Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel

Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel

by Francine Klagsbrun


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The definitive biography of the iron-willed leader, chain-smoking political operative, and tea-and-cake-serving grandmother who became the fourth prime minister of Israel
Golda Meir was a world figure unlike any other. Born in tsarist Russia in 1898, she immigrated to America in 1906 and grew up in Milwaukee, where from her earliest years she displayed the political consciousness and organizational skills that would eventually catapult her into the inner circles of Israel's founding generation. Moving to mandatory Palestine in 1921 with her husband, the passionate socialist joined a kibbutz but soon left and was hired at a public works office by the man who would become the great love of her life. A series of public service jobs brought her to the attention of David Ben-Gurion, and her political career took off. Fund-raising in America in 1948, secretly meeting in Amman with King Abdullah right before Israel's declaration of independence, mobbed by thousands of Jews in a Moscow synagogue in 1948 as Israel's first representative to the USSR, serving as minister of labor and foreign minister in the 1950s and 1960s, Golda brought fiery oratory, plainspoken appeals, and shrewd deal-making to the cause to which she had dedicated her life—the welfare and security of the State of Israel and its inhabitants.
     As prime minister, Golda negotiated arms agreements with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and had dozens of clandestine meetings with Jordan's King Hussein in the unsuccessful pursuit of a land-for-peace agreement with Israel's neighbors. But her time in office ended in tragedy, when Israel was caught off guard by Egypt and Syria's surprise attack on Yom Kippur in 1973. Analyzing newly available documents from Israeli government archives, Francine Klagsbrun looks into whether Golda could have prevented that war and whether in its darkest days she contemplated using nuclear force. Resigning in the war's aftermath, she spent her final years keeping a hand in national affairs and bemusedly enjoying international acclaim. Klagsbrun's superbly researched and masterly recounted story of Israel's founding mother gives us a Golda for the ages.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805211931
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/02/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 864
Sales rank: 171,841
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

FRANCINE KLAGSBRUN is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day and Married People: Staying Together in the Age of Divorce. Lioness received the 2017 National Jewish Book Award/Everett Family Foundation Book of the Year. Klagsbrun was also the editor of the best-selling Free to Be . . . You and Me and is a regular columnist for The Jewish Week, a contributing editor to Lilith, and on the editorial board of Hadassah magazine. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, and Ms. Magazine. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

The visit to America was a fantasy come true. Wherever Golda set foot, she was received with a bursting exuberance no Israeli premier before her had experienced. In Philadelphia, where she arrived on Sep­tember 24, 1969, a crowd of five thousand met her at the airport, many of them schoolchildren carrying posters that read, GOLDA A GO GO or WE DIG YOU, GOLDA. Afterward, more than twenty thousand people packed Independence Hall and applauded wildly at the end of her brief speech about Israel’s desire for peace. “I am wise enough to understand that the applause was not directed to me . . . It was rather an ovation for the State of Israel,” she said, with required modesty. She knew as well as anyone that the men, women, and children who swarmed to see her in Philadelphia and every other city she visited were as intrigued by the “71-year-old grandmother” (as the press frequently referred to her) who headed the State of Israel as they were loyal to that state. Her simple bearing—she appeared time and again in the same black-and-white her­ringbone tweed suit—and midwestern twang with its faint echo of East­ern Europe made her seem the American dream come true, the local girl made good. The “former Milwaukee schoolteacher” (another favorite press nomenclature) from an impoverished family had risen against all odds—including the odds of being a woman—to the highest office in her land. Americans, and especially American Jews, who had admired her earlier as Israel’s foreign minister, were swept away by her presence as prime minister. No one doubted that she would hold her own with the president of the most powerful nation on earth. “What can you do? She’s irresistible,” one observer commented. Most people who saw and heard her agreed.

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Copyright © 2017 Francine Klagsbrun.
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Table of Contents

Cast of Characters xi
Introduction: “Call Me Golda” xv
1 The Carpenter’s Daughter 3
2 An American Girl 27
3 “Dearest Gogo” 44
4 The Path to Palestine 62
5 “New Jews” 83
6 The Dark Years 106
7 A Star Is Born 118
8 Pioneer Woman 137
9 Black Clouds Rising 153
10 “And the Heart Breaking” 176
11 Life and Death 192
12 Ein Breira—No Alternative 220
13 “Nevertheless: A Woman” 245
14 1947: The Turning Point 269
15 “The Time Is Now” 294
16 Moscow 325
17 “Either Immigrants or Shoes” 351
18 The Politician 375
19 “Golda Meir” 396
20 Conflict and Charisma 421
21 “A Mutual Distancing” 443
22 Seat of Power 471
23 The Chosen 497
24 A Different Kind of War 514
25 “What Has Happened to Us?” 535
26 Terror, Territories, and the Palestinian Question 558
27 Premier Meir and President Sadat 584
28 “I Will Never Again Be the Person I Was” 610
29 An “Irrevocable” Decision 639
30 “My Only Fear Is to Live Too Long” 662
Endings: “I’ve Always Been a Realist” 684
Acknowledgments 693
Notes 697
Bibliography 769
Index 785

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