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!Download Book ⚕ The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World ☨ As It Celebrated Its Fiftieth Anniversary, The State Of Israel Could Count Many Important Successes, But Its Conflict With The Palestinians And The Arab World At Large Casts A Long Shadow Over Its History What Was Promulgated As An Iron Wall Strategy Dealing With The Arabs From A Position Of Unassailable Strength Was Meant To Yield To A Further Stage Where Israel Would Be Strong Enough To Negotiate A Satisfactory Peace With Its Neighbors The Goal Remains Elusive In This Penetrating Study, Avi Shlaim Examines How Variations Of The Iron Wall Philosophy Have Guided Israel S Leaders He Finds That, While The Strategy Has Been Successful, Opportunities Have Been Lost To Progress From Military Security To Broader Peace The Iron Wall Brilliantly Illuminates Past Progress And Future Prospects For Peace In The Middle East
A great read Very well documented and detailed Not only a guide through the convoluted history of Arab Israeli relations, but also a good source for insight into the relation between domestic politics and ideology on the one hand and international affairs on the other, with quite a few detours into personalities of leaders and diplomats who shaped this history.It is also the history of an idea the doctrine of the Iron Wall, developed by the founders of Zionism, by which Israel had to assert itself as an indisputable military and political power against its Arab neighbours before embarking on a settlement with them from a position of superiority and security The book shows how this doctrine shaped the history of the Middle East and was itself shaped, and ultimately perverted, by the developments of Israel s foreign and domestic policy the author is pessimistic about the prospects of the current situation I recommend it as an introduction to the history of the region and to international relations, in general The author s style is very engaging and the text is full of behind the scenes historical anecdotes. A Game of Throne with a side plate of Hummus.A very good if extremely annoying book.Let s start with the good parts Fascinating detail, lots of personal stories and memoirs by Israeli politicians, a whirlwind of backstabbing, manipulation, ideology, pragmatism, and culture all over the place As hectic as one might expect The first half of the book covers mostly the 1948 1967 period, with strong focus on Ben Gurion, Sharett and Eshkol Really neat Another little known piece that fascinated me Israel was financing and training the armies of some 30 African nations throughout the 50s.The third quarter is mostly around 70 80s, and there s less drama there, mostly focus on the Israel Egypt peace process and the slow churn of the 80s, with Israeli economy, political stalemate and the rise of the Palestinian national awareness as the major areas, the Oslo accords, and the assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister Rabin Then, the final quarter covers the recent era, roughly 90s through 2000s and a bit , with the author turning glum along with the political picture, the post 9 11 era, the recent conflicts and such.Written with good style and interesting prose, tons of new information, mostly from declassified Israeli archives, and stories laden with wit, character and personal goal, which give a good understanding of the key players and their motivations.Now, the bad part This is a one sided book It is told entirely from the Israeli perspective, because among the nations and politicians mentioned, it s the only one to actually disclose its political history We get nothing from Egypt, Syria, a few memoirs from the Jordanian King Hussein, and little else We see the conflict, but we do not understand the motives of the non Israeli side.The author claims to be a neo historian It means he rejects the current convention of the Middle East conflict, and he potrays a picture that is a 180 degree turn from the established concensus This already is a tricky start point It s controversy for the sake of it, and you cannot base your book on it By discrediting other people s work, you discredit your own You can t really go about saying I m right and everyone else is a clueless idiot That does not sit well with history.Personal interpretation of facts This is indeed the third piece The author interferes by giving us his opinion of what he reveals No thank you I am smart enough to make my own conclusions I do not need the author to tell me the only logical conclusion is This isn t an episode of Ancient Aliens I have my own brain to decide.And herein lies the great annoyance of this book Regardless of whether he s right or wrong, the author wants to show us his side So he interjects every few pages and tells us why something is or something isn t But he does this in a very uneven, un methodical way.He interprets only the actions of Israeli players never the non Israeli ones For instance, in the 80s, there were attempts to negotiate between Israel and Jordan Shamir and King Hussein At first, Shamir didn t want to meet with Hussein Avi tells us this is because Shamir is anti peace Then, Shamir agrees to meet Hussein The king decides not to Avi tells us this is because King Hussein felt Shamir wasn t interested in peace This is opinion versus fact, and it annoys me, because