Emmanuel Navon, "The Star and the Scepter: A Diplomatic History of Israel" (Jewish Publication Society, 2020)

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The first all-encompassing book on Israel’s foreign policy and the diplomatic history of the Jewish people, The Star and the Scepter: A Diplomatic History of Israel (Jewish Publication Society, 2020) retraces and explains the interactions of Jews with other nations from the ancient kingdoms of Israel to modernity.

Starting with the Hebrew Bible, Emmanuel Navon argues that one cannot grasp Israel’s interactions with the world without understanding how Judaism’s founding document has shaped the Jewish psyche. He sheds light on the people of Israel’s foreign policy through the ages: the ancient kingdoms of Israel, Jewish diasporas in Europe from the Middle Ages to the emancipation, the emerging nineteenth-century Zionist movement, and Zionist diplomacy following World War I and surrounding World War II.

Navon elucidates Israel’s foreign policy from the birth of the state in 1948 to our days: the dilemmas and choices at the beginning of the Cold War; Israel’s attempts to establish periphery alliances; the Arab-Israeli conflict; Israel’s relations with Europe, the United States, Russia, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the United Nations, and the Jewish diasporas; and how twenty-first-century energy geopolitics is transforming Israel’s foreign relations today.

Navon’s analysis is rooted in two central ideas, represented by the Star of David (faith) and the scepter (political power). First, he contends that the interactions of Jews with the world have always been best served by combining faith with pragmatism. Second, Navon shows how the state of Israel owes its diplomatic achievements to national assertiveness and hard power—not only military strength but economic prowess and technological innovation. Demonstrating that diplomacy is a balancing act between ideals and realpolitik, The Star and the Scepter draws aspirational and pragmatic lessons from Israel’s exceptional diplomatic history.

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at r.garfinkel@yahoo.com.

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