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Title: Rise of the partisans : America's escalating mediation bias toward the Arab-Israeli conflict
Author: Swisher, Clayton Edward
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 1225
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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This submission for PhD by Publication includes two studies I conducted during 8 years of dedicated field research examining the US role in mediating the Arab-Israeli conflict. These studies developed from my collection of in-depth oral testimonies and were buttressed by my recovery and examination of troves of original documents that had been previously denied any public, much less academic, scrutiny. The scope of this qualitative research and my political and historical analysis of it resulted in two published books that chronicle the unsuccessful American efforts to negotiate Arab-Israeli peace agreements during the presidencies of William Clinton, George W. Bush, and the first term of Barack Obama. In order of publication, they are The Truth About Camp David (New York: Nation Books, 2004) and The Palestine Papers: The End of the Road? (London: Hesperus Press, 2011). The original academic contribution of both works was the presentation of new empirical evidence to advance understanding of how heavily biased American mediation severely damaged this diplomatic undertaking. Despite being a solidly pro-Israel country, the United States had previously been able to achieve some notable mediation successes when it made efforts to adopt an “even-handed” approach. Yet in the period covered by both my books, I demonstrated how top American mediators—comprised of mostly pro-Israel partisans—dismissed any pretext of impartiality, and in most instances even escalated their mediation bias. This behavior has exacerbated the Arab-Israeli conflict and made the stated aim of a comprehensive peace a very distant prospect. The Truth About Camp David was intended as a first rough draft of history. The title references the famous summit convened by President Clinton in July 2000 that failed to forge peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the overarching US-led “peace process” around it which contributed to the outbreak of the Second Intifada. The book also details the effort to conclude an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement at Geneva just months before, which also failed. My research advanced the thesis that both the Geneva and Camp David summits were historic miscarriages of diplomacy by my presentation of granular insider accounts revealing the intensity of American mediation bias. I also exposed the general disorganization of its negotiating team, a dysfunction that was largely unknown to the public prior to my book’s release. My primary purpose in writing The Truth About Camp David was thus to enable its reinterpretation by making public new evidence about this watershed moment and the period surrounding it. Relying primarily on oral history, I interviewed US, Arab, Israeli and European officials who were first-hand participants to collect their personal narratives. I sought to identify discrepancies in their accounts, and attempted to reconcile them through further interviews, document interrogation, and my own analysis. A key challenge of The Truth About Camp David was thus to weave a thread through the various testimonies and present, as best as I could, a coherent historical narrative. Following that, my aim was to have it reviewed and discussed among credible scholars and the foreign policy community. The testimonies within The Truth About Camp David directly challenged the official narrative and prevailing media orthodoxy at the time of Palestinian blame and Syrian intransigence. As a result, it helped reframe both political debate and academic scholarship concerning this crucial period of American diplomatic intervention. In 2006, The Truth About Camp David was translated into Arabic, giving its contents even greater reach. My 2011 book “The Palestine Papers: The End of the Road?” continued my earlier line of inquiry and was largely based on documents given to me the year prior, referred to as “The Palestine Papers,” the largest leak of confidential negotiating records in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Published in full by Al Jazeera Media Network, and in limited partnership with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the content of the files generated headlines around the world from January 24-27, 2011. My additional research for The Palestine Papers was released in May 2011 as an anthology of select papers with my accompanying qualitative analysis and interpretation rather than a stylistic mediation critique. My aim in writing “The Palestine Papers: The End of the Road?” publication was to reach beyond Al Jazeera and Guardian audiences and equip interested scholars, practitioners, and skeptics with essential highlights from the papers as well as an analytical framework to put them into context. My research for The Palestine Papers sought to help reconcile the intervening gap of negotiating history from Truth About Camp David, following the trajectory of how Israelis and Palestinians alike had grown even more conditioned to expect if not rely upon biased American mediation that excessively tilts toward Israel. The Palestine Papers also catalogues for the first time the dynamics that enabled US negotiators to escalate its role from being the self-appointed judge of Palestinian negotiating behavior during the talks (in the Camp David 2000 era) to the unilateral “juror” of its final-status positions (evidenced by the presidencies of George W Bush and Barack Obama). A supplemental essay included in this submission analyzes an earlier diplomatic era to advance my thesis of how far US mediation bias has traveled since America assumed the principal negotiator role of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the early 1970’s. Indeed, based on the overarching narrative that evolve from both those publications and this essay, it is entirely predictable to see how America’s mediation posture has matured into the era of extreme pro-Israel bias that now characterizes the approach of the Trump Administration. I will interpret this collective diplomatic history using a range of multidisciplinary academic theories addressing biased mediation in international conflict resolution. Then, by drawing on the scholarship from my previous books, I will assess and critique the theoretical benefits of employing biased mediators in conflict resolution—as some prominent scholars have advocated for. By taking a fresh look at earlier Arab-Israeli negotiations led by Henry Kissinger under President’s Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, I am able to make even greater contrast to that very limited era when biased American mediation in the Arab-Israeli conflict appeared to yield limited success. The process of applying the scholarship of others against the knowledge created from my own published works enable me to demonstrate in this essay that the present day American negotiating bias toward Israel largely exceeds what the normative scholarship on mediation bias envisaged.
Supervisor: Pappe, Ilan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Arab-Israeli conflict ; mediation ; bias ; US diplomatic history ; Israeli politics ; Palestinian politics ; US foreign policy ; negotiations