Published before the outbreak of the war between Hezbollah and Israel, Shlomo Ben-Ami’s important book sheds light on how the Jewish state arrived at this juncture in its history. The former Foreign Minister of Israel under Ehud Barak reflects the politics of the Israeli left that viewed the choices facing Israel during Ariel Sharon’s tenure as prime minister, and now by Ehud Olmert, as one between unilateral separation, symbolized by the “fence,” and a comprehensive peace plan imposed on both parties by an international peace coalition headed by the United States. Ben-Ami, in urging the latter position, argues that this peace plan should be anchored in a special Security Council resolution that will view the plan as the authoritative international interpretation of UN Resolution 242, the basis for the “land for peace” formula which, until the recent war in Lebanon altered Israeli politics, was the mantra of the Israeli left.
Present when Arafat in 2000 rejected the Clinton Plan that would have created a Palestinian state in more than 90 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, Ben-Ami faults Clinton for not being able to rally the Arab governments behind his peace initiative, as well as not building a solid and effective international foundation to sustain and internationally legitimize his plan. Ben- Ami is prescient when he also argues that a major fallacy of the Oslo accords was that it lacked any mechanism that would have led the transition of the Palestinian resistance from a revolutionary movement to one committed to an orderly democratic state. The result was that Hamas, unreconciled to Israel’s existence, continued to use the language of confrontation against the Jewish state and through the democratic process elected a majority in the Palestinian parliament. It was simply a matter of time, therefore, before the militant Hamas movement, ideologically committed to the destruction of Israel, would lead the Palestinians into confrontation with their sworn enemy.