Former Israeli ambassador Avner offers a literary, distinctive, and colorful look into the inner sanctums of diplomacy and politics of the Jewish state. As speech writer and secretary to prime ministers Eshkol and Meir, adviser to prime ministers Rabin, Begin, and Peres, and ambassador to the court of St. James, Avner is uniquely positioned to bring to light the qualities and the temperaments of these leaders, so influential in laying the foundations of the state of Israel.
Most significantly, Avner shows through firsthand accounts that Israeli prime ministers on the left and the right worked diligently toward peace against seemingly insurmountable odds. His distinctive contribution is to disclose the brainstorming that took place behind closed doors before and after difficult decisions were made public.
The Prime Ministers illustrates how Israeli statesmen have dealt with and represented the Jewish state to the global community, highlighting the quandaries in which civil servants often find themselves. Israeli ambassadors to the United States, for example, are required to negotiate the political Beltway—as well as the American Jewish community at large—as representatives of the State of Israel, not as commanders or even policymakers. Yitzhak Rabin, for example, was revered as the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and later the prime minister who dared to embark on the Oslo peace process. But although Rabin understood the need to make a case for Israel in the U.S. political system, as ambassador to the United States in 1968, he was not savvy enough to know what methods might actually backfire. In the eyes of polished diplomats like Abba Eban, Rabin did not seem suited for the role; Eban often complained to Begin and other members of the Israeli parliament about Rabin's vocal support for Richard Nixon, jumping into what Eban argued should be a non-issue in U.S.-Israeli relations. By 1992, when Rabin was elected prime minister for the second time, it was clear he had learned from the past. Managing to find just the right combination of toughness and flexibility, he charmed Washington and specifically then-president Bill Clinton, who considered him a seasoned diplomat and warrior.
Avner also offers valuable insight to those of his countrymen who would pursue a diplomatic career: "[I]t is not enough for an Israeli ambassador here to simply say 'I'm pursuing my country's best interests according to the book.' … An Israeli ambassador who is … unwilling to maneuver his way through the complex American political landscape to promote Israel's strategic interests would do well to pack his bags and go home."
This historical account gives the reader special insights into the internal, as well as personal, workings of the Jewish state and is of particular value for understanding the nature and complexity of the U.S.-Israeli alliance.