Riedel, formerly a senior advisor to three U.S. presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues, argues that "the Arab conflict with Israel, especially the perceived grievances of the Palestinian people, is the all-consuming issue" for Al-Qaeda's terrorists. From this claim springs his contention that forging "a just, two-state peace" between the Israelis and Palestinians should be the centerpiece of U.S. strategy for defeating its terrorist foe.
This argument is marred by a questionable methodology that, more than anything, seems to consist of trotting out only the data that bolster the book's conclusions. To be sure, Riedel can cite the vehement anger of Al-Qaeda leaders and operatives at Israel's creation, and he notes Osama bin Laden's claim on the sixtieth anniversary of the Jewish state's birth that "the Palestine question is my nation's central issue." But this is not the arch-terrorist's only statement on the matter. In his famed 1996 declaration of jihad against the United States, bin Laden outlined three grievances: U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, U.N. sanctions against Iraq, and American support for Israel. It was the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, and not Israel's creation, that he described as "the greatest disaster to befall the Muslims since the death of the Prophet Muhammad."
Similarly, Riedel stacks the deck in favor of his thesis by claiming that bin Laden became a terrorist due to Saudi Arabia's endorsement of the Oslo peace process. Though his open letter to Sheikh bin Baz, "The Betrayal of Palestine," was indeed bin Laden's first public pronouncement intended for a wide audience, it does not contain a call to jihad against Saudi Arabia or the United States over the issue. Bin Laden would not issue such a call until his message "The Invasion of Arabia," which centered on U.S. presence in the Saudi kingdom.
Nor does Riedel provide much reason as to why the United States is more likely to succeed in forging peace between Israel and the Palestinians now than in the past. Indeed, one of the world's most intractable conflicts seems to have grown more difficult with Hamas's visible rise in Gaza. Riedel acknowledges this in a roundabout way by claiming that "the key to success will be to persuade Hamas to become part of the process." Though he provides several steps designed to accomplish this, he does not address the complexities of negotiation with a terrorist group that proclaims Israel's destruction as its very raison d'être.
Riedel does get a number of significant points right, including Pakistan's centrality to the fight against terrorism and the continuing relevance of Al-Qaeda's central leadership. But his argumentation does not support the audacious claim that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Al-Qaeda's "all-consuming issue." Though solving this conflict would be an astonishing accomplishment for a large number of reasons, the reader is left with the impression that Riedel exaggerates both the likelihood of a solution and also the impact this would have on Al-Qaeda's war against the United States.
 Bruce Lawrence, Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden (London: Verso, 2005), p. 25.
 Osama bin Laden, "The Betrayal of Palestine," Dec. 29, 1994.
 Osama bin Laden, "The Invasion of Arabia," c. 1995-96.