by Yitzhak Shamir
Boston, Mass,: Little, Brown and Company, 1994. 276 pp. $24.95
Reviewed by David Rodman
Middle East Quarterly
Machiavellian, ruthless, and intransigent are just a few of the unkind labels that have been hung on Yitzhak Shamir during his long political career. In this well-written and engaging memoir, the man once referred to as "Mr. No" settles accounts with his detractors, from George Bush and James Baker on the one hand, to Shimon Peres and Ezer Weizman on the other. Even Menachem Begin doesn't escape completely unscathed. Ironically, the leader who receives the kindest treatment of all is archrival Yitzhak Rabin.
Lest it be thought that Shamir does nothing more than take potshots at other statesmen, most of the memoir dwells on his absolute commitment to the establishment and survival of a Jewish state, a cause he has done much to forward. He recounts his role as a "soldier" in Lehi and, after independence, Mossad. He also describes his years as speaker of the Knesset, foreign minister, and, lastly, prime minister. Though he tells many interesting ancedotes, Shamir's description of events is generally superficial and, therefore, has limited value to those seeking a more complete picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Apparently, old habits of secrecy from his Lehi and Mossad days have proved too hard to break.
In contrast, Shamir takes great pains to justify his unwillingness to concede any part of the "Land of Israel." Based in equal parts on national security and Jewish history, he makes a reasonable-sounding case for keeping all of the administered territories. But, in so doing, he dismisses troubling questions about Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian relations in a few unsatisfying sentences, thus confirming the opinion of those who claim that he's never been able to face unpleasant realities.
Related Topics: Israel & Zionism | David Rodman | March 1995 MEQ
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