If you can handle the $125 price, Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East is an excellent reference volume. It offers pithy political biographies, copious country profiles, well-researched war accounts, and beneficial backgrounders.
Some entries are better than others. Sela devotes seventy pages to the Arab-Israel conflict and its subsequent diplomatic triumphs and blunders. This entry nearly constitutes a book within a book and might do well to be marketed as such. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad gets only a half-page, leaving the reader thirsting for more.
In fact, this encyclopedia is particularly lacking in its coverage of militant Islam. Both al-Qa‘ida and its ringleader Usama bin Ladin were not deemed important enough to highlight, despite their incontrovertible influence in the Middle East when this volume was published in 1999. Hamas's founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, is not profiled; nor is Hizbullah's leader, Hasan Nasrallah. Further, because the Political Encyclopedia deals solely with the Middle East, Afghanistan and even Pakistan are understandably omitted but should be reconsidered for future volumes, given their recent salience in the region's affairs.
Sela has chosen a fine array of contributors. Barry Rubin (Bar Ilan University) deals with terrorism; David Sagiv (Hebrew University) covers Egypt; Yehudit Ronen (Tel Aviv University) discusses water politics, and Meir Litvak (Tel Aviv University) writes on Algeria. Sela, a professor of Palestinian history at Hebrew University, deals with all issues pertaining to Palestinians. The Political Encyclopedia showcases the depth of Israeli talent on subjects Middle Eastern and demonstrates the accuracy and objectivity of their work, making this an excellent one-volume reference book for libraries.