Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership” as Want to Read:
The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership

4.61  ·  Rating Details ·  903 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
This intimate narrative takes the reader behind the scenes into the chambers of Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin, and Menachem Begin on whose personal staffs the author served. Employing time-honored literary devices of scene-setting, impressionistic description, and characterization, he restores to life episodes of war and peace as these amazing ...more
Hardcover, 731 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Toby Press (first published July 24th 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 27, 2011 K rated it it was amazing
Don't get me wrong -- if you don't care much about Israel, or its history, or the personalities of some of its leaders, you probably won't want to slog through this 700+ page book. And if you're looking for something scholarly, erudite, copiously footnoted, academic, Michael Oren-ish, this book won't give you that either.

But. If you want a shmoozy read offering you an insider's perspective on what it was like to be a fly on several important prime ministers' walls, this is it. And if that sounds
Jean Kelly
Jan 04, 2011 Jean Kelly rated it it was amazing
You feel like the author is sitting in an armchair across from you just telling story after story about fascinating Prime Ministers of Israel that he worked closely with through the years. Interesting history and stories that give insight to the politics of the time.
Simone Shapiro
May 13, 2011 Simone Shapiro rated it it was amazing
Outstanding memoir by a man who was on the inside for all of Israel's prime ministers. Avner has an amazing memory and recounts a life full of significant and important people and events in the history of the state of Israel with verve, humor, and insight.

If you love Israel you will love this book.
Jan Rice
Aug 06, 2015 Jan Rice marked it as here-i-halted-unfinished-so-far
This 700-page book is a book club selection. I decided to read as much as I could in a week. I made it through about 350 pages including Part 1, before and during the founding of the state of Israel. After that, I wanted to read the part concerning the Jimmy Carter-led negotiations, but I got confused, leading to starting a little early and picking up some of the Rabin-Nixon and then Rabin-Ford eras. I would have liked to read the part that dealt with the 1956 Suez crisis since that impacted the ...more
Dec 08, 2013 Barry rated it it was ok
Yehuda Avner has lived an amazing life. He was in Jerusalem during the War of independence, served directly with four Prime Ministers, interacted with US Presidents and clearly was immersed in numerous historical moments. I would love to meet with him and just listen- ok I would also pose lots of questions.

Having said that, and knowing I would really like this guy, his book seriously disappointed me. In large part, the breath taking stories he refers to , have often been told better by others.
Mar 18, 2015 Ingrid rated it really liked it
You know when you read a politcial book that should be dull and it's a page turner that's impossible to put down? That was this book for me. I was completely astounded by the interest I had in the book. I did not expect to love it at all, but when I started I was drawn in by the lives of some very important men and women in Israel's history. At times the author's Menachim Begin love became a bit irritating, but he generally showed the Prime Ministers as who they were and how he experienced ...more
Feb 25, 2014 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish, political, history
Very well written and even for someone like me who has read a lot of Israeli history I learned a lot. Mostly I learned that Menachem Begin wasn't as bad of a guy as I thought. The bombing of the King David Hotel and the massacre at Deir Yassin aren't exactly things I could condone, but the book definitely softens things and brings out the great things he did for Israel and her neighbors. Written by someone who was politically opposite of Begin at the time, his praise for Begin means that much ...more
Oct 16, 2011 Eli rated it really liked it
Very entertaining, and feels like a quick read even though at 600 pages or so it isn't really. The author is biased and not always clear you are getting the truth, but he has a lot of interesting insights from being on the inside of the Israeli govt for so long. There were also some very funny scenes as well.
Susan KG
Apr 10, 2012 Susan KG rated it it was amazing
I never would have imagined that this 700 page account of the years that Yehuda Avner spent working with four of Israel's prime ministers would read so easily, and that I would have a hard time putting it down. It was fascinating to learn more about Menachem Begin, and especially to read about his meetings with Presidents Carter and Reagan. Well-written and highly recommended.
Michelle Prince
Jul 25, 2016 Michelle Prince rated it really liked it
A fascinating insider look at Israel's early leaders. I could have done without some of the unnecessary details like what Yehuda Avner ate at this or that particular event.
Nov 13, 2011 K C rated it it was amazing
Terrific insight, fly on the wall observations of 30+ years of Israeli history. Incredibly well written and a must read for anyone with any interest at all in Israeli poliitics and history.
Oct 30, 2011 Chesky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic portrayal the author make s you feel like you are his guest for dinner and he is talking about the events in this life. Acquired great admiration for Begin and Sharet.
Nov 14, 2010 Robert rated it it was amazing
could not put this 700+ page book down. Must reading!!
Nov 09, 2016 Joan rated it it was amazing
A definitive must-read account of the early years of the state from someone who participated. A must read.
Oct 15, 2016 Sadie rated it it was amazing
Wonderful reading to learn about the the founders of the the State of Israel. A true insiders view. He is a terrific writer. It reads like a good novel.
Jun 23, 2013 Judy rated it it was amazing
At 18 years old, British-born Yehuda Avner sailed on the rusting steamship, the Aegean Star, for the land of Palestine. Tired of the increasing anti-Semitism in his hometown and inspired by passionate supporters of a Jewish homeland, including the fiery Menachem Begin, Avner settled in Palestine. Little did he guess that his British background and his skillful powers of articulation would lead him to become an advisor and speechwriter to Israeli prime ministers including Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, ...more
Jan 20, 2015 Alexandra rated it it was amazing
The rare, rare historical account that reads like a novel! I simply couldn't put it down until I finished. And I wanted more!!!

