The reasons for change in state elites’ perceptions of the adversary are fiercely contested by realists, constructivistis and neo-liberals in the international relations literature. A series of events – beginning with the October 1973 war and culminating in the Oslo peace process – offers a unique opportunity to assess the value of these theories in explaining change in the perceptions of Israel and Zionism in Syria, Egypt and Jordan. This study is based on articles on Israel and Zionism that appeared in the official army journals of these three states. The analysis suggests that, since the 1973 war, Egypt has perceived Israel as a formidable foe that must be restrained, Syria continues to deny Israel's legitimacy, and Jordan's perceptions of Israel changed dramatically from demonization to recognition. The realist paradigm, which focuses on changes in the regional and international balance of power, does best in explaining variations in the portrayal of Israel amongst these actors. Nevertheless, none of the theories offers a complete, timeless explanation of the issue. The limitations of any single theory to account for change in the perceptions of the adversary suggest that caution should be used in attempting to capture the complexity of social and political life in any single overarching theory.