So much literature has been generated by the American effort to promote peace between Arabs and Israelis that a reader should approach any new work on the topic by first asking what contribution it hopes to make. The present volume aims essentially at stocktaking. Its purpose, by synthesizing and interpreting -- and therefore, one hopes, putting into the form of an intelligible panorama -- the large amount of information that can be gleaned from personal accounts, partisan critiques, government documents, and the public record, is to portray and explain the current state of the U.S. search for Mideast peace.
Certainly, it seems time for this to be done. Two decades mark a sufficient passage of time to make stocktaking legitimate, all the more since most of the literature on the subject was produced simultaneously with the events chronicled here. As always under such circumstances, memoirs, reports, polemics, and analyses are swayed as much by the heat of recent and ongoing controversy as by pressing hopes and fears for the future. The utility, perhaps the luxury, of stocktaking is that some of the heat is reduced while earlier projections are possibly viewed retrospectively with more objectivity.
An even more important reason for putting the American search for Mideast peace into perspective at this time is the turn of events that occurred while the following pages were at the press and which gave birth to the Postscript at the book's end. With the United States now having agreed to speak directly to the Palestine Liberation Organization for the first time since 1975, a true crossroads may have been reached. Stocktaking seems not only advisable but necessary.