I don't share the author's particular "sympathies", but I certainly admire his exemplary accounting of so many years serving these "giants".

A must read for anyone interested in 20th Century History.

About the author:

Ambassador Yehuda Avner is an Israeli former diplomat, and prime ministerial advisor. Born in Manchester, England in 1928, he arrived in British Mandatory Pal
I was in Haifa at the Dan Pananorama Hotel in Jan, 2012. On the top floor, in the Happy Hour area, I was connected to free WiFi and was doing email. A group of elderly American Jews entered the area, loud and boisterous after a day of sight-seeing. One of the women started to praise this book so much that I ordered it from Amazon while sitting there, to have it be at home when I came back. Now 6 months later.....

A fascinating book of the Manchester-born author who emigrated to Israel, witnessed
May 29, 2016 Susan rated it it was amazing
This was fascinating. It is indeed an "intimate narrative" by Avner who served (as speech writer) under Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, Yitzchak Rabin, and Menachem Begin. Born in England, Avner went as a youth group leader to Israel before May 1948 so the book recounts a very large span of history. He's a very smart man. Highlights for me were the fact that he was a Labor party faithful but was asked when Rabin stepped down to serve under Begin which he did with trepidation and he came to love Begin. ...more
Rachel Sharf
Jan 14, 2012 Rachel Sharf rated it liked it
An interesting and easy read about a fascinating time in Israeli history - described through the lens of the people in charge at the time, the prime ministers. Yahuda Avner, the author, was a speech writer for Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Ytshak Rabin'd first term as prime minister and Menahem Begin.
I had several issues with this book:

1. The author's political affilliation shines through. Above all he admires Menahem Begin, of the right, Likud party. In my opinion it is not the balanced view of the
Jul 08, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it

Absolutely fascinating! Reads more like a story than the memoir of a man who lived through some of the most critical days in the history of the state of Israel, in his positions working side by side with five of the prime ministers of Israel. So informative and exciting, to be as a fly on the wall in discussions in both Tel Aviv and Washington, among other world capitals and leaders. I always thought Menachem Begin was a trigger happy, intransigent punk. What a different perspective I have now!
Jay Carper
There were some slow parts. (It's a history, so you have to expect that.) But overall, this was a fantastic book. I loved it, especially the last half that focused on Menachem Begin. If only every world leader could have the kind of character, kindness, and realistic idealism that Begin possessed. The author's portrayal of some of the biggest characters of the latter 20th century filled them out and made them more real to me. Carter, Reagan, and Shimon Peres dropped a couple of notches in my ...more
Feb 14, 2015 Jan rated it really liked it
An erudite, intense and unabashedly subjective account of the author's experiences serving all Israeli prime ministers from Levi Eshkol to especially Menahem Begin. Begin is the object of the author's undiluted admiration and this provides an interesting perspective on a person, that in the mainstream narrative is seen as a much less nuanced fanatic. Maybe he was, but through Avner's account you also get the impression of a man deeply rooted in principle, history and faith ... experienced and ...more
Jan 06, 2016 Roger rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. From childhood I have learned about ancient Israel, but knew very little about the nation since its rebirth in 1948. The history of modern Israel is amazing and miraculous. The Prime Ministers is one of the best history books I've read in a long time. Over 700 pages, it is a long book, but the author is so good with words, it is easy to read.

The characters who made the nation what it is today come to life in this book. All of the characters (including several U.S. Presidents)
Jonathan Meola
Oct 21, 2012 Jonathan Meola rated it really liked it
Great read - not a history in the traditional sense, but a personal memoir from a man who was witness to some of the key moments in Israel's history, from the British Mandate through independence and wars of survival.

