Israel’s Prime Ministers and Their Books

Nov. 22 2022

Perhaps fittingly for the nation-state of the people of the book, 40 percent of Israelis between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five report reading at least one book a week. The country’s leaders have also included some voracious readers, beginning with David Ben-Gurion, as Tevi Troy writes:

Ben-Gurion was the first and perhaps the most creative reader. His library had books in multiple languages, and he had a well-cultivated appetite to read books in their original languages. As far back as 1922, Ben-Gurion had a library of 775 books, in English, German, Hebrew, French, Arabic, Latin, Russian, Turkish, and Greek.

Ben-Gurion’s collection eventually reached 18,000 books. Although he was known as a frugal man, his main indulgence was in both buying books and having them shipped to Israel, an expensive proposition in the early days of the state. He particularly loved the wisdom of the Greeks and read Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War a reported sixteen times. With a Greek dictionary at hand, he also read the Septuagint version of the book of Genesis.

Menachem Begin’s reading interests were narrower than . . . Ben-Gurion’s, focusing mostly on history and biography. Philosophy, poetry, novels, and art were not part of his reading diet. He was, however, a huge consumer of news. According to [his biographer] Daniel Gordis, Begin regularly read “every major Israeli newspaper, as well as the Times of LondonLe MondeTIME, and Newsweek.” There was a practical element to his reading. In advance of the Camp David summit, he read Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s autobiography. In subsequent years, he also read the autobiography of Jehan Sadat, Sadat’s widow, in addition to books by American journalists like Bob Woodward and William Safire.

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More about: David Ben-Gurion, Israeli history, Menachem Begin

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship