Schmaltzy, workmanlike epic of Israel's formative years: Wouk's tenth novel. In light of the recent historical accord between the PLO and Israel, this latest from the author of The Caine Mutiny (1951), etc., could hardly be more timely--a replication of Israel's struggle for nationhood, then for identity. The story begins in 1948 with the new nation's fate hanging in the balance. Jerusalem is surrounded; Arab armies are scything through the Holy Land. The Arabs' only problem is that they don't have a common strategy other than eradicating Jews. The Israelis aren't getting along so well either, factional as they also are--but they have at least concurred upon one leader, David Ben-Gurion, who has appointed one general, American Mickey Marcus. Fighting alongside these and other real-life Israeli luminaries is a cast of fictional men and women led by Zev Barak (Marcus's aide), Yael Luria (a beautiful army sergeant), and Don Kishote (a young soldier who has already seen too much of life's ills in Europe). Through the fight for independence, the Suez crisis, and the Six-Day war, these characters mature, witnessing history (the battle for Latrun, Mitla Pass, the armored dash to El Arish), and meeting historical figures running the gamut from Idi Amin to JFK. Don Kishote survives to become Israel's chief of staff; Zev becomes a diplomat; and Yael- -well, after losing in love she goes off to America to make her fortune but returns in time to celebrate Israel's victory over the Egyptians. Of most interest are the history lesson and Wouk's insight into the political doings. Pedestrian storytelling, though, and flat character undermined by too much talk and too little action count heavily at the bottom line.