He uses the anecdotes of his own life to share these critical points in the nation's history - and his work as a diplomatic speechwriter for several of Israel's greatest leaders, spanning the ideological spectrum, gave him the chance to witness some of that small country's most imp
Jun 21, 2015 Jan rated it liked it
An interesting and personal memoir by Yehuda Avner, an Israeli who worked closely with four Israeli Prime Ministers -- Eshkol, Golda Meir, Rabin and Begin. It provides an historical overview of the main events during their years in power, which covered roughly the first 30 years of Israel's nationhood. However, the book is flawed in the way most political autobiographies and memoirs are in that it's superficial, glossing over very complex events in a cosmetic manner. Also, since Avner worked for ...more
Feb 23, 2016 Jason rated it it was amazing
A remarkable book by a man who lived a remarkable life by winning the confidence of multiple Israeli Prime Ministers, enabling him to be present for some of the most significant events in the 2nd half of the 20th Century. This was no academic read such as Michael Oren's works - this is a well written first person account, with incredibly compelling details (such as Ronald Reagan's note cards!). It is along book, but I did not want it to end. Quite simply, the best book about Israel I have read - ...more
Apr 30, 2012 Ken rated it really liked it
Imagine if a top adviser to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe had written a memoir about America's early years as a nation. Yehuda Avner has written a memoir of his years serving as an adviser to most of Israel's prime ministers during its first 50 years. A prodigious note taker and brilliant scribe, Avner takes the patient reader behind the scenes to some of Israel's most incredible early history: the 1967 Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the rendering of the 1979 ...more
Dec 01, 2012 Shalom rated it really liked it
A good book that summarizes that events surrounding the founding of Israel, pre 1948, until the death of Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the 1980's. A history of the fight for Israel's survival and it's subsequent wars with its neighbors. It recounts some of the history of Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Rabin, Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol and David Ben Gurion.
The aspect that I didnt like was the author portrays himself as a simple minded person who got swept up in the political maelstrom of early Israel.
Carol Catinari
Dec 28, 2013 Carol Catinari rated it it was amazing
Written by and from point of view of an adviser to several Israeli prime ministers, this book gives an upfront accounting of the events and people that shaped Israel from it's statehood inception in 1948 through the subsequent wars and peace initiatives. The political philosophies and interactions are colored by the differing personalities of the major players: Levi Eshkol, Menachem Begin, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin. Avner also details the international dynamics at play, and brings in those ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Like Dreamers: The Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, and the Divided Israel They Created
  • Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul
  • Out of the Depths: The Story of a Child of Buchenwald Who Returned Home at Last
  • The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East
  • Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East
  • The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East
  • Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel
  • Catch the Jew!
  • My Life
  • The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace
  • The Case for Israel
  • Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence
  • In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands
  • Louis D. Brandeis
  • Golda
  • Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History
  • Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza
  • The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East
Yehuda Avner (Hebrew: יהודה אבנר‎; December 30, 1928 – March 24, 2015) was an Israeli prime ministerial advisor, diplomat, and author. He served as Speechwriter and Secretary to Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol, and as Advisor to Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres. Avner served in positions at the Israeli Consulate in New York, and the Israeli ...more
More about Yehuda Avner...

Share This Book

“What did we see at Entebbe? We saw an extremist left-wing German Nazi point a finger at the hostages: who shall go to the left and who shall go to the right – non-Jews one way, Jews the other. And we asked ourselves, Ribono shel olam – God Almighty – hardly thirty years after the Auschwitz crematoria, that cemetery without end, with the image of Dr. Mengele still fresh in our minds, standing there among the rows of Jews – of the men and of the women, of the children and of the babies – pointing his finger, ‘To the right: to death; to the left: to life.’ And there was no one to save them. “Well, now there is. Now we declare for all to hear: Never again! Our generation has taken a solemn oath consecrated in the blood of our slain mothers, our butchered fathers, our asphyxiated babes, and our fallen brave – never again will the blood of the Jew be shed with impunity. Never again will Jewish honor be easy prey. “We are no empire. We are but a small nation…but after all that has befallen our nation throughout all the generations – and not least the generation of the Holocaust – we declare that if there be anyone anywhere who is persecuted, or humiliated, or threatened, or abducted, or is in any way endangered simply because he or she is a Jew, then let the whole world know that we, Israel, the Jewish State, shall marshal all our strength to come to their aid and bring them to the safe haven of our homeland. This is the message of Entebbe.” 1 likes
More quotes…