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By combining and updating two earlier works, Harvard political scientist Safran has produced one of the best general books on Israel. Safran, an Egyptian-born Jew, once belonged to a kibbutz and fought for Israel against the Arabs. But he is also a dispassionate scholar as he demonstrated in his first book The United States and Israel (1963), which he has updated and incorporated in the first half of this one. The result is a fine survey of the history, government, politics, economy, national defense, religion, and foreign policy of Israel. He has not however, rectified his failure to discuss the Israeli Arab population, which he considers irrelevant, or to provide documentation. The latter omission is mitigated by provision of a good topical bibliography. But footnoting is requisite when directly quoting material, such as Safran does for his introductory chapter from the 1937 British Royal Commission Report--without quotation marks or attribution. The second half of the book, which draws upon From War to War: The Arab-Israeli Confrontation, 1948-1967, takes up Israel's involvement in regional and international politics. Here Safran is at his most erudite, particularly when he analyzes the ""special"" relationship of Israel and the United States, which is neither precarious nor sinister as some Jews and Arabs, respectively, believe, but is based on mutual interest and admiration. Here too, however, he does not eliminate earlier flaws: he is at times long-winded and dwells excessively on military history, his empathy for the Arab position is limited, and he consistently views Russian aims and actions in the Middle East as ""treacherous."" Otherwise he rarely allows his sympathy for the Jewish state to mar his authoritative narrative and sound analyses of Israel, its wars, and its relations with its American ally.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press