The True Life Story of Israel's Greatest Commando
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 A revealing account of a 25-year career in the Israeli special forces. Betser joins Israeli warriors like Dayan, Eitan, Kahalani, and Sharon, who have collaborated with American writers to produce chest-thumping biographies featuring their contributions in Israel's major wars. This book differs in that Betser, fighting as a member and then leader of Israel's top anti-terrorist commando unit, largely describes the planning and execution of missions between the wars. Co-author Rosenberg does not have to exaggerate Betser's dramatic life, but as a thriller writer (The Cutting Room, 1993, etc.), he adds some necessary tension and plotting to Betser's curt, military description. Making up for dry and self- serving passages (``when you serve as a model, you're a commander and not a soldier'') are running narratives of bravado behind Egyptian lines in the Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War, a mission to kidnap Syrian generals in Lebanon, the assassination of PLO planners of the Munich Olympics massacre, the Entebbe hostage rescue, and more. Betser was a natural for the Entebbe mission, since he had trained Idi Amin's forces in an earlier Uganda stint. Anecdotes from Africa show Betser overpaying servants and saving elephants from the rocket grenades of his trainees. Betser loves danger too much to convince us that he misses his ailing wife and Nahalal farm, but he does have the integrity to criticize incompetence in the Israeli Defense Forces. He is harsh about the political factors that created 2,569 casualties in the Yom Kippur War and painfully aware of the mistakes that cost the life of Yoni Netanyahu, the only Israeli soldier killed at Entebbe. It is Rosenberg, we suspect, who tries to make Betser into a ``secret dove'' in the introduction and epilogue. Secret Soldier adds much to our understanding of Israel's covert fighting arm.

Pub Date: June 18th, 1996
ISBN: 0-87113-637-6
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996


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