In This Review

Track-II Diplomacy: Lessons From the Middle East
Track-II Diplomacy: Lessons From the Middle East
By Hussein Agha, Shai Feldman, Ahmad Khalidi, and Zeev Schiff
MIT Press, 2004, 224 pp

"Track-II talks are discussions held by non-officials of conflicting parties," intended at least to give participants a better understanding of the issues and at most to set the agenda for official negotiations. This illuminating book's four authors, two Israelis and two Palestinians, bring intimate experience with such diplomacy to six case studies, four of which involve the Israelis and the Palestinians. The most famous of these produced the Oslo accords in 1993, but others are less well known, such as the follow-up Stockholm talks and the discussions between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in 1994 and 1995. The authors also consider the Israeli-Syrian talks in 1992 and 1993 and Track II talks on regional security that occurred from 1993 to 1995. To overlook the Track II phenomenon is to miss a major factor in diplomacy. Is it effective? Not always, but the Oslo agreement was at the time a major breakthrough. And the case studies make plausible the authors' intriguing suggestion that the prospects of the ill-fated Arafat-Barak-Clinton summit at Camp David in 2000 might have been enhanced if better Track II preparation had preceded them.