by Yossi Alpher
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“Anyone seeking to understand how Israelis and Palestinians traded the hopes of Oslo for something approaching hopelessness is well-advised to read this book. With penetrating analysis and elegant prose, Yossi Alpher has told the gripping story of three days nearly two decades ago that continue to haunt would-be peacemakers. Yossi’s faithful readers will not be disappointed with his latest effort.”
— Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, Bard College
“A riveting account of the crucial days in March 2002 when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was profoundly changed for the worse. The peace camp has never recovered from those wrenching days, and we live now without any hope of a just settlement. Alpher is a highly respected expert who has spent decades studying this conflict from both sides.”
— Bruce Riedel, director of the Brookings Intelligence Project
“A critical assessment of a key period in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict never before presented in such detail. The best and most capable players at the executive and political levels proved unable to forge any resolution, final or partial, because both parties continued to maintain an insurmountable gulf between themselves. This is a MUST read for anyone daring to tackle the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of Israel-Arab relations in general.”
— Efraim Halevy, former Head of the Mossad (1998-2002)
In his latest book, DEATH TANGO: Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat, and Three Fateful Days in March, Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad official and one of Israel’s foremost analysts of Israeli strategic issues, traces the current fraught relationship between Israel and Palestine to three dramatic events that occurred in March 2002. First, there was a bloody suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel on March 27th at a Passover celebration. Then, the Arab League met in Beirut on March 28th and approved the Arab Peace Initiative. Finally, on March 29th, Israel reinvaded the West Bank in Operation Defensive Shield. Taken together, Alpher argues, these three events were a catalyst for extensive change in the Middle East.
Based on many interviews and the author’s unique experience and inside knowledge, DEATH TANGO is filled with thorough and thoughtful analysis that has never before been published. Rowman & Littlefield will release Alpher’s new book on February 15th (Hardcover, 978-1538162071, $36; Ebook, 978-1538162088, $34).
Why write this book twenty years after the events took place? “It took time for the significance of these events to sink in, and for me to recognize their strategic impact on Israel and the region,” Alpher explains. “The chronological distance was helpful in understanding what went on in late March 2002 among Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab world and the United States. Taken alone, each of the three major events described in the book is not so exceptional. When viewed as a three-day continuum, however, something exceptional is seen to have happened—even in Middle East terms.”
DEATH TANGO is about the interaction among these three critical events, and the key personalities involved. It moves from Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office where Ariel Sharon rants against Yasser Arafat, to Washington, DC where the US fumbles and misunderstands the dynamics at work, to the Jenin refugee camp, the “suicide capital of Palestine,” where Israeli soldiers win a bloody military battle but lose in the war of public opinion. The book also includes:
- An exclusive interview with New York Time’s commentator Tom Friedman, in which he explains how he sold the Saudis a peace plan.
- Why Sharon invited himself to the Arab League meeting in Beirut and why the Arabs, who saw him as Genghis Khan incarnate, turned him down.
- A blow-by-blow account of the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history.
- What Sharon and Arafat had in common and what they did not.
- Why the Arab Peace Initiative of March 2002 delivered a measure of stability and co-existence, but not peace.
- Why there won’t be a two-state solution anytime soon between Israel and the Palestinians – but there won’t be all-out war either.
Alpher concludes that the new Arab-Israel and Palestinian-Israeli realities forged by these three pivotal events are here to stay. The combination of Palestinian overreach, Israeli security concerns and territorial greed, and Arab state indifference ensures that a two-state solution will not happen. In parallel, the Arabs need Israel as a partner against Iran and militant Islam. When pressured on any of these issues, their leaders fall back on the Arab Peace Initiative as the authoritative legitimizer of the status quo. Palestinians and Israelis, like Arafat and Sharon in their day, are dancing “a kind of death tango.”
A must read for anyone interested in history, Middle East politics, Israel, the United States in the Middle East, and international strategic affairs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Yossi (Joseph) Alpher is a consultant and writer on Israel-related strategic issues. He is the author of the prize-winning Periphery: Israel’s Search For Middle East Allies and No End Of Conflict: Rethinking Israel-Palestine (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015 and 2016, respectively). His latest book is Winners and Losers in the ‘Arab Spring’: Profiles in Chaos (Routledge, 2020), which won the Chaikin Prize in 2021.
Born in Washington, DC, Alpher served in the Israel Defense Forces as an intelligence officer in the late 1960s, followed by service in the Mossad in the ‘70s. From 1981 to 1995 he was associated with the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, ultimately serving as director of center. From 1995 to 2000 he served as director of the American Jewish Committee’s Israel/Middle East Office in Jerusalem. In July 2000 (during the Camp David talks) he served as Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Israel. From 2001 to 2012 he was coeditor, with Ghassan Khatib (until recently vice-president of Bir Zeit University) of the bitterlemons.net family of internet publications.
Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat, and Three Fateful Days in March
By Yossi Alpher
Rowman & Littlefield; February 15, 2022
(Hardcover, 978-1538162071, $36, 224 Pages; Ebook, 978-1538162088, $34)