The Books Netanyahu Reads While Deciding How to Deal With Iran

A video message by the prime minister in honor of Hebrew Book Week provides a glimpse at the books on Netanyahu's office bookshelves.

Barak Ravid
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Barak Ravid

If there is anything to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devotes most of his free time, it's reading books. Some he reads cover to cover, others he only skims or reads a chapter or two, while some just sit on the shelf.

Netanyahu reads mostly non-fiction. He prefers books on the history of the great Jewish revolt against the Romans or works of philosophy over novels or thrillers.

For Hebrew Book Week, which takes place this week, the Prime Minister's Office released a greeting recorded by Netanyahu. In the short clip, filmed in the premier's office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu holds a book written by his father, historian Ben-Zion Netanyahu, entitled The Five Forefathers of Zionism.

"When I was a kid I would read, and later, as a young man, I read more, and as an adult I read even more," Netanyahu tells the camera. "I know that we are also an Internet nation, but at the end of the day we are the People of the Book."

The clip provides a glimpse at the books that Netanyahu keeps in his office, most of which represent his fields of interest: the Bible, the Iranian nuclear threat, Jerusalem, and David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister.

One of the more prominent books on the shelf could not be more predictable: The Rise of Nuclear Iran – How Iran Defies the West, published in 2009 and written by Dore Gold, who served as Netanyahu's political adviser during his first term as premier and was later appointed Israel's ambassador to the UN by Netanyahu. Gold still visits Netanyahu's bureau once every few weeks and advises him on various issues.

Another book that speaks to Netanyahu's never-ending dealings with the Iranian nuclear project is Deterrence and Security in the 21st Century: China, Britain, France, and the Enduring Legacy of the Nuclear Revolution. The author, Dr. Avery Goldstein, an expert on China at the University of Pennsylvania, writes in the book that attaining nuclear weapons "will remain an attractive option for many other less powerful states worries about adversaries who capabilities they cannot match."

Netanyahu claims he has not yet decided whether or not to attack Iran's nuclear sites, but one book in his library could help him make up his mind: Advice to War Presidents: A Remedial Course in Statecraft by former diplomat and current academic Angelo Codevilla. In the book, published in 2009, Codevilla claims that most American presidents have waged failed and unnecessary wars because they tried to impose their personal values on the international reality.

Another curious book choice is The Singularity Is Near, by author and futurist Ray Kurzweil, which deals with artificial intelligence and the affect of technology on the human body.

Among the other titles on Netanyahu's shelf: Novardok by Shmuel Ben-Artzi, Netanyahu's father-in-law, on the pre-WWII world of Lithuanian Jewish seminaries; Gandhi: Conversations with Rehavam Zeevi by Michael Shashar; James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls by American archaeologist and Bible scholar Robert Eisenman; Ben-Gurion and the Arabs of the Land of Israel, by Shabtai Tevet; Avraham Ibn Shoshan's dictionary of the Hebrew language and The War on Terror, by none other than one Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Netanyahu reading a book in his office in Jerusalem. Credit: GPO