Friday, February 12, 2010

Review of: Doomed to Failure?: The Politics and Intelligence of the Oslo Peace Process

The following review by Dr. Alex Grobman of the book Doomed to Failure?: The Politics and Intelligence of the Oslo Peace Process
by Ofira Seliktar appeared in The Jewish State:
Doomed to Failure?: The Politics and Intelligence of the Oslo Peace Processby Ofira Seliktar Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2009),238 pgs. US $49.95. 
Reviewed by Dr. Alex Grobman

Finding a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict has been a constant source of frustration for American administrations. Each new US president assumes he can resolve this intractable dispute either through the sheer force of his personality or his unique understanding of the problems in the region.

The Oslo Peace Accords, which were officially signed at a public ceremony in Washington, DC on September 13, 1993, in the presence of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime, Minister Yitzhak Rabin and US President Bill Clinton, is among the most glaring example of how American presidents are naive about how to settle the conflict.

In this work, Ofira Seliktar, a professor of political science at Gratz College and adjunct professor at Temple University, analyzes the environment in which the Oslo Accords evolved, and the reasons why the agreement failed.

The downfall of the Soviet Union and the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War in 1991 were viewed by the Israeli peace activists and their supporters in the West as a sure sign to that the climate was ripe to start the Oslo negotiations that lead to the Declaration of Principles.

Shimon Peres, the most vigorous proponent of this view, believed that a new Middle East had emerged that would prevail over the “irrational” and “tribalist” attitudes like extreme nationalism and religious fundamentalism among the Arabs throughout the region.

Once peace was achieved, peace activists expected there would be an added bonus: Israel would probably abandon its own “tribal-particularistic culture shaped by the ultraorthodox and national religious Zionists in favor of a more universalistic-secular creed.”

Seliktar describes how the negotiations began, the principles upon which they were based and the Labor party’s attempt to implement the Accord even as Yasser Arafat’s legitimacy continued to be repudiated. She explores how the Likud government attempted to effect a midcourse modification of the agreement, and Labor’s efforts to circumvent and ignore PA blatant violations of the interim provisions of the Accord in order to achieve a final peace settlement.

Those who want to understand the way in which Israel predicts and manages political change will find this book of special interest. Seliktar shows us why the Oslo Accords were doomed from the start.

This is not an intellectual exercise. The reasons for the failure still exist: Israeli and western academics and media continue to believe that if only Israel were to make more concessions, there will be peace. Overlooking Arab corruption and incitement to violence in the media, schools, mosques and in the political arena to conclude a deal is common ploy. Those who raised valid objections to the process, even in the security community, were vilified. IDF officers who questioned Oslo, found their promotions blocked.

Seliktar also found that the appeal of “lucrative deals” with senior Palestinian “security bosses” was sufficient for some Israelis to embrace Oslo. Inexplicably, there was little interest among the Israeli public in “exposing Oslo for what it really was.” As one analyst observed, “ Oslo was not a political process, but a state of mind among dreamers of dreams and peddlers of illusion who misled an entire people.”

It is too easy to place the blame on Israeli leaders alone. The Israeli public has to assume the greatest responsibility for going along with this farce. Israeli leaders succeeded in misleading the Israeli public because her citizens were unwilling to accept what should have been so obvious to everyone.

Nothing the Arabs said or did during the Oslo period, before or since suggests anything other than their desire for the demise of the Jewish state. Oslo was a dangerous fantasy that continues to this day among segments of the Israeli and Jewish population throughout the world.

Israel can ill afford to live with such illusions and fantasy. Reading what the Arabs say, and how they act should be sufficient to appreciate their true intentions. This book provides additional insight into why the Oslo Accords failed and why we can not assume our leaders know what is best.

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