Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities
Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities by Laura Zittrain Eisenberg and Neil Caplan. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998, 252 pages, U.S. $35 (cloth), U.S. $16.95 (paper).

Reviewed by Tim Werner

Laura Zittrain Eisenberg of Carnegie Mellon University and Neil Caplan of Vanier University in Montreal are both historians who believe that there is a pattern of failed Arab-Israeli negotiations that diplomats must break for progress to be made in the peace process. In their opinion, the more closely contemporary negotiations follow the old pattern, the less likely are they to succeed.
They apply their theory about this historical pattern to six case studies of Arab-Israeli negotiations held since 1977: the Camp David peace process, 1977-79; the 1983 Israel-Lebanon agreement; the 1987 Hussein-Peres agreement; the Madrid talks and Washington talks, 1991-1993; the Jordanian-Israeli peace process, 1993-1994; and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, 1993-1996.
The authors conclude that these interactions provide some hope for future Arab-Israeli relations because they reflect dramatic deviations from earlier negative patterns in a number of significant ways. These changes include: the parties coming together with the genuine intention of resolving their conflict; each side recognizing and negotiating with the other's chosen leadership; the parties scaling back their minimum demands from a zero-sum to a mutual-accommodation approach; the parties looking to third-party mediators to facilitate or underwrite a compromise rather than impose a unilateral solution; and the growing perception that coexistence and peace are possible and worthy of risks and sacrifices.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Eisenberg and Caplan find that the psychological aspect of these negotiations is the most significant determinant of their success or failure. They examine this element in terms of leaders choosing diplomacy over war and citizens choosing to give the new approach a chance. When leaders such as Yitzhak Rabin or King Hussein undergo a "conversion" in favor of diplomacy and a negotiated compromise, they are challenged both to nurture the change for peacemaking among the people and to restrain those who reject that change from efforts to prevent it. This book provides a useful framework for evaluating the potential success or failure of current and future Arab-Israeli negotiations.