MENACHEM BEGIN: The Legend and the Man by Eitan Haber
Kirkus Star

MENACHEM BEGIN: The Legend and the Man

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Menachem Begin explained: a journalist's account of events rather than a full-scale study of the man. The Israeli Prime Minister--a cipher when he came into power, a force since--is presented in the context of the evolution of his party, Likud, from Betar, the outcast Zionist organization, to the Irgun Zvai Leumi, a Jewish terrorist group in mandated Palestine, to a rehabilitated Opposition political party--and, finally, the ruling government of Israel. Haber, author of a book on the Entebbe rescue, rehashes the sensational events of the Mandate period and the Irgun explanations for them; in the process, however, he depicts not only the internecine political struggle between the Jewish Agency/Haganah and the IZL, but also the personal antipathy of Ben-Gurion toward Begin which resulted in a maligned image of Begin in histories of the founding of the Jewish state. For his part, Haber is at pains to show that Begin exercised restraint throughout the years of attack and political ostracism, and, statesmanlike, placed national concerns over politics. These critical events, many of them dramatized with (fictional?) dialogue, plus the short sketch of Begin's early life--Polish education, religious background, support of Zionism, incarceration in a Soviet labor camp--serve to set up Begin as Old World gentleman, devoted pater familias, strong anti-Communist, ardent Israeli nationalist. Unfortunately, the last few chapters do no more than outline the growing similarities in defense and economic policy between Labor and Likud, Begin's rehabilitation as a politician, and the reasons Likud ultimately became a viable political alternative to Labor in Israel. A timely if limited book, then--not unlike a campaign biography--and a useful corrective to the standard slant.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
Publisher: Delacorte