Flight of the Lavi: Inside a U.S.-Israeli Crisis

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Flight of the Lavi: Inside a U.S.-Israeli Crisis

By Dov S. Zakheim
Brassey's, 1996
268 pp. $25.95
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Zakheim was a Defense Department official in the Reagan administration, and the Lavi was a partially American-funded Israeli fighter airplane that he helped kill, thereby saving both countries a great deal of money and, no less important, an equally great deal of purposeless irritation. What makes the story particularly piquant, however, is the author's religion: an Orthodox Jew, Zakheim spoke Hebrew and knew Israel well. This book, a well-woven, ironic, and occasionally cutting memoir, succeeds at several levels. It tells the tale of bureaucratic wrangling over American cost estimates that proved the Lavi virtually unaffordable, much to the outrage of Israeli advocates. In the bickering and maneuvering that took place, Zakheim had some unlikely allies, including Israeli admirals who feared the Lavi would devour their own sorely needed reequipment programs. The description of personal struggle, including the author's savaging by some Israelis and Americans and warm support from others, combined with sharply worded apercus about the ways of Pentagon politics, make the story of the Lavi's downfall a gripping, even moving, read.