A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, published in 1976, is a magisterial book: a sweeping narrative line; a sequencing of facts and data representing years of careful digging into memoirs and economic archives; a humane drama that makes you feel the state's founding as a world-historical event without a trace of parochial special pleading. His work on modern Jewish life in the West is equally compelling. The son of Brandeis University founding president Abram Sachar, he is in many ways the embodiment of its haskalah.
If American Jews honored their scholars as much as their pundits, they would take note of Sachar's evolving views, too. Which is why Sachar's newly published article in Foreign Affairs should not be skipped (spring for the $.99 and buy the pdf.). Without the usual equivocations, he is calling on President Obama to propose a peace plan and rally the Quartet to impose it:
But with so-called proximity talks and even faceto-face discussions endlessly collapsing in a lethal series of cross-border Arab rocket attacks and Israeli military retaliation, the great powers themselves at long last are faced with the challenge of borrowing from historical precedent and operating not as mediators but as principals.
Will they accept that challenge? More specifically, will U.S. President Barack Obama grasp the opportunity to jump-start a reasonable version of the Quartet’s master plan for the Holy Land? It is a formulation, after all, that reflects the weight not only of its sponsors’ best collective judgment and self-interests but also of their untapped collective powers of enforcement, including the selective bestowal or withdrawal of diplomatic, economic, or military support.
This is, by the way, virtually the same conclusion that the Economist has finally come to in its most recent issue:
Instead of giving up, Mr Obama needs to change his angle of attack. America has clung too long to the dogma that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are the way forward. James Baker, a former secretary of state, once said that America could not want peace more than the local parties did. This is no longer true. The recent history proves that the extremists on each side are too strong for timid local leaders to make the necessary compromises alone. It is time for the world to agree on a settlement and impose it on the feuding parties.
Curious, the collapse of face to face talks was thought to be a setback, but it is perhaps the very thing that was needed to show what was always true: that as with Camp David I, when Begin and Sadat could not longer sit in the same room, peace has no process until the American administration forces things.