The only language they understand : forcing compromise in Israel and Palestine

Thrall, Nathan author

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  • Creator Nathan Thrall
  • Format Books
  • Publication
    • First edition
    • New York : Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2017
  • Physical Details
    • x, 323 pages ; 25 cm
  • ISBNs 9781627797092, 1627797092, 9781627797108
  • OCLC ocn950448699


  • In a myth-busting analysis of the world's most intractable conflict, a star of Middle East reporting argues that only one weapon has yielded progress: confrontation. Scattered over the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea lie the remnants of failed peace proposals, international summits, secret negotiations, UN resolutions and state-building efforts. The conventional story is that these well-meaning attempts at peacemaking were repeatedly thwarted by the use of violence. Through a rich interweaving of reportage, historical narrative and forceful analysis, Nathan Thrall presents a startling counter-history. He shows that Israelis and Palestinians have persistently been marching toward partition, but not through the high politics of diplomacy or the incremental building of a Palestinian state. In fact, negotiation, collaboration and state-building--the prescription of successive American administrations--have paradoxically entrenched the conflict in multiple ways. They have created the illusion that a solution is at hand, lessened Israel's incentives to end its control over the West Bank and Gaza and undermined Palestinian unity. Ultimately, it is those who have embraced confrontation through boycotts, lawsuits, resolutions imposed by outside powers, protests, civil disobedience, and even violence who have brought about the most significant change. Published as Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza reaches its fiftieth year, which is also the centenary of the Balfour Declaration that first promised a Jewish national home in Palestine, The Only Language They Understand advances a bold thesis that shatters ingrained positions of both left and right and provides a new and eye-opening understanding of this most vexed of lands.


  • Includes bibliographical references and index.


  • Forcing compromise. The only language they understand -- Domination : Israeli conquest and its justifications. Feeling good about feeling bad ; Going native -- Collaboration : easing occupation as a failed strategy of liberation. Our man in Palestine ; Palestinian paralysis ; The end of the Abbas era -- Confrontation : Palestinian pressure and its limits. Not popular enough ; Rage in Jerusalem ; Hamas's chances ; Trapped in Gaza -- Negotiation : political horizons and other euphemisms for false hope. More than one state, less than two ; Faith-based diplomacy ; Obama's Palestine legacy
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