In This Review

Moshe Sharett: Biography of a Political Moderate
Moshe Sharett: Biography of a Political Moderate
By Gabriel Sheffer
Oxford University Press, 1996, 1065 pp

This massive volume focuses on a man who played an immense role in Israeli history but who has been lost in the shadow of his more charismatic and influential rival, David Ben Gurion. Moshe Sharett served as foreign minister from the founding of the state until 1956, and as prime minister for two crucial years during 1953-55. This detailed biography is an account of much of Zionist and Israeli history as seen through the eyes of a moderate man who was inclined toward accommodation with Israel's Arab neighbors. Like many moderates, he was accused of being weak, and he was finally muscled aside by Ben Gurion at a time of rising tensions with Egypt. The book tempts speculation on what might have been different had Sharett held on to the prime ministership in 1955. Would there have been a Suez campaign? Might the American-sponsored "Project Alpha," a secret attempt to broker peace, have had a better chance of success? The book also provides fascinating detail on such matters as the infamous Lavon affair -- an unsuccessful Israeli covert action in Egypt designed to weaken Egypt's relations with the West -- which ultimately ruined Ben Gurion's career and partially vindicated Sharett. This is a sympathetic work by a skilled historian who has mined an enormous number of sources.