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Ge­of­frey Paul en­dorses a mem­oir’s ti­tle. David Her­man is sur­prised by a lit­er­ary se­lec­tion No Room For Small Dreams

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - By Shi­mon Peres

Wei­den­feld & Ni­col­son, £25 Re­viewed by Ge­of­frey D Paul

GIVEN A life so long and packed with his­toric events, this is a slim vol­ume (237 pages plus pho­tos). Shi­mon Peres signed it off in the very month last year that he died at the age of 93. But, then, most of it he or his biog­ra­pher, Matti Golan, had said or writ­ten be­fore.

Shi­mon Peres was never cel­e­brated for his false mod­esty or sense of self­worth. This, in part, ac­counted for his lack of pop­u­lar­ity “on the street”. He also lacked the Jew-as-sol­dier aura of a Moshe Dayan or Yitzhak Rabin. He seems al­ways to have been a lit­tle jeal­ous of Rabin’s stand­ing with the pub­lic — though, by the time of Rabin’s death, they were close col­leagues, pos­si­bly even friends.

It is from Peres’s mov­ing ac­count of the night Rabin was as­sas­si­nated, hav­ing just at­tended a mass peace rally in Tel Aviv — one whose ex­tent sur­prised them both given the preva­lence of Pales­tinian in­tifadas — that I learned Rabin died with a smile on his face be­fore Leah Rabin knelt to kiss her dead hus­band for the last time.

While so many oth­ers, in Peres’s ac­count of great events, seem to play their parts at the pe­riph­ery, he is al­ways there at the cen­tre, first as the favourite of David Ben-Gurion, later in his own right as ig­ni­tion for this or an­other life-sav­ing act that brought Is­rael arms when it had none, air­craft when it lacked any, a nu­clear re­ac­tor when all in the world but France would Celebrity cel­e­bra­tion: Peres on his 90th birth­day with Bar­bra Streisand, Bill Clin­ton and Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu

have de­nied this ul­ti­mate de­ter­rent — a col­lab­o­ra­tion later to be nixed by De Gaulle, though it con­tin­ued for two years after his or­der.

Plan­ning, strat­egy and in­no­va­tion lay at the heart of Peres’s ini­tia­tives for Is­rael. He tells the still as­ton­ish­ing story of the crit­i­cal time when Is­rael al­lowed her at­tempt to lib­er­ate the Suez Canal from Nasser to be used by Bri­tain and France as their ex­cuse for in­ter­ven­ing mil­i­tar­ily.

On the back of Is­rael’s faux fox role, Peres se­cured sup­port for the Di­mona re­ac­tor from France. But the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the agree­ment had still not been con­cluded when the gov­ern­ments of the So­cial­ist, Chris­tian Pineau, and then the Rad­i­cal, Mau­rice

Bourges-Manoury — his two French pro­tag­o­nists — fell, in the sort of po­lit­i­cal de­ba­cles then com­mon in France.

In an ac­count that still makes the reader draw breath, Peres re­calls how he went to see Bourges-Manoury the morn­ing after the French leader lost the premier­ship: “He was now the for­mer prime min­is­ter. I did not know what to say.”

Bourges-Manoury asked him to con­firm that his pre­de­ces­sor as prime min­is­ter, Pineau, had con­sented to French help for the Di­mona re­ac­tor.

“‘Won­der­ful,’ he said, ‘that should take care of it, then. He took a piece of sta­tionery from a desk that was no longer his and drafted a let­ter to the chair­man of the French Atomic En­ergy

Com­mis­sion. The French gov­ern­ment had ap­proved the deal, he con­firmed, and the chair­man should fully co-op­er­ate in its ex­e­cu­tion. At the top of the page, he wrote the pre­vi­ous day’s date.”

Shi­mon Peres lived Is­rael, loved Is­rael. But, de­spite his best — some said oc­ca­sion­ally risky — endeavours, he was un­able to bring the coun­try that peace it so des­per­ately needs. In his end days, he con­soled him­self with the be­lief that sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions were ad­vanc­ing so rapidly that, one day, war would be ir­rel­e­vant, bor­ders mean­ing­less. He never did have room for small dreams.

Ge­of­frey D Paul is a for­mer ed­i­tor of the JC

Boy (HarperCollins, £12.99). And it comes true — thanks to a fall­ing star, seen from his tower block, Noam Chom­sky House.

Sam en­ters a never-end­ing birth­day cy­cle, im­pov­er­ish­ing his fam­ily through con­stant gift-giv­ing. Bad­diel cranks up the com­edy to its high­est pitch, re­leas­ing it in a mad­cap end­ing as Sam and his friend Zada em­bark on a skate­board-pow­ered boat named after Schrödinger’s cat. Their quest: to find Sam’s miss­ing grandpa, whose de­men­tia man­i­fests it­self in the use of out­landish swear­words (“boom­donk­ing diph­thong”) — and to re­verse the birth­day wish. Age seven to 11.

Elsie Pickles is just a house-sit­ter. Ad­mit­tedly the house be­longs to a fa­mous witch and con­tains a talk­ing raven, a mag­i­cally-re­fill­ing larder and in­struc­tions for sim­ple spells. But Elsie is ab­so­lutely not go­ing to con­jure eggs from the sky or try her hand at love po­tions, or any­thing else that would make her into a

(Si­mon and Schus­ter, £6.99). Is she? Tra­di­tional but never twee, Kaye Uman­sky’s book is full of charm. Age seven to 11.

Valor has been ar­rested for shoot­ing at the Crown Prince. Now she is a Pris­oner of Ice and Snow (Blooms­bury, £6.99) in the frozen jail of Tyur’ma, from which none re­turns. The at­tempted killing was a ruse — Valor wanted to gain en­try to the cells to res­cue her wrongly im­pris­oned sis­ter, Sasha. Ruth Lau­ren cre­ates a bit­terly cold back­drop, with wolves and mines, and pro­vides a strong fe­male pro­tag­o­nist (tal­ents in­clude archery and key forgery). She keeps the story skat­ing along briskly; even read­ers who dis­like fan­tasy will be en­tranced. Age nine to 12.

Zack’s best friend Arthur is green, streetwise — and in­vis­i­ble. It drives Zack’s mother crazy. Twelve is too old for imag­i­nary friends, she says, and mimes pack­ing Arthur into a box and posts him to Scot­land. When the “empty” box ar­rives, it is opened by eight-year-old Kirstie — and out climbs Arthur. Kirstie can see him. But can she keep him alive, un­til he is re­united with Zack, who is com­ing from Lon­don to find him? Los­ing Arthur by Paul A Men­del­son (Book Guild, £8.99) is set in a Bri­tain where the author­i­ties are an­ti­sugar and anti-read­ing-for-plea­sure. Not such a stretch. Age 11 to 16.


Witch for a Week

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