Nathan Thrall s commentary on the most intractable dispute of our time is something shocking: it is fair. Into a debate consumed by ferocious passions he enters dispassionately, except that he has a passion for peace. For this reason he is uncommonly trustworthy. His familiarity with the infamous complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian tangle is remarkable, as is his mental composure. This learned and candid book is a genuine contribution to our understanding of an increasingly frightening conflict.
Both the book and the title of The Only Language They Understand perfectly encapsulate the attitudes of the two sides to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The title also illustrates Thrall s main thesis: that over the entire hundred years of this conflict, only force or the threat of force, whether military, political, economic, diplomatic or in another form, has obligated the two sides to compromise. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand why this conflict is so intractable and remains unresolved.
Rashid Khalidi, author of Brokers of Deceit and Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies, Columbia University
A terrific piece of analysis by a keen and empathic observer of the region.
Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower and Thirteen Days in September
These are the toughest criticisms anywhere of decades of Israeli policy. The failings of the Palestinians are here as well but the arrows are aimed at Jerusalem. Serious supporters of Israel should have their answers ready or be prepared to lose debates to opponents quoting Nathan Thrall.
Elliott Abrams, Deputy National Security Advisor, George W. Bush administration
For those who look at the Middle East and throw up their hands at a hopeless morass, Nathan Thrall s brilliant book is a compelling corrective. This most well-informed and well-connected of experts gives rigorous attention to the reality lurking behind the myths: that in this seemingly frozen conflict, carefully applied power and assiduous compulsion have often been the midwives of progress. Eloquent, fact-rich, full of vivid characters, and relentlessly contemporary in its narrative, The Only Language They Understand is a withering indictment of conventional wisdom and a necessary, essential book.
Mark Danner, author of Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War
Nathan Thrall argues with great power and lucidity that the only language the two sides to the conflict understand is force. This strong view, strongly held by Thrall, has serious political implications. He may be right, he may be wrong, but he must be read by anyone who hasn t given up the idea and the hope of ending this bloody conflict.
Avishai Margalit, author of On Compromise and Rotten Compromises