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The View from Damascus: State, Political Community and Foreign Relations in Twentieth-Century Syria
Itamar Rabinovich, Visiting Professor in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Sheds new light on the recent history and current politics and policies of this important Middle Eastern country. Throughout the last hundred years Syria has been a crucial hub of Middle Eastern events: the birth place and 'pulsating heart' of Arab nationalism, the object of colonial and regional ambitions, it has transformed into a regional power exerting influence over Lebanon and the Palestinians, Iran's closest ally and a thorn in the side of the Bush Administration. Itamar Rabinovich is uniquely qualified to take a panoramic view of Syria's modern history and contemporary politics. As a scholar, he spent thirty-five years studying Syria in diplomatic archives and through the range of sources available to current research. As a diplomat, he was Yitzhak Rabin's chief negotiator with Syria and Israel's ambassador to Washington, and thus a key participant in some of the events addressed in this volume.
The twenty-one essays cover the century from the eve of the First World War to the Bush Administration's row with Bashar al-Asad. They are focused on three principal themes: the notion of a Syrian entity and its translation into a Syrian state in its current boundaries; the conflict between rival concepts of the political community that inhabits the Syrian state; and issues of foreign policy with a particular emphasis on the Syrian-Israeli conflict and peace process. The main themes of Syrian history and politics are picked up at their inception and followed through the course of the twentieth century to the present day.
"The View From Damascus is an excellent historical and contemporary account of Syrian politics from a distinguished scholar and a seasoned diplomat. Rabinovich's in-depth knowledge of Syria has provided us with a rich analysis of a key actor in Middle Eastern modern history and politics. The reader is presented with an expert portrayal of Syria's evolving role in Arab and Syrian political parties and organizations as well as its relationships with minorities and other groups in the Levant. The chapter on Rabin and Asad is particularly well done and rewarding. This book is recommended highly to both specialists and the general public."
-- Farhad Kazemi, Professor of Politics and Middle Eastern Studies, New York University
"A gifted intellect, educator and diplomat, Itamar Rabinovich has now written a book which embodies his great strength: enormous solidity on the subject of Syria in regional affairs. His depth of history and insight are essential for serious scholars of the region."
-- Henry A. Kissinger
"Itamar Rabinovich is the most erudite and fair-minded of Israel's Syria-watchers. A major strand of his long career – as academic, diplomat, peace-negotiator and president of Tel Aviv University – has been the study of Israel's most bitter opponent.
Now that Syria and Israel are talking again his book is highly topical. All those interested in Middle East peace should read and ponder it. Arabs – and Syrians in particular – will learn a good deal about themselves as seen from the other side. But his analysis of Israel's fears, ambitions and complex decision-making will also alert them to the many obstacles still facing a resolution of the conflict."
-- Patrick Seale
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