The Prime Ministers Is Vital to Anyone Interested in History and the Middle East
The Prime Ministers offers an intimate look into the diplomacy and politics of the founding years of the State of Israel. It is a must-read for anyone interested in modern history and particularly in the Middle East.
Who Was Yehuda Avner?
Yehuda Avner was in the unique position to be a first-hand observer and participant in the development of the State of Israel. He served as a speechwriter and secretary for both Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir. He also served as an advisor to Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres. He held the position of ambassador for Israel, first to the country of his birth, Great Britain, and later to Australia and Ireland.
A born writer, he kept copious notes and diaries during his years of service and has drawn on them in writing this richly descriptive and eminently readable book. While the book is a biography rather than a political memoir, it still allows the reader to gain a deeper understanding of the leading figures and their roles in the events of modern Israeli history.
The Author’s Relationships with Legendary Leaders
Avner writes with great respect for these leaders. He reveals a strong affection for Menachem Begin that illuminates the personal relationship they shared. Avner is able to bring the reader into the discussions and debates that took place behind closed doors, showing the thought processes behind some of the major events of the 20th century. We see the impossible positions in which prime ministers frequently found themselves and how they made decisions, including some that repeatedly led Israel into war with its neighbors.
The reader will gain a richer understanding of the complex relationships between the leaders themselves. Incidents like the Altalena, which saw Ben Gurion and Begin locked in deadly conflict, are dealt with head-on and one realizes that events such as these are always more nuanced than they seem in the news.
A Glimpse into Maneuvering Behind the Scenes
Avner, through his detailed and descriptive writing, also gives us a glimpse into the political maneuvering and backdoor diplomacy that paved the way to the peace treaty with Anwar Sadat of Egypt and his historic visit to and recognition of the State of Israel.
Shedding Light on the Israeli-American Relationship
The Prime Ministers sheds light on the relationship between Israel and its closest ally, the United States. We see how Israel’s statesmen at various times vexed, infuriated, charmed, and worked the American political establishment with a combination of pugnaciousness and flexibility. Understanding Israel’s history with Washington gives one context and insight into any challenges that may exist to the relationship between the two allies today.
While the 700 pages may seem daunting, the book is structured in such a way that one may easily read it cover to cover or just a chapter at a time per one’s interest. The benefit of a full reading is that Avner contextualizes the events about which he is writing, which is of great value to the armchair historian.
The Prime Ministers was one of the ten finalists for the 2010 National Jewish Book Awards. In 2013, a two-part documentary based on the book was produced by The Simon Wiesenthal Center and narrated by Avner with actors giving life to the voices of the prime ministers.