In This Review

The Brink of Peace: The Israeli-Syrian Negotiations
The Brink of Peace: The Israeli-Syrian Negotiations
By Itamar Rabinovich
Princeton University Press, 1998, 283 pp

An informed, thoughtful, and refreshingly self-effacing insider's study of a four-year negotiation. Rabinovich, a distinguished Israeli historian of the modern Middle East, was plucked out of academia to serve as ambassador to the United States and then, in 1992, personally selected by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to lead the Israeli delegation in peace talks with Syria. He remained deeply involved in the negotiations until returning to Tel Aviv University following the May 1996 victory of Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud. On balance, he finds that Israel and Syria never attained a breakthrough despite sustained American encouragement. Implicit in his account is the motif of Rabin holding firm to a strict package of demands and an equally adamant Hafiz al-Asad. Yet when Shimon Peres tried bolder diplomacy after succeeding Rabin, who was assassinated in November 1995, Asad failed to respond in kind. This study deserves careful reading, most of all by statesmen who must one day try again to reach an Israeli-Syrian settlement.