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The Israeli-Syrian Peace Talks: 1991-96 and Beyond

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1878379986
ISBN-10: 1878379984
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Editorial Reviews


The definitive account of the Israeli-Syrian negotiations in the Rabin-Peres era. Israelis and Syrians need to ponder this excellent book to understand why the chance of peace was missed. (Patrick Seale)

Includes a wealth of detail, unavailable in any other single source, which gives readers a greater understanding of the negotiation efforts. . . . A must-read for anyone with interest in the Middle East or the dynamics of peace negotiations in general. (Raymond Hinnebusch, University of St. Andrews)

About the Author

Helena Cobban is an award-winning author and journalist, who served as a Beirut-based regional correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and The Sunday Times of London from 1974 to 1981. She was recently an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and a grantee of the United States Institute of Peace.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: United States Institute of Peace (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1878379984
  • ISBN-13: 978-1878379986
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,502,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Helena Cobban, born 1952, is a British-American writer and researcher on international relations, with special interests in the Middle East, the international system, and transitional justice.

Ms. Cobban was educated at St. Hugh's College, Oxford, where she received her BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Economics in 1973. She was awarded an MA from Oxford in 1981.

From 1974 through 1981, she worked as a Beirut-based correspondent for news outlets including The Christian Science Monitor, The Sunday Times, ABC News, and the BBC.

In 1982 she moved to the United States to take up a research fellowship at the Harvard University Center for International Affairs, where she wrote her first book, "The Palestinian Liberation Organisation". It was published in English in 1984, was translated into Arabic and several other languages, and remains in print.

Since then she has published six additional books: three others on questions of Middle East war and peace, and three on other international issues. Her seventh book, "Re-engage! American and the World After Bush" was published in 2008. Rep. Lee Hamilton, Co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, described it as, "An impassioned, thought-provoking, and accessible brief from a highly esteemed journalist on how all of us, as individuals, can act to help better our country and world." She has also contributed chapters to around 20 scholarly books edited by others.

From 1990 through 2007, Ms. Cobban contributed a regular column on global issues to "The Christian Science Monitor", and from 1993 through 2006 she contributed a separate column to the Arabic-language international daily "Al-Hayat".

Since February 2003 she has published "Just World News", a blog on global issues that has gained a broad international readership and has been cited in "Le Monde diplomatique" and many other places. She is a Contributing Editor at Boston Review, where she has published essays on Palestinian-Israeli issues, Iraq, and post-conflict justice questions.

In October 2009, Ms. Cobban took up a position as Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington DC-based nonprofit organization; she resigned from CNI in February 2010.

She is a member of the Charlottesville, Virginia meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and has been active in several Quaker organizations. She sits on the Corporation of Haverford College, in Haverford, Pennsylvania.

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This book is a very sober look at the Syrian/Israeli negotiations in the 90s up till Barak's election. What I especially like about this work is that the author takes an approach that looks for answers and lessons rather than looking for failures and blame to lay on either parties. This makes the book very refreshing because you can tell the author is looking at the process without an agenda. She lauds accomplishments where due, while also being critical of the problems each side had with the process.

This work is a great example of the failure of what Shlomo Ben-Ami termed the "capsule theory" that was started with Ben-Gurion and seems to have encaptured Israeli leaders since. The idea of divide and negotiate which will isolate the Palestinian problem and keep it from flaring up and causing regional instability has been the dream of many Israeli leaders, and this has been a tendancy of Israeli negotiating strategy since its inception, and it extends to all their negotiations. The idea is that they can negotiate with one party which will enhance the Israeli position in negotiations with one of the other states at a later time. This style has meant that Israel has missed some good opportunities because of their failure to keep several tracks going seriously at the same time. Rabin's biggest failing was his hot and cold strategy that hurt the Syrians confidence and wasted precious time. The author does a great job bringing this to light.

As for the Syrians the author does a great job in showing that Assad's negotiating style was not helpful in creating confidence in the Israelis either. Assad's maximalist approach absolutely made clear the Syrian's red lines, but otherwise completely failed to build the type of trust that was sorely needed.
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Format: Paperback
The Israeli-Syrian Peace Talks: 1991-196 and Beyond explores how two countries that have been in a state of war for more than fifty years could transform their relationship from conflict to cooperation, from embittered battle to co-productive peace. Helena Cobban reviews the history of negotiations between Israel and Syria during the 1990s and provides insider information about the negotiating dynamics, patterns, personalities, and changes between these two mid-eastern nations. The Israeli-Syrian Peace Talks is critically important reading for anyone seeking to understand contemporary and on-going international dynamics in the complicated, multi-faceted Syrian-Israeli politics and relationships of today.
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The Israeli-Syrian Peace Talks: 1991-96 and Beyond
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