I guess it would be hard to find three books more different from each other, but these are the last three I have read.
Man In the Shadows (or “Inside the Middle East Crisis by a Man Who Led the Mossad) is Efraim Halevy’s memoir. Halevy was in Israel’s Mossad for about 30 years and led it from 1998 to 2002. Born and raised in England, his writing is clear and smooth. He is careful to note that he is going to discuss anything that was clandestine, and he was not going to permit other people to get into trouble because of his book.
That doesn’t mean, though, that he doesn’t have a lot to talk about. Some philosophical, and some transactional.
He discusses the role of the Mossad, and of intelligence generally. How it has changed over time. How intelligence and administration have come closer together. How the Mossad has been called upon to assist the prime minister in activities which would not normally qualify as intelligence. (Reminds me of what’s happening today – with Mossad helping acquire medical equipment to help fight the coronavirus in Israel.) In part it’s because the administration doesn’t trust the normal administrative channels, and because no one trusts traditional intelligence.
On the transactional side, the largest section of the book is devoted to the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel in the early 1990s, where Halevy was the prime minister’s main agent. The PM was Rabin, and he and Halevy were obviously quite close. It was Halevy, then vice head of Mossad, who was given the main job of negotiating with the Jordanians and who held several meetings with King Hussein. He also writes about the times when the Mossad screwed things up, how things had to be made whole, how faith in intelligence would be compromised, such as when Mossad misfired when they tried to assassinate a top Hamas official in Lebanon.
Halevy talks a lot about the personalities of the various prime ministers. He was closest to Rabin, he never trusted Peres, he thought Barak incompetent, he thought that Shamir was underrated and quitethoughtful, and I think I would conclude that he was somewhat ambiguous towards Netanyahu.
A lot packed into fewer than 300 pages. Too much to remember.
The Prisoner of Zenda was written by Anthony Hope. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know what The Prizoner of Zenda was – a book? a film?
Turns out it was originally a book, and a rather short book written in the 1890s in England. And what’s more, it’s the kind of book I would usually pass over, but……I really enjoyed it.
It’s a simple story – a young Englishman is a distant relation to the royal family of the Kingdom of Ruritania. But he is a distant cousin through an improper liaison several generations back. And has had no contact with his royal relatives. But a new king is to be crowned in Ruritania and our hero decides he will go to the coronation.
He didn’t know that the new king’s half brother thought that he, not the presumptive heir to the throne, should be the new king. So with wicked stepbrother takes him prisoner at his home in Zenda.
But the presumptive king’s friends meet up with the Englishman in the forest and discover that he is the spitting image of the prince. So they convince him to pretend that he is the king and go through the coronation, which he does.
The rest of the story is how he frees the real king, and goes back to England where he presumably is still living happily ever after. Half adventure/half fun. Flows right along.
Joseph Sebarenzi grew up a Tutsi in Rwanda, going away to school across the river in Congo. He married a fellow Tutsi while still in Congo, they moved back to Rwanda and then to Burundi. He wanted the family to move to the United States, and he was hear, in advance of wife and children, when the massacre occurred in Rwanda. His wife and children were fine, but his parents and most of his siblings were killed. Nevertheless, they went back to Rwanda and within a few years he was the speaker of the Rwandan legislature. He held that job for three years until pushed out by the would-be dictator of the country, Joseph Kagame. Kagame is still in Rwanda; the Sebarenzis have been in the US for about 15 years. Life goes on…..until it doesn’t.
A very touching book, a very sad book, but a very human book. Gives a good, readable history of Rwanda in the pre-colonial days, after the Germans and then the Belgians became the colonial masters, and after colonialism. How the Belgians manipulated the Tutsis and the Hutus against each other, and how that legacy continued, breaking out in riots and killings from time to time, exploding finally with the death of almost 1,000,000 in the 90s. And how the United Nations and the Clinton administration ignored it all until too late.