Lost Years: Bush, Sharon, and Failure in the Middle East

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George W. Bush first met Ariel Sharon in 1998 on a fact-finding trip to Israel when he was governor of Texas and contemplating a run for the White House. From the memorable helicopter tour he gave the future president on that visit until he was incapacitated by a stroke seven years later, Sharon tried to enlist Bush in his dual strategies of quelling a Palestinian uprising and fixing the Jewish state's permanent borders. Bush met him part way but had his own bold ideas: a two-state solution to the ...

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Overview

George W. Bush first met Ariel Sharon in 1998 on a fact-finding trip to Israel when he was governor of Texas and contemplating a run for the White House. From the memorable helicopter tour he gave the future president on that visit until he was incapacitated by a stroke seven years later, Sharon tried to enlist Bush in his dual strategies of quelling a Palestinian uprising and fixing the Jewish state's permanent borders. Bush met him part way but had his own bold ideas: a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a Middle East where democracy replaced tyranny. Neither leader grasped the essential first step toward achieving his vision: a process of tedious negotiation and mutual compromise between Israel and its longtime enemies. Lost Years describes how two risk-taking leaders worsened the Middle East situation by pursuing parallel preemptive wars that destabilized the region. Mark Matthews documents how a series of opportunities to stem the bitter conflict were allowed to lapse due to a combination of inattention, deliberate evasion, political pressure, and sheer blindness.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Matthews, who covered the Middle East for the Baltimore Sun, documents the changes that the rise of George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon brought to the American-Israeli relationship in this ambitious journalistic effort. As earlier prospects for negotiations with Palestinians receded into the background, the two leaders pursued ambitious, sometimes conflicting and ultimately ill-fated plans to advance their interests unilaterally, a development which, in Matthews's analysis, reduced the chances for peace. Quoting extensively from politicians, military personnel and others in the U.S., Israel, the Palestinian territories and international organizations, Matthews offers a balanced, if opinionated, view of the conflict and of the major personalities that have shaped it. While the author paints relatively sympathetic portraits of Bush and Sharon, he is far less sanguine about the causes they have chosen to endorse, deploring missed opportunities to implement a two-state solution. He particularly faults Bush's grandiose visions of regime change and democracy promotion for weakening America's hand. Though numerous details and anecdotes provide more padding than relevance, Matthews's account remains readable and offers much of interest to the student of Israeli or American politics. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Peace in the Middle East is one of the world's great desiderata, and the Bush administration professes to want it. Why, then, asks former Baltimore Sun correspondent Matthews, is the prospect for peace so dim?In part, he writes, the answer lies in missed opportunities. Even as governor of Texas, Bush was eager to be involved in regional politics, and early on he befriended Ariel Sharon, whom he considered both effective and capable of being influenced. Yet, Matthews continues, in both terms as president, "Bush engaged in the Middle East peace process episodically and without success," ineffectiveness complicated by feuds among his staff over diplomatic and strategic priorities and by the decision, made after 9/11, to snub Yasir Arafat and refuse to admit the Palestinian Authority into deliberations. In part, that decision was determined, Matthews suggests, by calculating the pros and cons of the Jewish vote back home; the Jewish electorate, he writes, "is too small to be decisive in most national elections" but nevertheless has proved important in the swing states, and Bush's father, as president, lost his bid for reelection in part, perhaps, because he lost that vote soundly. Bush II took it upon himself to cultivate close relations with Sharon at the expense of any other, against warnings by Colin Powell and others; one senior State Department spokesperson tells Matthews that the post-9/11 White House gave Sharon "a lot of slack in areas that we could have cared about, but there wasn't anything to be gained by it," one of those areas being, it seems, the Palestinians. Add to that Bush's preferring doctrine-driven neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams to more balancedviews-"Had Condi understood the region more, she never would have accepted [the appointment of Abrams]," Brent Scowcroft remarked-and the little matter of the war in Iraq, it is no surprise that peace remains a distant possibility. Valuable reporting on a profoundly important question.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568583327
  • Publisher: Nation Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Matthews, 55, is one of the most experienced and insightful journalists reporting on American policy in the Middle East today. He has covered the Arab-Israeli conflict for The Baltimore Sun for the past fifteen years and has earned a reputation for balanced, tough articles. During that period, he covered all the landmark events in Mideast diplomacy: the Madrid conference of 1991, the Yitzhak Rabin-Yasser Arafat handshake, the aftermath of Rabin's assassination, and the rise of the Intifada in 2000.

Matthews,entered journalism while a student at Antioch College, where he received a BA in 1973. He is the widower of Ann Devroy, White House correspondent for Gannett News Service and the Washington Post for more than a decade.

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Table of Contents


Map     IX
Significant Players     XI
Preface     XV
Repair Work     1
First Impressions     11
Palestinians     26
Two Risk-Takers     41
United States and Israel: A Unique Bond     54
New Administration     72
Belfast to Jerusalem     89
"Israel Will Not Be Czechoslovakia"     119
Passover Horror     148
Time of Testing     179
Competing for Bush's Ear     208
"[O]n the Verge of Peace"     228
Riding Herd     245
Holy Land     269
Sideshow     296
A New Chance     334
Palestinians Turn the Page     356
Hope and Reward     366
Unfulfilled Wish     390
Sharon Immobilized     405
Epilogue: Squeeze     411
Acknowledgments     431
Index     433
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