Ami Isseroff is usually too feisty and negative for his own good, but he’s also well-intended and often on the mark. Both of these qualities seem on display in the following review published on his Mideast Web site (Jan. 21):
Bridging the Divide: Peacebuilding in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Edy Kaufman, Walid Salem and Juliette Verhoeven, editors, Lynne Reinner, publisher, 2006.
If you are interested in peace or dialogue in the Middle East, Bridging the Divide is a must read. The title alone redeems this work. The authors’ hearts are in the right place. The title makes it a much better book than Jimmy Carter’s best-selling scribblings about Israeli “Apartheid”….
You won’t buy a book because of its title, but the first chapter, by Edy Kaufman and Walid Salem, which chronicles the long history of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue efforts, is an essential resource. The only problem with it is that there is not enough of it. One would like to see a more detailed discussion of dialogue efforts that have been going on abroad as well, and a systematic discussion of various “Track II diplomacy” meetings that are mentioned in passing in various places in the book — and others that were not mentioned. There are also important chapters by Tamar Hermann, a frank and perceptive joint chapter on Palestinian-Israeli activities by Mohammed Dajani and Gershon Baskin, and informative chapter by Menachem Klein and Riad Malki on Track II diplomacy that you won’t want to miss, as well as other treats.
Riad Malki discusses the varieties of Track II diplomacy, pointing out the problem of definition that is bound to plague a new field, and also reminding us that it was the Israeli occupation in 1967 that made such contacts initially possible. Those who insist that the Israeli occupation was the beginning of the problem, should consider… that the problem has a much longer history. The point about “Track II diplomacy,” however, is that it is supposed to be unofficial and non-binding. It is therefore revealing and disturbing that Malki complains that some of the supposedly informal “Track II” Palestinian negotiators didn’t know the official Palestinian policies and departed from them. Controlling the views of participants obviates the whole point of Track II diplomacy. No divide will be bridged if each side must stick to the official positions of their governments. Click here for Isseroff’s complete review article.