In This Review

The Peace Puzzle: America's Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, 1989-2011
The Peace Puzzle: America's Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, 1989-2011
By Daniel C. Kurtzer, Scott B. Lasensky, William B. Quandt, Ste
Cornell University Press, 2013, 352 pp

The collective Middle East experience of the authors is unsurpassed. Their analysis is terse, and their portrait of U.S. efforts to broker Arab-Israeli peace is bleak. They see only three successes: Israel’s disengagement from the Sinai in 1973, the Camp David accords of 1978, and the Madrid peace conference of 1991, which ultimately failed but set the stage for the Oslo negotiations. Since then, there have been some near misses: the Taba meetings in February 2001 and the Israeli-Palestinian talks triggered by the Annapolis negotiations of November 2007. But overall, the best and the brightest U.S. diplomats have produced precious little. The authors assert that American policymakers must address the core issues, transform their natural bias toward Israel into a positive factor, recapture bipartisan resolve to tackle the issue, maintain continuity across administrations, and persuade the Israelis and the Palestinians that Washington understands and respects their fundamental interests. But another reading might be that the U.S. role is simply to keep the dance going even if it resolves nothing, since even if the parties are incapable of agreement, dancing endlessly is better than hitting a wall.