Rant Disguised As Review

Two weeks ago, it was Leon Wieseltier who used his review of Checkpoint to launch a political tirade that had hardly anything to do with the book. This week, Max Boot claims that spot, in his review of Dennis Ross’ The Missing Peace: The Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace and Edward Said’s From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map. Boot devotes eight paragraphs to Ross’ book, describing the envoy’s twelve years of involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation process, and generally praising both the man and his book. In reference to the Oslo accords, he says that

Within two years those talks produced what was widely hailed as a breakthrough: a Declaration of Principles under which Israel would withdraw from large parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians would establish an interim government, and both sides would work toward a settlement.

but makes no mention of the fact that settlement activity, which had been confined to the Green Line area before Oslo in fact expanded to the territories after Oslo. Similarly, he talks about Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Noble Sanctuary, but with no mention of the thousand armed guards that accompanied him. Boot then spends another four paragraphs on the late Edward Said’s book, evaluating it only insofar as it compares with Ross’ book. He characterizes the leading Palestinian intellectual as “zealous,” dismissing his views into why the Oslo accords failed as “extremism,” and using quotation marks when he talks about the land Palestinians claim as their own. Boot makes it clear that the reader should trust Ross’ assessment of why Oslo failed rather than Said’s, and then ends his review with his own policy recommendation and apologetics for the wall of separation.

Given Oslo’s failure, it is not surprising that Israel and the United States are going in a different direction, with President Bush generally supporting Prime Minister Sharon’s desire to unilaterally pullout of the Gaza Strip and fence off the West Bank. Separation between Israelis and Palestinians may not be a very exciting option – it lacks the glamour of all the secret shuttles and high-level meetings that Mr. Ross chronicles – but at the moment it offers the best bet for peace.