Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy

Shlo­mo Ben-Ami
  • Review
By – October 26, 2011

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.

Jack Fis­chel is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of his­to­ry at Millersville Uni­ver­si­ty, Millersville, PA and author of The Holo­caust (Green­wood Press) and His­tor­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of the Holo­caust (Row­man and Littlefield).

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