Remove a few rhetorical flourishes (""a shared struggle for freedom,"" ""a mutually anguished passion for peace""), and this...



Remove a few rhetorical flourishes (""a shared struggle for freedom,"" ""a mutually anguished passion for peace""), and this is a sober, unromanticized account of Egyptian-Israeli conflict and dialogue--recurrent conflict and occasional, mostly secret dialogue. So: is Sachar, who covered most of this ground in his two-volume 1976 History of Israel, merely recasting his material and adding particulars on the subsequent road-to-peace? Chiefly (but not fatally), yes. Four-fifths of the book recounts what is largely stock-knowledge from his works and others'--Jewish settlement of Palestine, Israeli independence, the five successive (1948-73) Arab-Israeli Wars; the lesser-known aspect of this chronicle, told in tandem with Israeli internal developments, is what-happened-in-Egypt. Sachar's briefing on Egyptian aspirations, internal strains, and external rivalries has its value (apropos of both Nasser's ""diabolization of Israel"" and Sadat's moderation); but it is also limited by Sachar's far lesser knowledge of Egyptian than of Israeli affairs: he can write familiarly and shrewdly of Dayan and Ben Gurion (and Eshkol and Peres and so on), but it is not until well into the Sadat period, in the '70s, that we have more than a one-dimensional, daily-press acquaintance with Egyptian personalities and activities. ""The man's ability to play both sides was impressive,"" Sachar writes of Sadat (with reference, specifically, to 1971 Soviet pressure for a new confrontation with Israel); and indeed his treatment of Sadat could serve as an antidote to post-Jerusalem glorification of the late Egyptian president. It's here, too, that the book has greatest merit--in appreciating the pragmatic considerations that moved hard-liner Begin and hawkish Dayan, along with the ambitious Sadat (unable to turn the '73 victory to tangible benefit), toward a search for permanent peace. (The book ends, in effect, with the treaty-signing.) Overall, it is best suited to those who know least--especially the young, for whom the historical background may also be news. Others will find it a readable, generally reliable, distinctly realistic review.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Marek--dist. by Putnam

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981