BEN-GURION'S SPY by Shabtai Teveth

BEN-GURION'S SPY

The Story of the Political Scandal That Shaped Modern Israel
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An overlong recounting of a long-past Israeli political scandal. Teveth is a former political correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz and the biographer of the country's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion (Ben Gurion: The Burning Ground, 1987). This new book's subtitle suggests a Watergate-like event, but the Lavon Affair--covered here in exhausting detail--does not seem to have permanently sullied Ben-Gurion's reputation or the fortunes of his political heirs, including Shimon Peres, the current prime minister. This 1950s scandal originated with shady operatives picked by Ben-Gurion's defense minister, Pinhas Lavon. The heavies are unscrupulous scamps like the head of Israeli intelligence, Binyamin Givly, and playboy/double agent Avri Elad, whose rashness, incompetence, and immorality led to a bombing campaign in Egypt in 1954 that had damaging repercussions for Israel, and to the deaths of several agents spying for Israel in Egypt. While Lavon and Ben- Gurion are ultimately responsible for the controversial acts of sabotage in Egypt, they seem too far up the chain of command to be considered active conspirators in these events. Teveth thinks otherwise and also insists that ``there is enough evidence to prove that without the Lavon Affair, Menahem Begin's Likud Party would not have come to power.'' But, as he admits, Labor's decline is widely linked to unpreparedness for the Yom Kippur War. Teveth is more on target when he credits the scandal with preventing the army and intelligence services from getting too independent and powerful. Compelling characters like Elad and the loyal army secretary who lies for generals and prime ministers (and lies down with them) offer dramatic potential, but the possibilities are not exploited by Teveth's flat writing style.

Pub Date: June 13th, 1996
ISBN: 0-231-10464-2
Page count: 297pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996