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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Compromising Palestine: A Guide to Final Status Negotiations
Aharon Klieman

New York: Columbia University Press, 2000
284 pp. Index. Pb.: 11.50; ISBN 0-231-11789-2



Aharon Klieman pursues two arguments in this book: The first is that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have arrived at a crossroads where difficult decisions no longer can be postponed. Ambiguities that may have been constructive, and even necessary, at earlier phases of the peace process, now stand in the way of progress. The second argument is that any 'final' settlement needs to acknowledge the fact that the Israeli and Palestinian communities are interconnected and deemed to continued coexistence, and therefore dependence, within the confines of historic Palestine. Although physical and political separation, however painfully may have been established as the principle on which a settlement must be based, the two communities have so far failed to accept that the 'facts on the ground' (geographic and demographic determinants) stand in the way of a clean cut partitionist settlement resulting in two ethnically homogenous and independent areas.

In addition to exposing the complexities involved in applying a clear-cut partition principle, Klieman presents an alternative guideline for future negotiations. Klieman's approach, 'partition plus,' is a softer version of partition combining political distinctiveness with elements of integration and coordination.

Not disputing that partition may be the only way out for the Israelis and Palestinians, Klieman nevertheless expresses the hope that rather than an irrevocable divorce, partition will turn out to be a transition phase, a trial separation. After a (much needed) cooling-off period, and when the two communities have (re)gained a sense of security and self-confidence, they may want to reengage with each other and engage on a project of joint custody over this disputed land. As Klieman concludes, "There can be an end to the Israeli-Palestinian' conflict. But not to the ongoing Arab-Jewish encounter"(p. 244).

Klieman's book should be of interest to any student of Israeli-Palestinian relations. On this subject the reader may find that the Israeli perspective is subjected to a more nuanced scrutiny than the Palestinian (a fact also acknowledged - and regretted - by the author who takes more care than most authors in revealing his own biases). But the book is also a valuable contribution to the more general discussion of partition as a strategy for ethnic conflict resolution, a long discredited notion that in the 1990s experienced something of a revival. Here Klieman's contribution lies primarily in his demonstration that partition rather than a strategy represents a continuum of strategies with varying degrees of integration and separation.


Ann-Sofi Jakobsson Hatay, Uppsala University



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