The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation

In This Review

The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation

By Marwan Muasher
Yale University Press, 2008
336 pp. $30.00
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This is a diplomat's brief on the Jordanian role in regional politics past and present, concentrating on the period from the 1991 Madrid peace conference until 2004. During those years, Muasher was the principal Jordanian diplomat dealing with Arab-Israeli issues. His "Arab center" consists of today's Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. These states, he argues, show moderation (read "pragmatic realism") in seeking a viable two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian territories while appreciating the need to work with the United States, however frustrating that may often be. A gem of memoir as history, The Arab Center traces the torturous negotiations among Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab states, and the outside world from 1991 to 2004, with well-chosen documents appended. The reader will relish the many intimate details presented, based on notes Muasher took at the time, such as his difficulty in dealing with Syria's foreign minister and U.S. President George W. Bush's telling Jordan's King Abdullah II in their 2004 meeting, "I am sick of the Palestinian-Israeli issue." Related subjects treated in this book include King Hussein's final six months and his surprising last-minute designation of Abdullah as his successor, Muasher's tenure as Jordan's first ambassador to Israel, the need for Arab reform, and a concluding chapter asking, "Is there hope for the Arab center?"