Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East

In This Review

Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East

By Daniel C. Kurtzer and Scott B. Lasensky with William B. Quan
U.S. Institute of Peace, 2008
210 pp. $40.00
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Here are two more entries to the list of books on the long history of U.S. efforts to bring about Arab-Israeli peace. Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace is the work of a seasoned research team (led by a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt) that held discussions over roughly a year and interviewed some "one hundred current and former policy makers, parliamentarians, diplomats, and civil-society leaders -- Americans, Arabs, Israelis and Europeans." The result is an appraisal of U.S. performance since 1991 -- that is, since the end of the Cold War and the seemingly promising Madrid conference after the Gulf War. After a taut 84 pages of substantive text, the remainder of the book is made up of a detailed 1967-2007 timeline, selected documents, and a bibliography -- making it a book to be read by busy practitioners and opinion shapers. The proposed lessons include such obvious but often ignored matters as the need to engage in consistent and persistent diplomacy, led by the president and supported by the public. Other matters considered include the uses and abuses of summitry, special envoys, and area expertise, as well as the proper timing of pressure or inducements. All are woven into a refreshingly bipartisan evaluation of the relevant presidencies -- Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 -- that is equally tough on all three (although Secretary of State James Baker receives somewhat higher marks). Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace is a well-reasoned, realistic study setting out what works and what does not in this distinctive diplomatic arena. Today's leadership (and tomorrow's) could usefully build on the lessons presented here.

The Much Too Promised Land treats essentially the same subject and offers many similar conclusions, but all are quite differently presented. From the late 1970s until 2003, Miller was a U.S. official involved in efforts to broker Arab-Israeli peace. He is best known for having argued that Washington has been too much "Israel's lawyer" and not a truly honest broker. This book, an insightful critique of U.S. policy packaged as a personal memoir, relates how he came to that conclusion, along with much more, including chapters on Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, and James Baker as negotiators and a nuanced meditation on the interface between U.S. domestic politics and the situation in the Middle East. A spirited and intimate account, emphasizing persons over process, The Much Too Promised Land provides the raw material (in more than one sense: citations including four-letter words abound) from which sound history can be constructed.