In mid-2012 a picture of a young, bikini-clad Israeli soldier on a busy Tel Aviv beach, M16 assault rifle strapped to her back, went viral, attracting millions of views on the Internet. The cast of characters in Patrick Tyler’s new book – cynical politicians, battle-hardened generals and shadowy spymasters – is unlikely to appeal to the same audience. But the ins and outs of Israel’s conflict with the Arabs continue to garner unrivalled attention, bordering on obsession in some quarters, so this political biography of the country’s ruling elite should arouse its own interest.
Tyler, formerly chief correspondent with the New York Times, manages to avoid the dullness of much of the academic writing on modern Israel without ignoring the vast scholarly literature on the subject. His argument is simple: the founding