Ben-Gurion's Spy: The Story of the Political Scandal That Shaped Modern Israel

The author, who is something less than halfway through a multivolume biography of Israel's founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, has taken a break from that mammoth effort to write this volume. It describes the Lavon affair, a disastrous Israeli covert operation in Egypt in the early 1950s intended to induce Britain to remain in the Suez Canal zone and the United States to adopt a position of hostility toward Egyptian nationalists. The Israeli agents were uncovered, and the ensuing scandal not only toppled Defense Minister Pinchas Lavon, but tore apart the Labor Party and eventually led to the downfall of Ben-Gurion himself, who had turned on his former protégé. Teveth pushes some of his conclusions a bit further than the evidence may warrant -- it is difficult to see the germs of the Lebanon war in the shenanigans of an out-of-control sabotage effort 30 years earlier -- but he tells the story with skill. Moreover, he has mastered a vast quantity of documentary material and oral history, making this an authoritative as well as a powerful rendering of how clever politicians can conduct amazingly stupid and destructive secret policies.

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