history then becomes mainstream news I don t want news because I don t need to be fed propaganda, whatever or whoever spins it.But Avi needs this because it s the basis of his book Without it, he doesn t have his radical new history So at every turn, he goes on and on about why Israeli politicians did something, interpreting facts however he wants He doesn t give us anything from the other side Frankly, he can t, as there s no data, but without the understanding of the Arabs, you can t really figure out the Middle East conflict.This also annoys me as a scientist you need a consistent method in your work either you interpret all facts and opinions equally or you do not You cannot arbitrarily apply your own agenda as you see fit That makes the book into a tantrum for the sake of sales rather than a book that tells a tragic chapter in history And all this without even going into details as to who or why History is not meant to lay blame or point fingers History is meant to tell us what happened We need to make our own decisions.Avi thus turns from a historian into a politician.He goes at length to discredit a whole bunch of people, especially in the last part of the book He is quite disparaging toward a whole bunch of world leaders, and that s not a nice thing It s not a historian s place to feel smug Besides, why is there a need to blame Why not just tell a story Another element here is Avi is an Israeli Is he pro Israel Nope That would be boring He needs a spin, otherwise no bestsellers So he goes at length in proving how impartial and worldly he is by being highly anti Israel in his book That s cliche, dude Best yet, leave the politics aside Simple solution.Looking at another book on the same topic, the one I recently read and reviewed the Six Day War, by Jeremy Bowen, it s a completely different story The author here gives us fascinating stories, anectodes, quotes, silly remarks, ugly personal stories He does not interpret them He lets us decide Imagine a movie where the director stops the action to explain what happened Show versus Tell.And so, this is a good book, but you need to not get angry for being spoonfed nonsense every few minutes Put that aside, and you read a remarkable chapter in history, most of which you probably haven t read elsewhere.If you re wondering what I think about old history versus new history, the answer is simple Like anything populistic, examine the leading 2 3 big lines of thought and then blend them together.The truth is somewhere in the middle.Hence, the Middle East.QED.Igor Avi Shlaim is in the school of what are called The New Historians on the Arab Israeli conflict, along with Benny Morris who broke new ground in historical analysis with the Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem This text by Shlaim is a great single volume overview of the history of the conflict, from 1948 and the war of independence leading all the way up to 1999 The thesis of his book is that the Zionist movement eventually adopted the political philosophy of Ze ev Jabotinksy with his ideas on revisionist Zionism, his argument being that the Zionists must build up and Iron Wall in the Middle East to create the State of Israel, with the intention of allowing the Arabs in after they give up the fight Essentially it s an ideology that breaks down as the best defense is a good offense And Shlaim makes a compelling case in his book, doing so as objectively as he can He traces the origins of the first Arab war, the Suez War, the June 1967 war, the Yom Kippur war, and so on, leading up to the collision with the Palestinians and the still going occupation The flaw in this text is that while Shlaim is able to draw on a wealth of primary Israeli sources providing an excellent bibliography , he is unable to reveal Arab planning as he cites very few Arab sources I don t pretend to know the truth about this conflict there probably will not be an objective account on this for another 100 years for all I know However, I think Shlaim is done an excellent job reviewing Israel s history and political policies in the Arab world, and anyone who is new to this topic should start here. An extremely clear and comprehensive study of Israel Arab relations from 1948 2013, with a chapter devoted to the intellectual and practical bases of Zionism pre 1948 Since the scope is so broad, the narrative tends to be rather general and thus unsuited to those who are well acquainted with this history of which I was not. It took me a long time to slog through this book, but I m so glad I did Detailed primary source accounts of policy debates in the Israeli government was fascinating It convinced me that Israel has blown it continuously in its policy towards Arabs in Palestine and elsewhere At every turn, where there was an opportunity to make a positive decision, the Israel government went the wrong way.These days, when people point to Hamas and their professed commitment to the destruction of Israel as an obstacle to peace, this book is a helpful reminder that was in fact the plan Going back to the idea of the Iron Wall in the 20s, zionists expected that the Palestinian population would resist being occupied and displaced, and Israel would have to deal with it They knew it before the PLO was even an idea, let alone Hamas.And here we are As Israel continues to lurch to the right, we have to wonder how many people have