Books by Abba Eban

Released: April 1, 1998

Eban obviously enjoyed himself during the Castle Lectures at Yale (collected here), as he ranged like a well-trained bull through a china shop of political correctness. Eban, for many years foreign minister of Israel and the author of many books (including Personal Witness, 1992), may not have much to say about the problems of the next century, but he has a sharp eye for the follies of the last, including summitry (``no situation is so bad that a badly conceived summit meeting cannot make it worse''); the UN (the ``myth of a powerful international organization,'' he notes, is the second ``most spectacular fallacy'' of the postWW II era); the revisionist view that the Soviet threat during the Cold War was never a real one; Ostpolitik, which he thinks was a Soviet victory, equivalent to the recognition of its military victories; and the US's reluctance to accord diplomatic recognition to countries of which it disapproves (on which he quotes Churchill that ``the reason for having diplomatic relations is not to confer a compliment, but to secure a convenience''). He is also tough on Israel, and in particular on the ``draconian punishments inflicted on the entire populations of the West Bank and Gaza'' in retaliation for the 1996 Jerusalem bombing. In all, or at least most, of these views he reflects the attitudes of professional diplomats, a group ``dominated by a sense of limitation proceeding from a somber view of human nature'' and pursuing ``relatively modest goals,'' but even here he has some sharp observations on the ``extraordinary record of strategic surprise'' in the last 60 years, a pattern of failure which may proceed from their training, which tends to discount ``the original, unpredictable, innovative factors in international conduct.'' As sharp, shrewd, and candid an assessment of at least the current state of international relations as we are likely to get. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 19, 1992

Further adventures, memories, and opinions of Israel's long- flying, silver-tongued dove. After his Abba Eban: An Autobiography (1977) and five other works of historical interest, there are few revelations here by this world-class diplomat/statesman who has been on the sidelines for 15 years. Nonetheless, the Cambridge-educated Eban has lost little of the legendary eloquence that served his country in the UN and in the foreign ministry during Israel's formative decades. We review much of that dramatic history through the speeches that Eban either wrote (``the first war in history in which the victor sued for peace and the loser called for unconditional surrender'') or overheard (``the Arafat speech would have disgraced a patient in a psychiatric clinic''). Precious bits of dialogue with world leaders are shared as well: When Harry Truman receives Eban's credentials, the President tells him, ``Let's cut the crap and have a good talk.'' There's also President Nixon breaking America's longstanding arms ban to Israel with the phrase, ``You'll get the stuff.'' Lying in between Eban gems such as ``Israel had committed the dark sin of survival'' are some strained phrases like ``my concern leapt up to an astronomical height,'' and these rare instances of overwriting are most pronounced when the author condemns the ``morally seditious'' attitude of Israelis who want to retain their present borders. The author also has some choice, unkind words for a host of world leaders and diplomats. At times self-congratulatory and opinionated, but Eban continues to be most readable. Read full book review >