The Missing Peace The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace

Dennis Ross

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

880 Pages



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A New York Times Notable Book
Winner of the Society for History in the Federal Government's Henry Adams Prize

In The Missing Peace, his provocative inside story of the Middle East peace process, Dennis Ross recounts the search for enduring peace in that troubled region with unprecedented vividness, candor, and insight.

As the chief Middle East peace negotiator for both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Ross came to be the lone figure respected by all parties to the negotiations: Democrats and Republicans, Palestinians and Israelis, prime ministers and ordinary people on the streets of Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Washington, D.C.

In these pages Ross tells the story of the peace process from 1998, when he joined the State Department under James Baker, up to the collapse of negotiations in the last days of the Clinton administration—an outcome that led Palestinians to commence a grisly "second Intifada" and Israelis to wage a punishing military offensive in the West Bank and Gaza. Along the way, Ross dramatizes all the crucial aspects of the search for peace: the summits at Madrid, Oslo, Geneva, and Camp David; the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin; the rise and fall of Binyamin Netanyahu; the distinct personalities and strategies of Rabin, Shimon Peres, Yasir Arafat, Hafez al-Asad, and Bill Clinton; and the awkward first steps of the Palestinian Authority. He takes us behind the scenes to see high-stakes diplomacy as it is actually conducted, recounting the round-the-clock summit meetings and secret negotiations, the stalemates and broken promises. And he explains the issues at the heart of the struggle for peace: border disputes, Israeli security, the Palestinian "right of return," and the status of Jerusalem. To conclude the story, he offers a series of lessons we might learn from the failure of the process and an epilogue in which he portrays the high costs of the Bush administration's decision to disengage from Middle East peacemaking.

The Missing Peace explains, in a way that no other book has done, why Middle East peace remains so elusive. It is the most engaging book to date on the most complex and involving conflict in the world today.


Praise for The Missing Peace

"With his day-by-day chronicle of American diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one might expect cynicism and disillusionment from Ross, but he insistently details improvements in the political landscape of the Middle East others may not see and the progress that Israelis and Palestinians have made toward peace."—Michael Parks, Los Angeles Times

"Profuse detail, keen insight, and barely concealed passion [characterize this] extremely important corrective. [This book] will serve scholars of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a major source of information and analysis. It is certainly the most detailed and comprehensive exposition of the course of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, starting with the Madrid Conference of 1991 and ending with the stalemate in which we now find ourselves . . . The most innovative and revealing part of Ross's book [is] the blow-by-blow descriptions of the successive rounds, during the 1990s and 2000, of negotiations between Israel and Syria . . . Ross presents useful sketches of the protagonists of the peace process and offers critical insights into their performances."—Benny Morris, The New Republic

"Without a doubt [this is] an invaluable resource on the peace process [that] belongs on the shelf of any serious scholar of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."—The Jerusalem Post

"Ross tells the story well and with admirable objectivity . . . The book's greatest contribution is its detailed rendering of the story of the efforts to reach an Arab-Israeli settlement from 1988 to the end of 2000 . . . There is much to praise in this book."—William B. Quandt, Middle East Journal

"A cogent and compelling insider's account of American involvement in the [Middle East] peace process . . . Ross's narrative is laced with cogent evaluations of the major diplomatic episodes . . . Ross bolsters his evaluations with massive detail about the positions, statements, and counterarguments of the key figures during each and every round of negotiation. To its credit, this thick description will enlighten readers for years before government records will be declassified . . . In addition, the author provides penetrating sketches of the major players of all states . . . Ross deserves a wide audience."—Peter L. Hahn, Political Science Quarterly

"Why did Camp David II fail in July 2000? Was it the fault of the Israelis or the Palestinians? Could peace have been achieved between Syria and Israel? These and other questions about the history of Arab-Israeli diplomacy are answered with remarkable clarity in this masterfully written book, which documents the history of the Arab-Israeli peace process from the preparations for the Madrid conference in 1991 until the end of the Clinton administration . . . This book [is] more than just a very well-written diplomatic history by a key participant-observer. It contains three other elements which the general reader, as well as the specialist, will find of great interest. The first is a very valuable discussion of the 'narratives' of each side—the combination of myth and history that has influenced both Arab and Israeli decision-makers. The second element is Mr. Ross' extremely candid portraits of the individuals with whom he worked and negotiated, American, Arab, and Israeli. Finally, one can find throughout the book what might be termed 'Ross' rules' of how to negotiate. These are lessons on the techniques that work during negotiations and those that should be avoided. Though written in the context of the Arab-Israeli peace process, these lessons have a general applicability to negotiations in the international arena."—Robert O. Freedman, The Washington Times

