To prepare for President Obama's trip to Israel this week, it's worth reading Elliott Abrams's book Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Sometimes the most revealing administration memoirs are not written by the key principals. Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush, merits just seven references in Condoleezza Rice’s memoir, one reference in Bush’s book and none in Vice President Richard Cheney’s account of administration policymaking. Yet Abrams had a front-row seat — and played a critical role — in nearly all eight years of the Bush administration’s efforts to forge peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Less burdened by the need to burnish his image and still seething at what he believes was a misguided lunge at peacemaking glory in the final months of Bush’s presidency, Abrams exposes tensions, mishaps and personality conflicts that had been glossed over in earlier accounts. In particular, he writes of sharp divisions between Rice and Israeli officials that mirror the current conflicts between Israel and the Obama administration.
Some of the details — including excerpts from diplomatic texts — may be too much for some readers, but “Tested by Zion” will be catnip for anyone interested in diplomatic history or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Abrams’s account of the difficult choices faced by the administration — and the policy decisions it made — will fuel endless debate for generations of students studying international affairs.
Abrams's book is available on Amazon.com.