Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
Elie Podeh opens the book by showing that Abba Eban's famous dictum that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity is apocryphal. The quote nonetheless provides an excellent starting-point for analysing Arab-Israeli peacemaking, because the Palestinians are not alone in having a knack for missing opportunities. Rather, it is a symptom that describes all the parties involved. Podeh takes the reader through an impressive twenty-eight short case studies of opportunities for peace, most of which were missed. The cases stretch as far back as 1919, the Faysal-Weizmann Agreement, and as contemporary as the 2008 Abu Mazen-Olmert Talks. In each of the case studies, Podeh presents a factual account, before he analyses the extent to which the case constitutes a 'missed opportunity'. Gauging whether the chance was sufficiently large to be labelled 'missed' is no easy task, but Podeh develops a rather convincing three-tiered scheme. First, did the necessary conditions for a possible breakthrough exist? Second, was the opportunity plausible? And third, did the opportunity create a useful legacy? To assess the first of these criteria Podeh uses four variables: the degree of legitimacy held by the political leadership; the willingness to take bold steps; the level of trust between the parties; and third-party involvement. This strict structure allows Podeh to provide us with many insights in very few pages, which again explains how he can deliver such a large range of case studies. While one might disagree with certain of the individual conclusions, there is no doubt that the sum of the work is impressive and a very useful starting point for learning about the conflict.