11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
First-person account of peace-making,
This review is from: The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace (Hardcover)
Part memoir, part history, part journalism, this book by a veteran Arab-Israeli peace negotiator should appeal to Mideast junkies who still believe in the "peace process."
A disclaimer: I covered many of these same events as State Dept. correspondent for Reuters from 1989-94. I was present at some of the events Miller describes; I traveled with Secretaries Baker and Christopher. I even interviewed Miller himself on background a number of times. (He seemed to enjoy chatting to reporters on background but he rarely revealed anything interesting or useful). For more about me and my latest book The Nazi Hunter: A Novelgo to [...]
This book is an uncertain mix of different genres. The personal memoir I found the most interesting. I wish there were more of these vignettes. I'm interested in the various characters Miller dealt with -- Rabin, Peres, Arafat, King Hussein, Presidents Mubarak and Assad. I'm interested in what went on behind the closed doors because I already know what emerged on the public record (I covered a lot of it). Unfortunately, Miller remains overly coy and discreet. He was never one to give much away and he apparently hasn't changed.
The history segment, in which Miller analyzes the successful Middle East negotiations conducted by Kissinger and President Carter, one can basically read about elsewhere.
The journalism -- he interviewed many of the key players, is somewhat interesting. But most of these actors have a deep interest in presenting events to their best advantage and Miller doesn't really challenge them.
His chapter of the power of the American-Jewish lobby and the fundamentalist Christian-Zionist lobby contained little new.
I picked up a couple of points I disagreed with: Miller claims the Madrid Peace Conference came as a big shock to the press. Not so. The only surprise was the venue. We'd all assumed the conference would be in Lausanne and had already booked hotel rooms.
Miller's account of Baker's trip to see the Kurdish refugees created after the first Gulf War conveniently leaves out the fact that these million plus refugees had fled their homes after the United States allowed Saddam Hussein to crush their revolt -- which they launched at the urging of President Bush. Miller notes that Baker, who had traveled thousands of miles by plane, helicopter and jeep, to see these refugees, stayed less than 10 minutes once he arrived.
The true hero of this book for Miller is Jim Baker who I agree was a largely successful Secretary of State who used the favorable circumstances he was presented with to achieve some modest progress on the Middle East. (He and Bush can be criticized for other failures -- their lack of attention to the looming war in Yugoslavia and the failure to anticipate Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.)
Miller gives relatively low marks to Clinton who got too bogged down in the little details of the negotiations, leaned too far toward Israel and committed himself to an ill-prepared summit at Camp David that was always destined to fail.
Miller loves Rabin, has little time for Netanyahu and is scathing about Barak. He is harsh, but not sufficiently so, about Arafat.
After all the failures and frustrations, Miller is still a true believer. He still believes in the possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and lays out some conditions for that to happen. There may have been missed opportunities in the 1990s (although I personally doubt that either Assad or Arafat were ever ready to make peace with Israel) but it seems quixotic to hope for much today with Hamas ruling Gaza, the Iranian-backed Hizbollah controlling Lebanon and U.S. prestige so far eroded after eight years of Bush.
This book is recommended for those who already know a lot about the Middle East but would like to know a little more about what it was like to be in the middle of those negotiations.
But it falls a touch short in my view of what it could have been.
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Initial post: Jul 19, 2008 11:16:12 AM PDT
But Alan, if you don't believe in the possibility of peace, what else can you believe in? That's not the same as asking what else you can predict or expect.
Posted on Aug 12, 2008 9:16:56 AM PDT
Thomas Wikman says:
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