Adviser to Fourteen Defense Ministers

Haim Yisraeli, close adviser and confidant of Israeli defense ministers for decades, dies Tuesday aged 84; President Shimon Peres describes his death as 'a heavy loss.'

Haim Yisraeli, who was the close adviser and confidant of Israeli defense ministers for more than 50 years, died on Tuesday at the age of 84.

President Shimon Peres issued a special obituary describing Yisraeli's death as "a heavy loss" and said nobody could replace him.

Haim Israeli - Uriel Sinai
Uriel Sinai

Yisraeli started working in the Defense Ministry in 1950 under David Ben-Gurion, who was both prime minister and defense minister. Yisraeli was the minister's office secretary.

Over the next decades he filled several positions, including manager of the minister's bureau, minister's personal aide and deputy director general for the Defense Ministry. In reality, he was doing the same work the entire time, but his authorities and influence expanded over the years. He shared the defense establishment's sensitive secrets and was partner to its hidden dynamics.

Yisraeli was especially close to Ben-Gurion and later to Moshe Dayan, but he also worked with several other ministers, including Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak (in his first term, when he was both prime minister and defense minister ) and Benjamin Ben Eliezer.

In 1998, on the state's 50th anniversary, Yisraeli won the Israel Prize for his special contribution to society and the state. The prize panel said "Yisraeli was a paradigm and set a personal example to civil servants in Israel."

Barak issued a death announcement of his own, saying that "for two generations, since the state's establishment, in the wars and between them, Haim Yisraeli was the main central pillar, the corner stone in running the defense establishment. "Yisraeli devoted his life to the defense establishment and had a hand in every part of its construction for years and generations."