An evenhanded new biography of one the larger-than-life Israeli leader.
During her entire 50-year public career, Golda Meir (1898-1978) was dedicated to the cause of Zionism and creation of the state of Israel, from joining the socialist Workers of Zion movement in high school in Milwaukee in 1915, to becoming the fourth prime minister of Israel in 1969. In this suitably admiring but hardly gushing chronicle, versatile writer and journalist Klagsbrun (The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day, 2012, etc.) guides readers through her own journey of understanding this enormously important, often contradictory, crafty, and frequently opaque personage in Israel's history. The project is the result of a long-running research between America and Israel, including the use of newly declassified files. Meir—whom Klagsbrun refers to as “Golda” throughout because that is the way the premier wanted to be addressed, only adopting the Hebraized version of her married name, Meyerson, because her mentor David Ben-Gurion strongly suggested it in the late 1950s—was hugely popular, even adored, as an effective rainmaker for Israel in 1940s and ’50s America, the land of her youth; yet later in Israel, it was a different story. Meir never regained the popularity she enjoyed when first becoming premier in Israel in 1969. In a time of a series of debilitating terrorist attacks and an alarming (for her) unraveling of the social fabric, including, ironically, the thrust of feminism, she and her defense minister, Moshe Dayan, were blamed for being blindsided by the attacks of Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and she resigned over the painful subsequent protests. As the author shows in her well-rounded portrait, Meir was Ben-Gurion’s “only man in the Israeli cabinet," a ferocious chain-smoking socialist leader without a high-level education but whose plainspoken speeches brought audiences to tears—and action.
A terrific chronicle of a unique world leader.