A major casualty of the assassin's bullet that struck down Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was a prospective peace accord between Syria and Israel. For the first time, a negotiator who had unique access to Rabin, as well as detailed knowledge of Syrian history and politics, tells the inside story of the failed negotiations. His account provides a key to understanding not only U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East but also the larger Arab-Israeli peace process.
During the period from 1992 to 1996, Itamar Rabinovich was Israel's ambassador to Washington, and the chief negotiator with Syria. In this book, he looks back at the course of negotiations, terms of which were known to a surprisingly small group of American, Israeli, and Syrian officials. After Benjamin Netanyahu's election as Israel's prime minister in May 1996, a controversy developed. Even with Netanyahu's change of policy and harder line toward Damascus, Syria began claiming that both Rabin and his successor Peres had pledged full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Rabinovich takes the reader through the maze of diplomatic subtleties to explain the differences between hypothetical discussion and actual commitment.
"To the students of past history and contemporary politics," he writes, "nothing is more beguiling than the myriad threads that run across the invisible line which separates the two." The threads of this story include details of Rabin's negotiations and their impact through two subsequent Israeli administrations in less than a year, the American and Egyptian roles, and the ongoing debate between Syria and Israel on the factual and legal bases for resuming talks.
The author portrays all sides and participants with remarkable flair and empathy, as only a privileged player in the events could do. In any assessment of future negotiations in the Middle East, Itamar Rabinovich's book will prove indispensable.
"Rabinovich ably traces the road that Israel and Syria have traveled, and shows what may lie ahead."--Clyde Haberman, The New York Times Book Review
"A model of its genre: a book in which an aware participant provides both the inside skinny and the larger story-both the details known only to those who were there and the historical context . . . neither burdening the reader with unnecessary information nor skimping on important facts."--Daniel Pipes, The Weekly Standard
"Provocative and insightful. . . . This book is a worthy read for those interested in this conflict beyond the superficial."--Booklist
"This valuable, well-written, objective description and analysis of an important issue will appeal to general readers of international politics as well as to students of Middle Eastern affairs."--Choice
"This saga of missed opportunities holds valuable lessons for those seeking peace in the Middle East."--Publishers Weekly
"Rabinovich writes clearly and fair-mindedly about the views of both sides; his readers gain a ringside seat at Arab-Israeli diplomacy at its most difficult."--Kirkus Reviews
Table of Contents:
1 Trying to Recapture Yesterday's Shadow 3
2 Israel and Syria, Rabin and Asad 14
3 First Cracks in the Ice 54
4 The Wing Beats of History 85
5 Between Amman and Damascus 120
6 The Security Dialogue 163
7 Bitter Harvest at the Wye Plantation 196
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Itamar Rabinovich: