cover image Making Peace with the PLO: The Rabin Government's Road to the Oslo Accord

Making Peace with the PLO: The Rabin Government's Road to the Oslo Accord

David Makovsky. Westview Press, $37 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8133-2426-5

This clear, concise explication of the complicated diplomatic process that preceded that famous 1993 White House Lawn handshake would be impressive under any circumstances, but it is particularly enlightening now. Makovsky, the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, puts Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat into domestic and international context. Started secretly under the aegis of a Norwegian academic in early 1992, the Oslo talks moved at an impressive speed. Rabin was clearly aware of a window of opportunity defined in part by the Gulf war, which left the PLO weakened (Arafat had backed Iraq, to the chagrin of other Arab states), and in part by the June 1992 election, which, for the first time in 15 years, freed Rabin's Labor Party from the conservative Likud. Convinced that an agreement with the PLO was beneficial to Israel's long-term security and that the Norwegian track was a valid avenue, Rabin stayed the course. Even when an unrelated scandal threatened his administration, rather than stop the potentially damaging negotiations, Rabin formally raised the idea of mutual recognition in order to speed them along. Although publication was too far along to allow for changes after Rabin's assassination, Makovsky makes clear the importance of both Rabin and Peres in this negotiation. ``It's a testament to Israel's highly personalized decision-making process that so few could make such a momentous decision for so many, essentially short-circuiting top-level security institutions--and more critically--with virtually no cabinet debate.'' (Jan.)