In the almost 14 years since the Oslo accords seemed to promise an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, there have been 11 additional peace initiatives -- Camp David, Taba, and the road map, among others. There have been bilateral and multilateral negotiations, unilateral actions, and initiatives by Israeli and Palestinian private citizens (the July 2002 Nusseibeh-Ayalon petition and the October 2003 Geneva accord).The literature on these years, including writings by many of the principal participants (which have all the strengths and weaknesses typical of that genre of historical reconstruction), is sprawling and contested. Happily, Golan's account is neither. Golan wastes not a word in tackling these different initiatives in chronological order; texts of the more important are included as appendices. She sets out clearly what took place in each, explaining rather than blaming the different parties involved. Her succinct account, for example, of the much-disputed Arafat-Barak-Clinton meetings at Camp David in 2000 is a gem. The Israeli-Palestinian issue is not, she makes clear, caught in a vicious circle. The outline of a probable settlement is now clearly in view, even if the obstacles to such an outcome are great and perhaps growing.
To Golan's list of peace initiatives since 1993 one should now add a 12th. In the Saudi-brokered Mecca agreement, announced on February 8, Fatah and Hamas backed away from the brink of civil war and agreed to form a Palestinian national unity government. This would replace the Hamas-led government that neither Israel nor the Quartet (the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia) would deal with unless it signed on to specific preconditions, including explicit recognition of Israel -- which Hamas would not do. Hamas has still not said all the right words, but the Mecca agreement and later statements contain circumlocutions that point to the acceptance of a two-state solution. The immediate responses have ranged from wary to somewhat encouraging. This International Crisis Group report provides an informative and timely account of the immediate context that produced the Mecca agreement and, an added bonus, offers precise suggestions (as do all ICG reports) of what steps each of the concerned parties should take next.