to die before Israel comes to its senses. The whole world stands polarised on the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine Arab world While one section of the population attribute this raging disquiet to Israeli obduracy, the remaining section remains firmly entrenched in placing the blame squarely on Palestinian Arab obstinacy This tome by Avi Shlaim endeavours to clear the cobwebs and strike at the very heart of the matter.Subsequent to the de classification of many documents and archives by the Israeli Government, a select group of authors, popularly termed the new historians strove to set the record straight Foremost among them being Benny Morris, who also is credited with coining the term new historiography The other constituents of this group were Ilan Pappe, Simha Flapan and Avi Shlaim In this impartial, intuitive and intricate work, Avi Shlaim works hard to provide an insightful view of the complex muddle racking two sets of people A muddle that has at its roots the sophisticated philosophy of one of Zionism s founding fathers Je ev Zabotinsky Zabotisky advocated the construction of an Iron Wall that would firmly secure Israel s place on the Planet, behind the refuge of which he proposed a mechanism of negotiation for conflict resolutions But as the author brilliantly portrays in his book, every single political administration of Israel while resolutely pulling its might behind the construction of the Wall, fecklessly failed to address the second half of Zabotinsky s concept.Scuppering every available overture extended by the Palestinians for peace, scuttling all available mechanisms to succeed at the negotiating table and slaying umpteen windows of opportunity for lasting peace, Israel has singularly succeeded in its obstinacy in not only thwarting genuine hopes, but also in spawning a new breed of violent opposition in the form of Hamas and Hezbollah The callous and indifferent attitude of a recalcitrant United States is also glaringly exposed in the open The world s oldest democracy has employed its Veto Power in the United Nations on a whopping 42 occasions in support of seemingly irrational Israeli strategies.Whether it be the intransigent Golda Meir s kitchen cabinet , or the hawkish Ariel Sharon s farm forums , all policies fostered and pursued by Israel towards its neighbours have led to restlessness and relentless tension The Arab world also has to shoulder a considerable amount of blame in their approach to tackling the Palestinian issue Covert supply of arms, open instigation of intifadas or terrorist attacks and firing of the Russian made Katyusha rockets into Israel, has exacerbated rather than alleviating the grief of over 3 million hapless Palestinians clustered in and around West Bank and the Gaza Strip.Targeted assassinations, mushrooming of illegal settlements, demolition of homes and public welfare institutions have become an all too common, albeit unfortunate feature of Middle East politics The historic and landmark Oslo accord signed by the visionary Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat lent a fleeting glimmer of hope for long lasting peace and cordiality between two warring factions However a clinical and calculated butchery of the accord by Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon has ensured that the situation has reverted to the dreaded status quo.This book demonstrates with reeking clarity the ways and means by which deliberate intransigence can prevail over honest intentions So long as such intransigence constitutes the very DNA of the political establishment of all the parties to the controversy embroiling the Middle East, peace will only be an ephemeral wish and a non existent dream An issue which seemed irreconcilable will transform into one that is intractable Meanwhile thousands of innocent civilians continue to be slaughtered while their inexcusable loss of life is defended under the garb of patriotism, nationalism and collateral damage. This detailed and objective history of Israel from the UN Resolution of 1947 onward completely dismantles any notion that Israel began as a peace loving nation only seeking to find harmony between migrant Jews and indigenous Palestinians I want to stress, once again, what I find to be a fairly objective assessment of this rather polemical topic Shlaim deals with the facts the way you expect a historian to do so Reviews that consider this book biased are basing that opinion on the conclusions he draws, but a historian does need to analyze and draw conclusions What he needs to be judged on is how inclusive he is of all the facts i.e whether he only chooses facts that support his preconceived notions and fits the data to his argument or, on the other hand, shows all the relevant information and how logically his conclusions follow from those facts In this, Shlaim seems very fair and balanced He has thoroughly researched the now released secret documents and communiqu s that allow us to see quite clearly the motives, aims and knowledge of the parties involved Shlaim s aims and conclusions are rather limited, too This is not a pro Palestinian, or even anti Israeli, work in fact it hardly deals with the Palestinians The basic point of view is that of the the leaders and decision makers in the Israeli government and military What is assessed are the actions taken by these leaders, the