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The underwriters

by
May 2009, no. 311

Innocent Abroad: An intimate account of American peace diplomacy in the Middle East by Martin Indyk

Simon & Schuster, $49.95 hb, 494 pp

The underwriters

by
May 2009, no. 311

As Israel began its assault on Gaza last year, the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, launched the offensive by declaring: ‘There is a time for calm and a time for fighting.’ His declaration alluded to Ecclesiastes, but overturned the order of the verse. Not so long ago, however, in an era that has since been largely misrepresented by its detractors, there was a time for peace; a time when, at a deal-signing ceremony between Israel and the Palestinians in Washington in 1993, the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, used the same phrase from Ecclesiastes but was able to leave it intact.

History, however, tends to be skewed towards reckoning the past, as it happened: it sometimes fails to take account of events that almost happened, but did not. In the past eight years, it has often been overlooked – or drowned out by the shrill cycles of war and elections – that diplomatic efforts as late as 2000 came within small and not impassable sticking points of reaching permanent peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians and Syria. But this hindsight bias has tended to stamp final outcomes with an air of inevitability that they do not deserve, and has added to the gloom that pervades present approaches to peacemaking in the Middle East. As Martin Indyk records in a small footnote in these memoirs of a decade of US-sponsored peace-making, the Bush administration demonstrated its shift in policy from its predecessor by ending public references to a Middle East peace process: it was just ‘the Middle East’.

Jonathan Pearlman reviews 'Innocent Abroad: An intimate account of American peace diplomacy in the Middle East' by Martin Indyk

Innocent Abroad: An intimate account of American peace diplomacy in the Middle East

by Martin Indyk

Simon & Schuster, $49.95 hb, 494 pp

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