Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo

A fine history of Israel’s negation of a nation. reviewed by Charles Kaiser in The Guardian, 18 September, 2018. (Princeton, RRP£27, 464 pages)

“This splendid book by a young American Jewish scholar is the product of an early emotional and intellectual transformation. Seth Anziska was “raised with a strong attachment to Zionism” and sent to a yeshiva in Gush Etzion when he was 18. Gush Etzion was the site of a kibbutz founded before the Israeli war of independence. In 1948 it fell under Jordanian control, and it remained part of the Hashemite Kingdom until Israel conquered the West Bank in the six-day war of 1967.”

“Anziska’s arrival in 2001 coincided with the height of the second intifada. The image he had cultivated of biblical Israel from the distance of New York City was shattered by bus rides through the West Bank…In the years since, Anziska has encountered many other American Jews who have felt the same “incongruence and even self-deception that lies at the heart of discovering certain uncomfortable truths about the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians”.

“For Anziska, these revelations led to a years-long investigation of the Camp David accords of 1978, the endless on-again, off-again negotiations that followed, and the Oslo accords of 1993. His combination of original research and personal fearlessness has produced one of the most compelling works of political and diplomatic history I have ever read.”…

“Preventing Palestine’s core argument is focused on the Camp David accords presided over by Jimmy Carter in 1978, which led the Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, to agree to relinquish the Sinai to Egypt, in exchange for Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat’s promise to end the state of war and recognize the state of Israel. This was widely seen as both a great triumph for Carter and the single greatest leap toward peace in the Middle East since the end of the six-day war.”

“Anziska has a different view. He finds the roots of the decades-long standoff that followed Camp David in Sadat’s preoccupation with regaining the Sinai, which allowed Begin to accelerate the settlements of the West Bank, a process which has continued unabated. He thinks the Egyptian president’s willingness to negotiate over the amorphous goal of Palestinian “autonomy” is at the heart of the stalemate which has prevailed.”…

“A particularly important section of the book deals with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon 1982 and its catastrophic consequences. The defense minister, Ariel Sharon, believed “the lack of a diplomatic solution to the Palestinian question after the Camp David Accords invited a display of force that would somehow defeat Palestinians in their Lebanese stronghold”. He thought he could “destroy the PLO military infrastructure throughout Lebanon and undermine the organization as a political entity, in order to ‘break the backbone of Palestinian nationalism’ and facilitate the absorption of the West Bank by Israel”. (more…)



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