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Ben-Gurion: A Political Life (Jewish Encounters) Hardcover – October 25, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“In revisiting the career of his mentor, Shimon Peres presents a uniquely human portrait of David Ben-Gurion—a master strategist with a long view of history and an abiding vision for Israel’s future. Peres brings his nation’s founding father to life with the energy, candor, and wisdom he’s become known for in his six decades of public service.”
—William Jefferson Clinton

“Shimon Peres is a man of awesome accomplishment (a Nobel Peace Prize-winner, by the way), but his most important accomplishment is how he has come to personify the ethic that David Ben-Gurion represents. His book is well worth your time. It was mine.”
—Richard Cohen, The Washington Post

“An urbane account of Israel’s first and longest-serving prime minister by someone who, though nearly 40 years younger, worked closely with him for two decades.  It is admiring of Ben-Gurion . . . but it never lapses into hero worship or loses its grip on the historical realities amid which its story is set. Peres’s personal reminiscences of Ben-Gurion and his entourage are delightful.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Invaluable . . . Even readers tired of ideological food fights about Israel—of liberals calling conservatives who defend the country fascists, and of conservatives calling liberals who criticize it anti-Semites—will find something to like in this unusual primer on the birth of a nation and its most important midwife.”
 —Justin Moyer, The Washington Post

“Shimon Peres, the president (and former prime minister) of Israel, provides an intriguing and intimate political biography of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and Peres’s erstwhile mentor.  Readers will enjoy Peres’s analysis of his relationship with Ben-Gurion and will find his humility appealing.  And his emotional admissions elevate this book above a standard biography.”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Shimon Peres has been president of the State of Israel since 2007. In 1947, at David Ben-Gurion’s request, he was recruited by the Haganah, and he was appointed head of naval services in 1948. Over a long and distinguished political career, he has held numerous cabinet-level positions, including foreign minister and defense minister, and served two terms as prime minister. One of the architects of the Oslo Accords, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
David Landau was editor in chief of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz from 2004 to 2008. Before joining Haaretz in 1997, Landau was the diplomatic correspondent and managing editor of The Jerusalem Post. He is the author of Piety and Power: The World of Jewish Fundamentalism and worked with Shimon Peres on his memoir, Battling for Peace. He currently writes for The Economist.

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Product Details

  • Series: Jewish Encounters
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; First Edition edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805242821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805242829
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on May 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Shimon Peres is certainly one of the most remarkable of present historical figures. He is currently at the age of eighty- eight an extremely popular President of Israel. His vitality , his energy, his innovativeness, his vision are continually at work in forwarding the purposes of the state of Israel. In this Memoir done in collaboration with David Landau he tells the story of Israel's great founding - father David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion is compared by Peres to Churchill and DeGaulle. At one point Peres makes the claim that had it not been for the determination and courage of Ben- Gurion the modern state of Israel would not have come into existence. Forced to choose between holding on to the impossible ideal of possessing all of the historical land of israel, or compromising and agreeing to Partition, Ben-Gurion chose the practical path. He understood the vital importance of having a State, even on only a small part of the land. While others including Chaim Weizmann urged him to wait Ben-Gurion saw the historical opportunity and seized it. He thus was able to bring many of the survivors of the Shoah (The Holocaust) to the Land of Israel. In conducting Israel's War of Independence Ben- Gurion also showed great wisdom and decisiveness. He insisted that Jerusalem be first priority while Yigael Yadin wanted the limited resources to be apportioned to other fronts. Ben- Gurion wisely took Golda Meir's advice and stayed home when money had to be raised in the U.S. for the war effort. Her legendary trip to the U.S. brought the funds vital to the war effort. Peres talks about Ben-Gurion's being a man of Truth, and a realist, who nonetheless knew how to overcome long odds and make miracles happen.Read more ›
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Morris Massel on November 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A biography like this has such great potential. Unfortunately, this flopped. The potential is obvious -- Shimon Peres was "in the room" and knew Ben-Gurion. Landau was a writer for HaAretz. With this much talent and access in addition to an amazing and inspiring subject, this should be a great book. Insider status and writing talent like this made Yehuda Avner's The Prime Ministers unbelievable.

The book was "written" orally. It rambles. It often strays into Peres' experiences and does not stay focused on Ben-Gurion's. What should be a great book does not hold up.

If Israeli history and politics interest you, read The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership. It is amazing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brooklyn Joe on November 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Overall, this book was a letdown. I had much higher expectations since this book was written by Shimon Peres, someone who was apparently very close to Ben Gurion during the years that the State of Israel was in its infancy.

Instead of getting deep into historical information and events, this book more or less touched on some history while spending more time debating on the effects of the events that actually happened. What we get is a dialogue with different opinions on the cause and effects of political events and decisions from Ben Gurion. I was actually hoping for more of a historical perspective similar to other books I have read.

In addition, the style of the writing seems to be very weak. It's written more as an essay or a long article than it is as a book. I found this style to be distracting and even boring.

If anyone is really interested in a solid and detailed historical narrative, I highly recommend reading The Prime Ministers by Yehudah Avner. That book is more than three times the size of this one but is about ten times better in the information it provides as well as the style in which it was written. It's actually an easier read.

However, I do recommend that people skim rough this book in a few hours as some of the info provided can be useful if you are a person that is interested in the History of Israel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on October 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Shimon Peres is the last of the "founding fathers" of Israel and was a close aide to David Ben-Gurion, the George Washington of the reborn Jewish state. In this slim volume, he recalls his impressions of the great man -- who emerges from these pages as a visionary figure of the status of Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle.

Peres regards Ben Gurion as the indispensable man in the struggle for Israel's independence. Without his leadership, his courage, his indomitable fighting spirit and his sound political judgment, the modern state simply would never have come into being.

Peres gives a terse account of Ben Gurion's early days as an youth in Poland and an immigrant to Palestine culled from other sources. He also provides a fairly tiresome account of the factional fighting in the Zionist movement in the 1930s and 1940s. The book achieves real drama and authenticity in its description of the 1948 war of independence and even more so in the 1956 Suez Campaign in which Peres himself was a key player.

Peres gives a balanced account of the 1948 war and the creation of the Palestinians refugee crisis. But his account of the Lavon affair which eventually ended Ben Gurion's career is murky and confusing.

Interspersed are dialogues on various controversial issues with co-author David Landau. These are interesting but you have to be very well acquainted with the history and the personalities to get anything out of them.

That's a general criticism of this book. It's not a real biography and it's not really a good book to start reading about the history of modern Israel. It's value lies in the fact that Peres knew his subject well and was at his side at key times.
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