The Life and Times of Menachem Begin; Begin's Foreign Policy, 1977-1983

In This Review

The Life and Times of Menachem Begin

By Amos Perlmutter
Doubleday, 1987
444 pp. $21.95
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Begin's Foreign Policy, 1977-1983

By Ilan Peleg
Greenwood Press, 1987
227 pp. $35.00
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Perlmutter's is not an authorized biography of Begin; neither is it a debunking operation. He does an extraordinary job of working his way through all the myths, positive and negative, to find the facts about Begin's career and to present a consistent picture of his achievements and his character, with its stubborn determination and its flaws evident in his youth in Poland as in his later roles as fiery revolutionary, parliamentarian in opposition, and finally prime minister of Israel. That he disappeared from public life after the disaster of the war in Lebanon should be no surprise for readers of this perceptive work. Peleg's book, a competent work of research and interviewing, is, by comparison, lacking in depth even in the chosen period it covers, the years in power. But it is certainly on target in stressing Begin's "neo-revisionism" and the annexationist theme in his foreign policy, as well as the body politic's turn to the right that put and kept him in power. Peleg, incidentally, is almost totally negative about Begin; his sympathies clearly lie with traditional Labor Zionism.

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