The Decline of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Middle East Politics and the Quest for Regional Order

By Avraham Sela

Subjects: Peace
Paperback : 9780791435380, 440 pages, November 1997
Hardcover : 9780791435373, 440 pages, December 1997

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Table of contents


List of Abbreviations
I. Nation, State, and Regional Conflict

1. Introduction: Explaining Regional Arab Politics

2. The Regional Arab System

3. The Emergence of a Regional Conflict System

II. The Politics of Escalation—From the "Arab Cold War" to the June 1967 War

4. For the Sake of Palestine: "Unity of Action"

5. Collapse of Summitry and the Road to War

III. The Politics of Reappraisal and Adaptation

6. A Turning Point in Khartoum

7. The Beleaguered Nasir

8. The Road to the October War

IV. The Politics of the Peace Process

9. The Divisive Peace Diplomacy

10. The Lebanese Civil War: Brokers and Pawns

11. The Burden of Arab Consensus: Egypt-Israel Peace Accord and Arab Response
V. The Decade of Fragmentation and Disarray

The Arab World in the 1980s: An Overview

12. The Iraq-Syria Conflict and the Gulf War

13. Crossroads of the Lebanon War

14. In Search of Another Peace Process

VI. The Dialectic of Force and Diplomacy

Between the Palestinian and Gulf Crises

15. The Intifada and New Regional Alignment

16. The Kuwait Crisis and the Peace Process: Toward A New Middle East Order?




Selected Bibliography


Addresses the inter-Arab dimension of Middle East politics and its impact on the Palestinian conflict.


This historical study of international Middle East politics in regional perspective presents a comprehensive analysis of the interplay between inter-Arab politics and the conflict with Israel—the two key issues which have shaped the Middle East contemporary history (and made it simultaneously tumultuous and a focus of international affairs).

The Decline of the Arab-Israeli Conflict addresses the changing political behavior of the regional Arab system in the Palestine conflict, from total enmity to negotiated peace with Israel. This change is explained as a reflection of state formation process and constant thrust of ruling elites to disengage from compelling supra-state commitments stemming from Pan-Arab nationalist ideology and Islamic political culture.

The book scrutinizes the role of Arab summit conferences which, since 1964, became the main collective Arab institution for decision making on common core issues—foremost of which was the conflict with Israel. The summits' main role was to legitimize incremental departure from the overburdening Palestine conflict whose powerful collective symbolism threatened states' autonomy. Summits' consensus sanctioned shifts from hitherto established collective Arab norms toward Israel as well as on inter-Arab relations, in accordance with core actors' interests. The summits offer a view to the Arab regional system's evolution as a negotiated inter-state order based on mutual recognition of sovereign states as opposed to compulsive collectivism in the name of Pan-Arabism. They were, in fact, a manipulation of the regional Arab system by primary participants' coalitions through employment of financial, ideological, and political trade-offs to resolve inter-Arab differences and reach a consensus on redefined collective goals.

Avraham Sela is Senior Lecturer in the Department of International Relations, The Hebrew University, Israel.


"Unlike other studies … this book accentuates the shifting powers from the Arab League to Arab summitry as an instrument of regional dialogue … This is the best book yet written on inter-Arab alignments, the historical drift of Arab summitry, the fading of Pan-Arabism since the 1967 war, and the evolution toward Middle East peace." — American Historical Review

"…an excellent book … meticulously detailed and documented…" — SHOFAR

"This is an extremely complete account of the public record of the diplomatic history of the Arab world with regard to Israel and inter-Arab conflict. It's meticulous in its presentation of the available record regarding the historical drift of Arab summitry." — Ellis Goldberg, University of Washington