ISRAEL AT FIFTY by Moshe Raviv


Five Decades of Struggle for Peace
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An informative if also dry history of Israeli diplomacy from the state’s founding through early 1998, combined with elements of a memoir. Raviv, a senior Israeli diplomat for over 40 years (he was political secretary to then Foreign Minister Abba Eban during and after the Six Day War and ambassador to Great Britain for much of the 1990s), states at the outset that his is “not a scholarly account,” but rather “a record of close observation and personal analysis.” At times his writing is overly cursory; only about 70 pages are devoted to the 14 particularly tumultuous years between the Lebanon War and the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996. Raviv is best in focusing on the details of diplomatic initiatives and contretemps around Israel’s five major wars (1948—48, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982). Yet while his book is solidly workmanlike, it lacks the kind of vivid background information and colorful anecdotes found in such books as those by Eban himself, or in Uri Savir’s recent account of the negotiations leading to the 1993 lsrae-PLO Oslo accord. An exception is aspects of the British-Israeli relationship, many of whose major players Raviv came to know well from his many years of service in London. This work also is marred by some sloppy editing, though some instances may be due to the volume’s British provenance; for example, the late Republican New York senator Jacob Javits is strangely referred to, in a transliteration from the Hebrew, as Yacov Yavetz. Raviv covers all the major bases, so that readers unfamiliar with Israel’s immensely complex foreign policy history will learn a great deal—but they probably will not have as interesting or memorable an experience as that provided by a number of other Israeli historians and memoirists.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-297-81851-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1998