Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedyby Shlomo Ben-Ami
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An Oxford-trained historian who became Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami was a key figure in the Camp David negotiations and many other rounds of peace talks, public and secret, with Palestinian and Arab officials. He offers here an unflinching account of the Arab-Israeli conflict, informed by his firsthand knowledge of the major characters and events.
Clear-eyed and unsparing, Ben-Ami traces the twists and turns of the Middle East conflict and the many missteps of the Israelis and Palestinians. The author paints particularly trenchant portraits of key figures from Ben-Gurion to Bill Clinton, and gives us behind-the-scenes accounts of the meetings in Oslo, Madrid, and Camp David. He is highly critical of Ariel Sharon and the late Yasser Arafat ("the sad embodiment of an archaic political orthodoxy devoid of a vision for the future"). He sees Arafat's rejection of Clinton's peace plan as a crime against the Palestinian people. The author is also critical of President Bush's Middle East policy ("a presumptuous grand strategy"). And along the way, Ben-Ami highlights the many blunders on both sides, describing for instance how the great victory of the Six Day War launched many Israelis on a misbegotten "messianic" dream of controlling all the Biblical Jewish lands, actually making the Palestinian problem much worse. In contrast, it has only been when Israel has suffered setbacks that it has made moves towards peace. The best hope for the region, he concludes, is to create an international mandate in the Palestinian territories that would lead to the implementation of Clinton's two-state peace parameters.
Scars of War, Wounds of Peace is a major work of history--with by far the most fair and balanced critique of Israel ever to come from one of its key officials. It is an absolute must-read for everyone who wants to understand the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"Many of the participants have now dissected the failure of Bill Clinton's heroic effort six years ago to make peace between Yasser Arafat and Israel's Ehud Barak. The longest book to date has come from Dennis Ross, the senior American official involved. The most profound may be this beautifully written account by Mr Barak's foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, a Moroccan-born historian who became a politician. It should be compulsory reading for anyone who feels a partiality to one side or the other, though it will not be a comfortable read: Mr Ben-Ami is unsparing in his criticisms of both sides."The Economist
"Ben-Ami's assessments are often spot-on: he correctly emphasizes that Israel's basic motivation for erecting the separation barrier was to forestall the danger of a Palestinian demand for a 'one-state solution'; he cogently argues that it was only unbending and even aggressive Israeli behaviorbehavior he often judges harshlythat forced the Arab world to reconcile itself to the Jewish state; and he nicely highlights the historical continuities in Zionist-Palestinian relations, specifically the geographic and demographic realities that, after more than a century, still render impossible an accommodation between the two people."Atlantic Monthly
"Ben-Ami, a professional historian and diplomat, has written something far more valuable than another book of diplomatic memoirs.... He brings a long historical perspective to the Israeli-Palestinian encounter... Packed with informative nuggets.... In this detailed and elegant narrative of the long conflict, its tone elegiac with regret at so many opportunities lost, what stands out is Mr. Ben-Ami's account of the disastrous failure at Camp David."Martin Walker, Washington Times
"A provocative interpretive essay focused on decades of largely inadequate Arab-Israeli peacemaking.... One can marvel at Ben-Ami's many brilliant analytical insightsincluding his subtle, astute observations about Israeli society and his laudable ability to understand the Palestinians' needs, not just Israel's."David Makovsky, Washington Post Book World
"An important and outstanding contribution to the field.... Takes great pains to represent all the major points of view. Equally notable is the evenhandedness of his criticisms. Ben-Ami proves perfectly willing to take to task near-mythic heroes from both sideshe's as critical of David Ben-Gurion (for his paranoid and messianic vision of territorial conquest) as he is of Yassir Arafat (for his self-serving political maneuvers and tactical blunders)."Publishers Weekly
"Shlomo Ben-Ami was there every step of the way at the Camp David negotiations. His careful, objective analysis is a must read for those who want and need to understand the highs and lows of the history of the tragic conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians."Madeleine K. Albright, Former United States Secretary of State
"Shlomo Ben-Ami brings passion, insight and fairness to his account of both the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the efforts to resolve it. As an Israeli negotiator, he would often try to rise above the psychological burdens of the past to see the other side's needs and not only Israel's. Any negotiator must try to achieve what he believes essential to his interests. But the best negotiators understand that reaching out to the other side and meeting their need for an explanation is ultimately an act of self interest. Shlomo brings that same mind-set to his comprehensive, if sorrowful, look at this historic conflict."Ambassador Dennis Ross, Former Special Middle East Coordinator and Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
"This book is one of the best overviews on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Using up-to-date material and a fresh analysis, Shlomo Ben-Ami provides some new and accurate views about an important and controversial issue." Barry Rubin, Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
"This is an exceptionally subtle and sophisticated treatment of one of the most bitter, protracted, and intractable conflicts of modern timesthe conflict between Israel and the Arabs. Shlomo Ben-Ami brings to the task both the skills of the professional historian and the practical experience of a senior participant in the peace process. He invariably goes to the core of the problems and he writes in a lucid and incisive style. His book is a must for anyone seeking to understand the causes of war and the prospects for peace in the Middle East."Avi Shlaim, author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World
Telling the story largely in terms of representative political figures, Ben-Ami weaves a rich tableau of individual leaders and the more elusive social forces and mindsets that guided their actions. It is a brilliant interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, from mandate days to the present, that strips away the myths and official positions of both sides and offers an ongoing critique of why this asymmetrical conflict has resisted resolution. This is a book that the layperson will read with profit and the old Middle East hand will ponder and annotate. Foreign Affairs
- Oxford University Press, USA
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Meet the Author
Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Foreign Minister of Israel. An Oxford-trained historian, he had a distinguished career at the University of Tel Aviv before he was appointed Israel's ambassador to Spain in 1987. He later became a member of the Knesset, Minister of Public Security, and finally Minister of Foreign Affairs. He has been a key participant in many Arab-Israeli peace conferences, most notably the Camp David summit in 2000.
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