Book - MIT Press

Indecision Points: George W. Bush and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

| December 2014


Although George W. Bush memorably declared, "I’m the decider," as president he was remarkably indecisive when it came to U.S. policy toward the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. His administration's policymaking featured an ongoing clash between moderate realists and conservative hard-liners inspired by right-wing religious ideas and a vision of democracy as cure-all. Riven by these competing agendas, the Bush administration vacillated between recognizing the Palestinian right to self-determination and embracing Israeli leaders who often chose war over negotiations. Through the years, the administration erratically adopted and discarded successive approaches to the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. The results of this irresolution included the stunning triumph of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections, Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon, the 2008–2009 clash between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and, in the end, virtually no diplomatic progress toward lasting peace.

In Indecision Points, Daniel Zoughbie examines the major assumptions underpinning U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East during the Bush years. Was there one policy or two? Was the Bush administration truly serious about peace? In a compelling account, Zoughbie offers original insights into these and other important questions. Drawing on the author's own interviews with forty-five global leaders, including Condoleezza Rice, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, Tom DeLay, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, Shlomo Ben Ami, and Salam Fayyad, Indecision Points provides the first comprehensive history of the Bush administration's attempt to reshape political order in a "New Middle East."

About the Author

Daniel E. Zoughbie is the Sultan Postdoctoral Fellow at the Middle East Center at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been an International Security Program Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a Visiting Scholar at Stanford, and a Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University and has taught at the University of California, Berkeley.



"Zoughbie meticulously maps the White House's changing approaches toward Israel and the Palestinian territories. In the process, he finds a pattern of mistakes that future administrations would do well to avoid."-Zach Cohen, National Journal

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"Zoughbie clearly and concisely records Bush's missteps and his pervasive double standards."Publishers Weekly

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"Convincing and insightful."Journal of Peace Research

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"Particularly useful . . . highly relevant"—Middle East Journal

"Rigorously researched and very informative . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Zoughbie argues that the policy of the George W. Bush administration toward the Israeli–Palestinian conflict was chiefly characterised by damaging indecision. He claims that this irresolute approach, aimed at satisfying both moderate realists and conservative hardliners at home, merely intensified the conflict rather than helping to resolve it."Survival


Praise for Indecision Points

"Though George W. Bush claims to have been a decisive president, in this revealing book, Daniel Zoughbie shows that in practice Bush was dangerously indecisive when it came to the all-important Middle East peace process. For anyone concerned about the causes of war and the prospects for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, Indecision Points is an essential read."

Fawaz A. Gerges, Professor of the International Relations of the Middle East, London School of Economics, and author of The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World

"Daniel Zoughbie's book is essential reading for those who want to understand the policies of the George W. Bush administration toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Drawing on rich interviews with participants, Zoughbie provides a detailed history that reveals much about key internal debates, the disagreements of leading officials, and the beliefs that guided U.S. policies. This book offers deep insight into how the Bush foreign policy machine operated, insights that will be of interest far beyond the Levant."

Jeremy Pressman, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Middle East Studies, University of Connecticut, and author of Warring Friends: Alliance Restraint in International Politics

"For anyone wishing to understand the reasons for America's disastrous failures in the Middle East in the post 9/11 era, this book will be a very good place to start. Daniel Zoughbie offers a fascinating account of the part played by the Bush administration in the diplomacy surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He begins by illuminating the underlying philosophical assumptions that shaped America's broader engagement with the Middle East. His compelling argument is that George W. Bush never decided between the moralist and the realist positions and, as a result, his policy was incoherent and ineffective. It is a story with no end of a lesson. The book should therefore be required reading for the makers of American policy toward this endlessly complex and troubled region."

Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford, and author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World

"Aptly titled, Indecision Points reveals not only the indecisiveness behind the Bush administration's foreign policy in the Middle East but also its unproductive and even damaging effects on the peace process today. Drawing on compelling interviews, research, analysis, and his own deep knowledge of the issues, Daniel Zoughbie offers his readers an understanding as to why America and the international community at large cannot afford to turn their backs on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—or even worse, be indecisive about it."

James D. Wolfensohn, Former President of the World Bank and Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement

About This Book

Indecision Points: George W. Bush and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Indecision Points: George W. Bush and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Zoughbie, Daniel E.. Indecision Points: George W. Bush and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, December 2014.

The Author