Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Abba Eban: A Biography

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Abba Eban: A Biography

Article excerpt

Abba Eban: A Biography. By Asaf Siniver. Woodstock and New York: The Overlook Press, 2015. 464 pp. $40.

Siniver, a professor of international studies at the University of Birmingham, presents a colorful account of the successes and failures of both Israel's Abba Eban and of Israeli diplomacy in his era. Despite Eban's tremendous contribution to Israeli diplomacy and history, this is only the second biography of the diplomat; the other, by Robert St. John, was published in 1972.1 In contrast to the St. John book, which venerated Eban, Siniver's account is much less sentimental and more balanced.

Born Aubrey Eban in Capetown, South Africa, the Cambridge-educated Eban was an accomplished Arabic linguist, former British intelligence officer, and a passionate Zionist. A master of ten languages, he was a remarkable speaker with a deep understanding of Washington.

He served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations from 1950 to 1959, minister of education from 1960 to 1963, foreign minister from 1966 to 1974, as well as a Knesset member for the Labor party, which controlled the Israeli government during that whole time. He played a significant role in getting the U.N. General Assembly to agree to partition Mandate Palestine (UNGA Resolution 181) in 1947 and, twenty years later, in crafting the U. …

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