Twenty-one essays culled from such publications as Commentary and The New Yorker offer a fairly proficient account of thirty year's worth of Middle East politics since 1967, with an emphasis on the Arab-Israeli conflict. A highly accomplished reporter, Elon gives the reader a sense of what it was like to travel with an Israeli tank corps in the Sinai, visit Cairo as one of the first Israelis there in 1978, and be present for other events historic and mundane. He also ably captures the mood of leaders and citizens in places as diverse as the Jewish settlements in Hebron and the Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) headquarters in Tunis.
Yet the collection largely fails to deliver the promised "timely analysis of the conflicts between Jews and Arabs." However well Elon summarizes events, he has a harder time addressing their root causes or assessing their implications for the future of Arab-Israeli relations. He only partially accounts for the 1982 war in Lebanon, the Palestinian intifada, and other key episodes. In general, his descriptions lack significant historical context. His chapter on the 1993 peace accords describes at length clandestine interactions between Israeli and PLO representatives in Oslo but does not explain why the two sides became "committed to the idea of a Palestinian-Israeli compromise—a goal. . . [once] almost tantamount to treason." In addition, the essays overlap too much, so that the reader of the whole volume finds extensive repetition.