Yehuda Avner

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Yehuda Avner
Yehuda Avner.jpg
Born Yehuda Haffner
(1928-12-30) December 30, 1928 (age 85)
Manchester, England
Occupation Israeli Prime Ministerial Advisor & Diplomat
Notable work(s)

The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, 2010

The Young Inheritors: A Portrait of Israel's Children, 1982

Yehuda Avner (Hebrew: יהודה אבנר‎; born 1928) is an Israeli former prime ministerial advisor and diplomat. He served as personal secretary and speechwriter to Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol, and as Israeli Ambassador to Australia and the United Kingdom.

Early Years[edit]

Yehuda Avner (originally Haffner) was born in Manchester, England in 1928. He was active in the Religious-Zionist youth movement, Bnei Akiva, and was committed to helping build a Jewish State in Palestine. In his book The Prime Ministers, he recalled the antisemitism he saw and experienced in Britain, including antisemitic rioting in the aftermath of the Sergeants affair. Upon high school graduation in 1947, he moved to Jerusalem, then part of British Mandatory Palestine to participate in the second Machon L'Madrichei Chutz La'Aretz.

Avner fought in the Siege of Jerusalem during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War following the establishment of Israel. In 1949, he was amongst the founders of Kibbutz Lavi, a religious kibbutz located in Israel's Galilee region. He temporarily moved back to Britain to work for the Bnei Akiva movement as National Director (Mazkir). In 1953, he married Mimi Cailingold, the sister of Esther Cailingold. He returned to Israel with his wife in 1954. The couple had four children.

Professional Life[edit]

Avner returned to and settled in Jerusalem in 1956 and joined the Israeli Foreign Service in 1958.[1] For the next 25 years, he was seconded to the Prime Minister's office and worked for five Israeli prime ministers: as Speechwriter and Secretary to Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir, and as Advisor to Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres. As a top political aide, Avner was privy to the inside workings of Israel's prime minister's office, and was present for major decision-making moments related to military operations and diplomatic negotiations, including Operation Entebbe, Operation Opera, the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. In this capacity, Avner served as the liaison between the prime ministers of Israel and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.[2]

Avner also served in diplomatic positions at the Israeli Consulate in New York City, and the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. In 1983, he was appointed Ambassador to Britain and Non-resident Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. He returned to Israel in 1988, before serving as Ambassador to Australia between 1992 and 1995.

Published Work[edit]

In 1992, Avner, together with photographer Gemma Levine, published The Young Inheritors: A Portrait of Israel's Children. In 2010, he authored The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, in which he shares his first-hand experiences working with Israel's political leaders. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the book "...a sweeping tome of Israeli politics and history." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as "...a fascinating account of someone who was an eye witness to many historic moments in the history of the Jewish state...provid[ing] insight into the actions of our nation’s leaders and offer[ing] important lessons for the future." The Jerusalem Post called the book "the ultimate insider's account".[3]


In 2013, Moriah Films, the film division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, produced The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers, the first of a two-part documentary based on Avner's book. It is narrated by Avner, and stars Christoph Waltz, Sandra Bullock, Michael Douglas, and Leonard Nimoy as the voices of Israel's Prime Ministers. The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers focuses on Prime Ministers Eshkol and Meir. Following premieres in several cities, it opened in theaters throughout the US in October 2013. Part II, The Prime Ministers: The Soldier & The Statesman, which focuses on Prime Ministers Rabin and Begin, is scheduled to be released in Spring 2014.


In 1995, the Yehuda Avner Chair in Religion and Politics was established at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.[4] Avner is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs[5] and a member of the Ambassadorial Appointments Committee. In addition, he is a member of the International Advisory Board of NGO Monitor[6] He received an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University and presented the keynote address at its 2012 Commencement.


  1. ^ Israel Bonds "Kicks Off" Israel's 60th at Dessert Reception Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans
  2. ^ The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, page 445
  3. ^ Governing Israel: Ultimate Insider's Account Jerusalem Post
  4. ^ Department of Political Studies Bar Ilan Unitversity
  5. ^ Key People Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  6. ^ International Advisory Board of NGO Monitor

External links[edit]