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A Path With Many Brambles

Mar 27, 2008

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Reported by

Barrie Hardymon

In Aaron David Miller's new book, The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search For Arab-Israeli Peace, he tells an old story about a rabbi summoned to the czar. He is told his whole village must be relocated to Siberia.

Determined to avoid this fate the rabbi tells the czar that if he cancels the decree, the rabbi will teach the czar's favorite horse to sing within a year. Returning to his village, the rabbi happily reports his success. "You can't deliver on that promise," the villagers reply. "I know, said the rabbi, "but in a year the czar, the horse, or I might die, or the horse might talk."

Miller tells this story as an illustration of one of the tactics that both Arab and Israeli negotiators use to respond to ideas they don't like. If they waited long enough, one of the players would change, or die — and no horse ever sings. It's only one of the reasons that the path to peace in Israel and Palestine has been so long, so bloody, and yielded so little actual peace. Aaron David Miller spent almost a quarter century working in the State Department — and working on that most Sisyphean of foreign puzzles. His book is incredibly readable — just flipping through it I found his descriptions of the larger-than-life characters he worked with (Arafat, Netanyahu) really compelling. We'll talk to him today — specifically, about America's role in the process. If you have questions for him, post them here.

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