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
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.