Edward Said opposes the "peace process" because it has been deliberately designed to confine Palestinians to cantons which are isolated from one another, over which Israel controls overall sovereignty, water , exits and entrances, overall security and so on. The "peace process" has allowed Israel to extend its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip, with arrangements lest costly than the old direct military rule, letting the Palestinian Authority have "limited autonomy" in Palestinian population centers, the cantons, while it retains all the best land and continues expropriating Palestinian land and building more settlements, most fervently under the "moderate" Labor governments, contrary to much illusion. Israel currently retains direct rule in about seventy two percent of the West Bank and about fourty percent of the Gaza Strip. Said makes very clear that he believes the "peace process" to be similar to the effort in apartheid South Africa to establish batustans,"homelands" for the blacks. Doubtless, he says, the Palestinian cantons will one day be declared a "Palestinian state" but it will actually be no more than a caricature of the bantustans of South Africa.
He was on close terms with Arafat and many of the top PLO leaders before 1993. He offers an utterly scathing critique of Arafat and the PLO leadership. He portrays them as unbelievable morons and unbelievably corrupt and brutal. He says the main reason the PLO succumbed to Israel's offer in 1993 was that Arafat and his goons were facing an internal rebellion within the PLO because of their corruption, stupidity and lack of democracy. So they jumped at an agreement that made them Israel's collaborator and gave them protection. Their main duty is to round up, and often torture and sometimes murder all people whom Israel believes to be a threat to its always threatened "security" a very elastic concept which includes a great many non-violent persons
Since 1993, Arafat has spent all of the Palestinian Authority's money funding twelve or thirteen secret police agencies and buying off his enemies, real or potential, often with salaries for government jobs that entail absolutely nothing. He graphically portrays Arafat's incredible stupidity as he has endlessly begged the Israelis for more crumbs, and is always hoodwinked. Probably the best chapter in the book (and by far the longest) is "On Visiting Wadie" where he describes, among other incidents, an interview he was granted with the acid tongued PA minister Yasser Abd Rabbo, that was very cordial. Several months later Rabbo, on Arafat's orders, sent goons to all bookstores under Palestinian jurisdiction to seize Said's books and carry them away.
A point that he constantly reiterates throughout this book is something that he says that he has been making to Arafat and other Palestinians for years. He says that Palestinians need to try to emulate the international educational efforts, lobbying and other forms of activism of the old anti-apartheid movement of South Africa. The Arab world, he notes, is currently run by dictatorships of varrying degrees of brutality, most of them propped up by the West, and is at an all time low. Arabs, he says, especially the various kept intellectuals of the pro-Western regimes, are immensely ignorant of Israel. They focus all their attention on the Labor party, but not on any genuine elements of peace in Israel like Israel Shahak or the late General Matti Peled or his daughter who expressed sympathy for the Palestinians after her daughter was blown up by a Hamas suicide bomb. Or the composer Daniel Barenboim, with whom Said has developed a friendship. Or Israel's revisionist historians like Benny Morris, Illan Pappe, Zeev Sternhell, Tom Segev, etc. who were interviewed about their findings on Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestians in 1948 on Israel's fiftieth aniversary special on Israeli TV (of all places) in 1998.
In the rest of the book, among other subjects, he has some interesting things to say about the late Sir Isiah Berlin (especially Berlin's relationship with Noam Chomsky),the difference between Labor and Likud, comparing Shimon Peres and Bibi Netanyahu, with some rather amusing anecdotes about his encounters with Bibi in the late 80's and the great labor party fraud Yossi Beilin, from whom he takes two very pertinent quotes about the true nature of the peace process (page 170).