Middle East Politics and the Quest for Regional Order

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The Decline of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Middle East Politics and the Quest for Regional Order

By Avraham Sela
State University of New York Press, 1998
423 pp. $24.95
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Sela traces from the 1950s to the present what he sees as the emerging dominance of individual Arab state interests over pan-Arabism. Since calls for supporting the Palestinians against Israel can rally Arab peoples and intimidate reluctant Arab governments, the decline of state-transcending Arabism has made it easier to treat Israel as a "normal" state and regard the Palestinians as moving toward statehood in a multistate system. The heyday of Arabism was in the Nasserist 1950s, and the great turning point was the June 1967 war. Such later milestones as the October 1973 war, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the long Iraq-Iran War, and the Gulf War all nudged the region toward the Westphalian model of competing states. Readers may question Sela's argument. Has the appeal of Arabism (or its Islamist variant) declined all that much? Haven't Arab states always called the shots? Is Arab acceptance of Israel assured? Still, they must be impressed by his richly documented narrative of inter-Arab diplomacy, which is fair to all parties.