Can We Say No to a Friend?

Scars of War, Wounds of Peace
The Israeli-Arab Tragedy
Shlomo Ben-Ami
Oxford University Press, $30, 354 pp.

“The Israel Lobby”
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
London Review of Books, March 23, 2006

In Europe and the United States the Holocaust cemented the justification for the creation of the state of Israel in 1947. But not only is that living memory, which never carried the same writ in the Middle East, fading, it is increasingly overlaid by Israel’s repeated resort to brute military force, inflaming neighbors in the region and alienating supporters elsewhere. Scars of War, Wounds of Peace demonstrates why it is so necessary for Israel, even with its singular history, to become a “normal” state and why that has become so difficult.

Shlomo Ben-Ami, historian and diplomat, was foreign minister in the government of Ehud Barak. He was among the Israeli negotiators during the Clinton administration’s round-the-clock efforts at the end of 2000 to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if not to an end, then to the threshold of closure. That effort failed. Since then, Ariel Sharon has come and gone from power. Yasir Arafat has died. Israel has turned over Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas has been elected, creating a humanitarian and military crisis in Gaza. George W. Bush has acquiesced in Israel’s unilateralist decision to demarcate its own national borders. And Lebanon has once again been drawn into the conflict.

Ben-Ami does not rehearse his role in the 2000 negotiations but places the Clinton peace effort in a longer historical perspective, offering what he calls an “...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.