Email this review


A knowledgeable popular history of 35 years of Israeli military campaigns--Herzog, twice chief of military intelligence (among other posts), was involved right along--but not, as suggested, a comprehensive political-military analysis of the Arab-Israeli wars. The focus throughout is on the detailed narration of battles, with the political and diplomatic context treated summarily, and the critical role of Israeli intelligence and weaponry ignored or taken for granted. Similarly, the viewpoint throughout is implicitly, if not uncritically, pro-Israeli. Herzog's description of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which justifiably occupies almost a third of the book, credits the Arab states, especially Egypt under Sadat, with assimilating the lessons of the 1973 defeat in mounting its successful surprise attack against Israel--and scores the Israeli leadership for falling to alter its preconceptions about Arab strategy in the face of contrary intelligence. Herzog notes, too, the effect of sophisticated technology on the balance of forces and the options available to military strategists (and dwells on the Soviet Union's material and diplomatic aid to the Arabs). Nonetheless, the human element--on the battlefield or in operational headquarters--remains paramount. (External events with wide political repercussions--the US airlift of supplies to Israel, the Arab oil embargo--are noted only in passing.) Still, the book is comprehensive and readable: the war of attrition is attended to as well as the ""hot"" wars, the internal dissensions as well as the crucial decisions. A one-volume alternative, therefore, to the many existing accounts of the separate conflicts, and a succinct companion to specialized studies.

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 1982
Publisher: Random House