Seth Anziska’s Preventing Palestine: A Political History From Camp David to Oslo is a deeply insightful and profoundly disturbing book that traces the tortuous path of Middle East peace-making during the past four decades. It was quite painful to read.
Having been a close observer and sometimes participant in many of the developments that have unfolded since the end of the 1973 War, Anziska opened old wounds while shedding new light on the painful events and acts of betrayal that have shaped recent Palestinian history.
Through all of the twists and turns of this period, the brutal wars and the diplomatic initiatives, the one constant that emerges is the Israeli determined refusal to recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination and statehood and the self-serving acquiesce to their intransigence by successive American administrations and key Arab leaders.
The culprits are many. In Anziska’s telling of this history, we can find fault with most of the parties to the conflict—all of the US administrations that were involved during this period: Israeli Prime Ministers, whether from Labor or Likud; Egyptian Presidents Sadat and Mubarak; Lebanon’s Phalange Party; and, in the end, even the PLO’s Yasser Arafat.
Digging deep into the official records of the Israelis, Egyptians, Americans, Palestinians, and others who participated in the region’s wars and various diplomatic endeavors, Anziska mines government and research center archives unearthing revealing contemporaneous accounts, minutes of meetings, and official communiques—providing the story behind the story of events as they unfolded.
Especially fascinating were: the internal debates that took place in Israeli cabinet meetings and how, at times, they would don a diplomatic mask of accommodation, while clinging to their firm refusal to surrender sovereignty of Palestinian lands or recognize the existence of a Palestinian nation; the discussions that occurred between President Carter and his aides; the frustrations expressed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s various Foreign Ministers over his betrayal of the Palestinian cause; the way Israel’s Ariel Sharon rudely manhandled US emissaries and their cowering in the face of his belligerence; the way Israel’s Menachem Begin initially sought to pose as the savior of the Christians of Lebanon only to “turn on a dime” after they refused to sign a peace agreement on Israel’s terms; the insidious plotting of a Phalange leader with the Israelis to end the Palestinian presence in Lebanon;