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The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,224 ratings  ·  123 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 ind ...more
Hardcover, 731 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Toby Press (first published July 24th 2010)
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Leyla Hi, I'm a Goodreads librarian and I'm allowed to add books so I can tell you how I do things. I generally copy paste the description provided by the…moreHi, I'm a Goodreads librarian and I'm allowed to add books so I can tell you how I do things. I generally copy paste the description provided by the editing house, as it is the official introduction of the book. I don't do them myself because that would be too subjective and I would highlight my personal vision of the book. As a result, I'm leaving this to the "professionals of marketing", even though sometimes I don't like the way the introduction is formulated.
In this particular case, it seems that the librarian who added the book did the same thing as me, it definitely sounds like an editing house text.(less)

Community Reviews

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4.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,224 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Nov 14, 2011 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 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.
Daniel Sevitt
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Much to unpack here. First of all, this was one of my late father's books, so there's that. Secondly, I read much of it in shul on Yom Kippur this year including the parts that dealt with the war that began on the exact same day 44 years earlier. Avner's account is such a captivating and authentic, insider's look at this and other hugely momentous events that I found myself laughing and crying at different times as the delightful, gossipy anecdotes were interspersed with precisely recounted conv ...more
Simone Shapiro
Apr 07, 2011 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.
Avraham Anouchi
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
It is a superb historical documentation of outstanding prime ministers.
Jan Rice
Oct 27, 2014 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
Jul 20, 2013 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 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 worki ...more
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, jewish, political
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 mo ...more
Jul 17, 2011 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
Mar 28, 2012 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 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.
Oct 23, 2011 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 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 rated it it was amazing
could not put this 700+ page book down. Must reading!!
Meir Brooks
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reading-cycle-ii
An excellent book, but only for a very limited perspective of the Israeli story.

Note: While the book technically covers four prime ministers, over half the 700-page book (about 370 pages) is about Begin, while the first 100 pages are the somewhat less interesting story of the author's own biography.

The book is based on the author's personal contacts with four Israeli Prime Ministers-- Levi Eshkol. Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Menahem Begin--roughly covering the crucial years 1963-1984, and co
Peter Lerner
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand Israel, this is a great place to start

Yehuda Avner in his review of working along four Prime Ministers shares insights of the psyche, driving forces and challenges Israeli leaders face.
I found so much behind the scenes insight that inspire on one hand and leave us longing for leaders from yesteryear.
I’m certain you’ll enjoy this book.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yehuda Avner does a phenomenal job of giving us a window in the lives of the Israeli Prime Ministers. There hopes, their dreams, their philosophies, their greatness and their humanity are all depicted with flawless and intriguing writing in this book. A must read for anyone remotely interested in Israeli history. Though an investment given its length, its all worth it!
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting, gives some insight into Israeli politics and recent (past 60-70) years.

But I can't take it too seriously given it is a one sided view of history. Even knowing this, I still felt it was too biased in some places.
Elisa (Reisender Bücherwurm)
Längere Rezension folgt
Jack Nathan
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best!!
Sara Goldenberg
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very good, very interesting account of history that I'd never get a first hand look at otherwise. Long, though.

Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding memoir from an aide to several Israeli prime ministers. Mr Avner reflects on historical events as well as on each prime minister's political and personal lives. Armed with a great deal of detailed information, the author helps us to better understand each prime minister and what s/he achieved. Lengthy book, but worth the time.
Apr 03, 2013 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
Norbert Schachter
Intimate view of Begin and others

This book is a behind the scenes picture of Israeli politics at the headquarters level, revealing personal glimpses of Begin and the others that are quite interesting and touching. Too short, but one mustn't grumble.
Jun 17, 2014 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
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 13, 2012 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
Apr 16, 2012 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!
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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
“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
“written all over his face,” 0 likes
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