Peace Negotiations in Palestine

Author: Ahmed Qurie. London: I.B. Tauris, 2015. 330pp.

Review by Raphael Cohen-almagor, University of Hull.

Published in Political Studies Review, Volume 14 issue 3, pp. 494–495

Ahmed Qurie, known also as Abu Ala, served in key positions in the Palestinian leadership, including as prime minister from 2003 to 2006. In this book, the seasoned politician covers the period between 2000 and 2006, highlighting some of the milestones of this period: the second intifada of 2000; the September 11th attack on the USA in 2001 and its repercussions for the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), including the Israeli re-occupation of much of the Palestinian territories; the election of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) as prime minister in 2003; Qurie’s own period in government; the Israeli evacuation of Gaza; and the 2006 elections which saw the rise of Hamas to political power.

Qurie presents these events from a very personal point of view with no pretension to present a balanced perspective. History is often open to interpretation, and Qurie’s partisan analysis sheds important light on the wide divide between Israel and the Palestinians. The divide is not only about material assets: territories, Jerusalem, holy places, rights of refugees. Rather, the divide also relates to the understanding of important concepts, such as sovereignty, responsibility and peace. This is a sombre book for those who believe that the differences between Israel and the Palestinians can be reconciled in the near future.

Responsibility is an elusive concept and this book is testimony to the extent of its elusiveness. The PA (Palestinian Authority) has created a presidential ’democratic’ system that fitted Yasser Arafat ‘perfectly’ as he saw himself a leader who had taken ‘all responsibility, privilege and authority into his own hands’ (p. 108), yet the PA was not responsible for Hamas terror (pp. 23–27; 40–52). Nor was the PA responsible for Fatah militant groups that operated ‘independently’ from Fatah (p. 26). The PA demanded statehood and sovereignty although it had lost its grip on the internal Palestinian situation (pp. 37–40) and the Israeli demand from Arafat to ensure a period of tranquillity was unreasonable (p. 46). Holding the PA accountable for terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians was absurd (p. 73), while consultation with Moslim sages about the justification of terror and religious fatwas in support of suicide bombing was legitimate (p. 50).

The book sheds important light on the divisions among the Palestinians themselves. We learn about the strained relationships between Arafat and Abu Mazen (pp. 112, 141–142, 186); between Abu Mazen and Abu Ala (pp. 141–142); between Arafat and his security chief Major General Nasser Yousef (pp. 150–154); and the tensions between Arafat and Abu Ala (pp. 143–156, 178-179) — although Qurie is careful not to disparage his colleagues.

Peace Negotiations in Palestine offers one tendentious truth. People who are not familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during that period of time are therefore advised to check and verify the narrative with other, more objective sources.