Too Much Information?
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Too Much Information?

Yossi Goldstein

Haaretz Review of Books, 27/5/2009


There is an inverse proportion between the number of volumes of Moshe Sharett's writings that have been published, and his brief tenure as premier. Now another volume has been added -A Statesman Assessed: Views and Viewpoints About Moshe Sharett, edited by Yaakov Sharett and Rina Sharett, The Moshe Sharett Heritage Society (Hebrew), 600 pages.



Yaakov Sharett and the organization he heads, the Moshe Sharett Heritage Society, have been engaged in a monumental enterprise. Publishing the writings of his father, Moshe Sharett, is a tremendous and valuable enterprise, at which Sharett the son has diligently toiled over the last four decades. Since the 1970s, more than 20 volumes of memoirs, journals and letters of his father, Israel's second prime minister, have appeared; recent additions include the three volumes of his London correspondence and a thick book about his conduct during the German reparations crisis. And more is yet to come.


The fact that the writings and sayings of other Israeli prime ministers - including David Ben-Gurion, the most important and influential of all - have not been published so extensively creates a certain feeling of disproportion. Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir and even Menachem Begin - all prime ministers of considerable importance - have not had even a fraction of their written and spoken words issued in print.


If any criticism is intended here, it is directed not at Yaakov or Moshe Sharett, but rather at the societies that are legally entrusted with preserving the memory of the other prime ministers (organizations that get their funding primarily from the Israeli government). These organizations have not pursued their goal as vigorously as the Moshe Sharett Heritage Society has, certainly not when it comes to making available to the public the writings of those figures whom they are supposed to commemorate. The Sharett Society has not limited itself to publishing the prime minister's writings: Recently it added another collection, entitled A Statesman Assessed: Views and Viewpoints About Moshe Sharett, in which scholars and other notable figures examine and laud Sharett's activity as a man of peace. There are similar books about Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and other prime ministers, but the publication of a book singing Sharett's praises adds another facet to the disproportion. "The right man in the right place" (Motti Golani), "the last Zionist troubadour" (Zalman Aran) - these are only two of the many superlatives scattered throughout the book.


Without a doubt, Moshe Sharett was a man of "excellent" qualifications, as Avi Bareli claims; he was a worthy foreign minister; spoke better Hebrew than some; was far more fluent in other languages, especially Arabic and English, than those around him; and was also a very amenable man, whose political views indeed deserve to be appreciated and quoted.


Perhaps more than anything else, the approach Sharett developed to Israel's foreign policy, whose basic tenet was to seek peace as a primary national goal while pursuing a moderate agenda on security matters and international politics, has proved, in retrospect, to be worthwhile. Sharett was, as scholar Yechiam Weitz says, "free of that 'power-drunkenness' that infected all the other politicians, primarily Ben-Gurion."


But does Sharett deserve to be lauded this way even for his term as prime minister, the peak of his political and international activity?


Left out of the book

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