The historical novel The Ambassador reflects on what might have transpired if the League of Nations had declared Israel to be a state before the Holocaust ever commenced. As the story unfolds, word spreads that Palestine will be released from British control and partitioned. The creation of Israel is controversial — not even universally well received by Jews. The new state will, after all, be tiny and sure to be invaded by its neighbors. That David Ben-Gurion has plans to set up an Israeli embassy in Hitler’s Berlin only adds fuel to the fire.
At the center of this tale is the newly formed embassy. It is the spring of 1938 and Dan Lavi has reluctantly agreed to become the first Israeli Ambassador to Germany. Despite his desire to remain in Jerusalem, he is of the opinion that it was the right decision for Israel to maintain formal diplomatic relations with Germany. He passionately believes that it is possible to use diplomacy to get as many Jews out of harm’s way and into Israel as possible, and he’s willing to work with anyone who can help him accomplish that goal. Not all of his countrymen are in agreement. For example, the goal of Lavi’s colleague Shmulik Shoham, the head of the newly formed Mossad, is no less than the assassination of Hitler. Dan and Shmulik are, of course, not alone in their philosophical struggles. The novel is populated by many historical and fictional characters whose experiences and personalities lead them to have widely varying viewpoints on how to get to the end result they each desire.
This alternative history leads to an outcome that is optimistic, but not unrealistically so. Of particular note is the authors’ ability to render a story in more than black-and-white terms. Avner and Rees show a sophisticated grasp of the complexities of human nature, particularly during times of strife.
Two authors with distinctly different backgrounds joined forces to create The Ambassador. Yehuda Avner acted as an advisor and English speechwriter for four Israeli Prime Ministers and served as an Israeli diplomat. His previous book, The Prime Ministers, is a nonfictional account of Israeli politics from an insider’s point of view. Matt Rees is best known for his mysteries featuring a Palestinian educator turned sleuth. His perspective on the Middle East has been significantly influenced by his experience as a foreign correspondent in the region.