About the Book
The first all-encompassing book on Israel’s foreign policy and the diplomatic history of the Jewish people, The Star and the Scepter retraces and explains the Jews’ interactions with other nations from the ancient kingdoms of Israel to modernity.
Starting with the Hebrew Bible, 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 then 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 post World War I and surrounding World War II. Finally, Navon elucidates Israel’s foreign policy from 1948 (the birth of the state) 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 U.S., Russia, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the UN, 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: 1. the Jews’ interactions with the world have always been best served by combining faith with pragmatism; 2. the State of Israel owes its diplomatic achievements to national assertiveness and hard power—not only military strength, but economic prowess and technological innovation. Hence this book’s title, The Star and the Scepter. The Star of David is the symbol of Jewish faith; the scepter symbolizes political power. 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.
This is a diplomatic history like no other. Emmanuel Navon takes us through the whole of the Jewish experience, from remotest antiquity to the present, drawing out the beliefs and events that explain Israel’s approach to foreign states and world powers today. If Israel is to flourish, even survive, it will have to learn the lessons this unique book teaches about the past. A tour de force.” – Martin Kramer, Chair of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Shalem College
“Emmanuel Navon’s far-ranging work on Israeli and Jewish diplomacy through the centuries helps us better appreciate the political and moral implications of Israeli efforts to win acceptance among the nations.” – Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute and author, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor
“The underdeveloped field of Jewish political studies has much to gain from Emmanuel Navon’s ambitious, authoritative survey of Jewish “diplomatic history” from biblical origins to Israel’s latest oil and gas treaties. As well as providing reliable and firm guidance through minefields of explosive national history, the book develops a level-headed concept of modern Israeli foreign policy. It is a good read and a lasting resource.” – Ruth Wisse, Emeritus Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University
“Emmanuel Navon’s important and expansive survey teaches us that a genuine diplomatic history of Israel must reach back millennia, from the Bible and antiquity through the Middle Ages and modernity, to understand the epic saga of the Jewish people, and to evaluate the decisions of its leaders. With encyclopedic breadth, this timely and insightful book provides an extraordinary account of Israel’s determination to survive and flourish against all odds, and a fascinating chronicle of both great events and individuals, from Jacob, Moses and Jeremiah, to Disraeli, Churchill, Ben Gurion, Kissinger, Golda Meir, Rabin and Netanyahu.” – Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch
“Devoid of jargons and rhetoric, Navon paints a fascinating overarching picture of Israel’s trials and tribulations in the journey towards normalization and acceptance among the comity of nations.”– Professor P. R. Kumaraswamy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India