reasons for the actions, their motives and, finally, they way they characterize these motives to the Israeli public, the Arab nations, the UN and the international community Shlaim grew up in Israel, and states in the preface that his chief aim is to counter the official Israeli history taught to citizens and in schools What I find interesting, as an American, is that this story is very similar to the one I was taught and whole heartedly believed It goes something like this peace loving but tenacious little Israel only sought to have peaceful relations with the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab nations, but instead it found hostility at every turn and, unfortunately, was left with no other choice but to respond with force, and, miraculously, out numbered and out gunned, it triumphed, but still must continually stay on guard to face the threats that remain The actions taken, however, and the motives behind them reveal an entirely different story. Barring the outstanding quality of this book and the depth of information presented within it, the fact that it took me ten months to finish The Iron Wall is in itself a reason to take a few seconds of my time to comment on it This book is a mammoth, especially for someone like me who wouldn t term themselves a fast reader by any means It is so long, and so dense with facts, dates and events that I started off only reading about 10 pages a day before I had put it down in exhaustion But the one thing that kept me coming back to it was Shlaim s writing style and humanization of each Israeli prime minister The Iron Wall recounts every major event in Arab Israeli history since Israel s establishment, focusing on the Israeli government s policies, motivations, reactions and internal politics It s a fascinating account of the internal affairs of one of the youngest and most controversial countries in the world It s fair to say that this book is extremely Israeli centric, in the sense that Shlaim delves deep into the psyche of each Israeli prime minister from David Ben Gurion to Binyamin Netanyahu and explores their relationships with their surrounding ministers and cabinet This seems like an obvious stylistic choice almost inevitable, really considering his emphasis is on Israel s policies towards Arabs, and the prime minister is the ultimate policy and decision maker in Israel Regardless, his choice to recount history in this way makes it accessible and engaging because you start to anticipate what each PM will do given a particular problem Each PM is so different, some hardline hawkish and others open to compromise dovish , and it s interesting to see how the policies that come out of the government differ depending on which PM is currently in power As the reader, you start to sympathise with some PMs than others, depending on your personal stance on the matter Shlaim shows a clear distaste for the hawkish prime ministers, but other than the occasional critical adjectives thrown in now and then this book is extremely objective and bases its content entirely on research from internal documents, state archives, interviews with senior officials and leaders, memoirs, and meeting minutes You d be hard pressed to find a objective report on Israeli history Avi Shlaim is known as one of the best Israeli new historians and judging from this book he is very deserving of that reputation He does a great job of dismantling the oft repeated and frankly stale argument that Israel is a defenseless nation surrounded by aggressive and hostile Arab states, and reassembling it to show the truth on the ground, which is that since its establishment, Israel has been stubborn to the point of military aggression to ever compromise on any of the important problems that they themselves created land, refugees, Palestinian rights and settlements The only exception to this rule was during Yitzhak Rabin s second term as prime minister, between the years of 1992 1995.In short, this is a book that everyone should read, regardless of which side of the conflict you see yourself It is a well researched, highly authoritative book that lays out pretty much every important event that has occurred in Israel and in relation to Israel from 1947 to 1998. An interesting fairly impartial analysis of Israel s Iron Wall approach towards it s Arab neighbours While it deserves credit for not falling into the trap of repeating endless state sponsored political rhetoric, it lets itself down by running through the entire history of the conflict from a distinctly Israeli viewpoint There is little to no effort made to show any kind of viewpoint or opinion of those on the Arab side of the conflict beyond dabbling in the hubris and self servient interests of a number of historical figures.It s this overwhelming, possibly unintentional yet unsurprising, approach to only showing one viewpoint of historical events that leads you questioning practically every statement or fact contained within It is almost as if there is a deliberate attempt to avoid humanising the Arabs at any cost which ironically fits rather snugly and neatly with Israeli state indoctrination of the population to view any all Arabs as The Enemy.That s not to say that the book hasn t attempted impartiality just that it tried so hard to be impartial that it ended up only showing the side of the story most familiar with the Israeli author.