The leading biographer of David Ben-Gurion and one of Israel's outstanding journalists, Teveth has written a four-volume biography on Ben-Gurion and another two on key policy issues (attitudes toward the Palestinians and the Holocaust) of his long political life. Teveth's new book is a remarkable spy story as well as a penetrating political analysis. He writes with great verve and creates a sense of drama and excitement appropriate to this failed spy story.
The book reveals two intelligence fiascos committed by a Ben-Gurion favorite, Colonel Benyamin Givly. The first was a kangaroo court that in 1948 executed Meir Tobiansky, a Haganah leader wrongly suspected of collaborating with the British; Givly was responsible for the execution of Tobiansky. Ben-Gurion then promoted Gively to become head of IDF intellegience despite his doubts about this execution.
In the second case, Givly had a central role in the Lavon Affair of 1953, when the Israeli's (to create friction between the Egyptian government of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the United States) blew up an American library in Cairo to make it seem like an act of Egyptian terrorism. This act of supreme folly compromised the entire Israeli spy network in Egypt, then was covered up. It reemerged in 1961, when a conspirator revealed that Givly had falsified documents to implicate then-Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon.
Ben-Gurion had sponsored the brilliant, aggressive, and chicanerous Lavon, but refused him political exoneration when Lavon was implicated in the Egyptian operation. The Lavon Affair was the beginning of the end of the era of socialist Zionist political supremacy that had begun in 1935. Ironically, while Ben-Gurion masterfully created a modern state, he failed to play politics. It takes a giant to err gigantically.