Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East

Reviewed by John Waterbury, Foreign Affairs (capsule review), March/April 2013, (Beacon Press, 2013, 167 pps.)

“In Khalidi’s view, the limits of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process were established in 1978, when Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin laid down markers for the Camp David negotiations. Ever since then, the United States, although occasionally tempted to stray from these rules, has carefully adhered to them and sometimes argued for them even more strenuously than the Israelis. The rules forbid sharing control of Jerusalem, allowing the return of Palestinian refugees driven from their homes during the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967, and granting the Palestinians sovereignty over the occupied territories and their inhabitants. Khalidi argues that the Madrid conference of 1991, the Oslo process of the 1990s, and U.S. President Barack Obama’s peace initiative of 2009 were integral parts of a joint U.S.-Israeli strategy to buy time for the Israelis to expand their settlements in the West Bank and sever East Jerusalem from the Palestinian hinterland. Saudi Arabia could have anchored an Arab counterweight but has acquiesced to the status quo out of concern for its own security. Khalidi’s book is as despairing as it is short; he sees no way out.”

Reviewed by Stephen Zunes, Professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, University of San Fransisco, Middle Eastern Policy Council, summer 2013, 

“Rashid Khalidi has written a relatively short, readable and frankly depressing overview of the more than 35 years of U.S. diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The noted Columbia University historian provides important empirical evidence and sobering analysis that shatters the mythology that the United States has a genuine desire for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Khalidi analyzes three distinct periods in the U.S.-led “peace process.” He acknowledges omitting some other important historical moments, but these three typify the betrayal by successive administrations of their responsibilities as the principal mediator in the conflict. The first case is the Reagan Plan of 1982, a failed initiative to interpret, in a more balanced manner, the sections of the 1978 Camp David accords dealing with the Palestinians. The second failure covers the two-year period following the 1991 peace conference in Madrid, in which the United States brokered talks between the Israeli government and Palestinian representatives. The third is President Barack Obama’s failure to follow up on his initial calls for Israel to halt the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

“He uses these case studies to reveal how, despite occasional minor disagreements on specifics, the policies of the Israeli and American governments towards the Palestinians have been so closely intertwined that, by virtually any objective reckoning, the United States should have no credibility as an intermediary between the two parties. Indeed, as Khalidi observes, the asymmetry between an occupied, disempowered, oppressed and scattered people and the regional superpower that occupies their land remains unacknowledged under the pretense that the United States is simply trying to broker an agreement between two warring antagonists.”

“Khalidi resists the temptation to further document the cruelties and injustice of what successive Israeli governments have inflicted upon the Palestinians in their ongoing occupation and colonization policies, and instead emphasizes American culpability in the imposition of this regime. He highlights how, from the Camp David agreements to the Madrid framework to the Oslo accords, the U.S.-Israeli agenda has essentially been that of making the prospects of Palestinian self-determination — even on just the 22 percent of Palestine seized by Israel in the 1967 war — not only elusive, but increasingly difficult to achieve. Khalidi recognizes the differences between successive U.S. administrations and between various Israeli governments while still acknowledging the continuity in the underlying opposition to the creation of a viable Palestinian state.” (more…)

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