​Thrall, Nathan (2017) The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine. New York: Henry Holt. 324 pp.

​ISBN 9781627797092

Jørgen Jensehaugen

Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

​Introducing the The Only Language They Understand, Nathan Thrall muses over the fact that while representatives from both sides agree that force is the only language the other side understands, they disagree that force is the only language their own side understands. Thrall’s book is rich with well researched, well argued, and often provocative analyses such as this one. It is structured as a series of essays, each of which can both be read as a separate argument and as part of an analytical whole. Thrall’s perspectives are refreshing reading. As a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, Thrall has an intimate knowledge of the conflict, with continued access to high-level decision-makers as well as on the ground activists. This access has not made him sympathetically inclined towards the existing political leadership on either side, on the contrary. In many ways this can be read as an in memoriam to a failed and delusional peace process, a scathing critique against political leaders who have lost touch with their own people and a j’accuse against well-meaning liberals who, despite their best intentions, fail to understand that the occupation and Israel cannot be treated as separate entities. One of Thrall’s most central arguments is that as the occupying power, Israel must be coerced into making concessions. The failure to understand this is the key to why the US has failed as a peacemaker. For consecutive US administrations the policy has been to give Israel what it wants, hoping that an Israeli government that feels secure will be willing to make concessions. Instead, Israel has pocketed those gains, then asked for more.