"A comprehensive and fascinating memoir about the trials and tribulations of an American peace processor . . . Dennis Ross and the other members of his team . . . deserve our gratitude for all their efforts to bring a measure of peace and stability to a region that is notoriously prone to irrational behavior and violence. And Ross himself deserves special commendation for producing such a revealing record of these efforts."—Avi Shlaim, The Nation

"[An] important, voluminous, and keenly balanced memoir . . . Ross's analysis of the peace process is astute, but the real service he performs in this book is less in explaining the meaning of events than in setting the record straight. There has been much dispute over what was offered to the Palestinians in the 2000 Camp David meeting and in the months that followed. This book should end that discussion."—Ethan Bronner, The New York Times Book Review

"An amazing narrative. Ross does something essential if there is ever to be peace: quite simply, he tells the truth. In doing so, he dispels the myths that block a deal. This is the one book that should be read by everyone who cares about this crucial topic."—Walter Isaacson, author Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"Noble [and] exhaustive . . . Ross offers revealing and, occasionally, surprising portraits of various Israeli and Palestinian leaders."—Glenn Frankel, The Washington Post Book World

"Important . . . [Ross's] factual account [is] difficult to dispute, and his conclusions [are] all the more deserving of close scrutiny . . . The Missing Peace is several books rolled into one. It is the story of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the attempt in 1999 and 2000 to reach a final settlement, the Clinton administration's efforts to broker a deal between Israel and Syria, and Ross's involvement in all of these. It is an honest account, with all that the word implies: the peace process as he saw it, words as they were spoken-so much so that, even as he writes from a distance, he displays little of it. But what will at once be most awaited and most controversial is Ross's analysis of what went wrong with the Oslo agreement, what went wrong at Camp David, and, perhaps most anticipated of all, what [was] wrong with Yasser Arafat."—Robert Malley, The New York Review of Books

"Informative . . . The material is well-organized and smoothly narrated."—Hillel Halkin, Commentary

"[A book] for the historians. In more than 800 pages, an official at the center of American Diplomacy gives a detailed meeting-by-meeting account of who said what to whom."—The Economist

"Essential [reading] for those who wish to understand the U.S. approach to the Middle East . . . The book serves as an indispensable historical record of what U.S. policymakers sought to achieve—and why—at two critical junctures in the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf war in 1991 and in the era of putative Palestinian-Israeli peace after the 1993 Oslo accords. Ross's dedication cannot be faulted. Nor can his intelligence and technical knowledge be questioned."—Ahmad Samih Khalidi, Financial Times

"The Missing Peace is the definitive and gripping account of the sometimes exhilarating, often tortured twists and turns in the Middle East peace process, viewed from the front row by one of its major players, Dennis Ross. No one worked harder for peace than Dennis. He gave it everything he had and served our nation very well. Now he has provided us with a rich account of what happened that is essential to understanding both the past and the possible paths to the future."—Bill Clinton

"Few Americans have had a more intimate involvement with the complex issues that divide the Middle East than Dennis Ross. The Missing Piece presents a candid, thoughtful, and detailed picture of the process and the participants."—Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State

"Ross rendered a great public service as a tireless negotiator and has done so again with this well-written and instructive book—a classic must-read for anyone interested in the Middle East."—George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State

"I've never known anyone so deeply committed to the cause of peace in the Middle East as Dennis Ross. This book reflects not only that dedication but his brilliance in writing about it in a colorful and comprehensive way."—Warren Christopher, former U.S. Secretary of State

"A brilliant behind-the-scenes account of history in the making. Only Dennis Ross could have written such a lively, provocative, and insightful book."—Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State

"The Missing Peace is imbued with wisdom, and written with a mix of empathy and sadness, in character with the conflicting nature of the region."—Shimon Peres, former Israeli Prime Minister

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Dennis Ross

  • Dennis Ross, Middle East envoy and the chief peace negotiator in the presidential administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, is now a counselor and distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.