The subtitle was supposed to read "from war to peace," but a recalcitrant Hafiz al-Asad spoiled the symmetry. This misplaced optimism in a Syrian willingness to end the conflict with Israel results from Ma'oz's dubious conclusion that, as far back as 1988, Asad made the strategic decision "to reach a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict" - political, that is, and not military. Unfortunately, the evidence that Ma'oz so scrupulously marshals does not support this thesis, rendering his coverage of events since 1988 somewhat hollow. (If Asad has in fact "given priority" to a diplomatic rather than a military strategy, why has so little happened in eight years?)
With this exception, Ma'oz has written an excellent survey of Syrian-Israeli relations since 1948. He shows how the bilateral relationship of two states with a combined population of under twenty million, normally not of much interest to the outside world, in this case is of great interest indeed. He recounts how they went to war four times and skirmished on countless occasions, how for many years each side represented a great power alliance, how their confrontation now dominates the military dimension of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and how complex is the diplomacy between them. While conceding that the Palestinians are at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he convincingly shows that the Syrians alone have "manifested a consistent political and ideological hostility to the Jewish entity since the 1920s, and a military threat to Israel's security since 1938."