Yossi Chetboun: A Life of Public Service

Yossi (Yosef) Chetboun, born on October 1, 1933, is an Israeli economist and administrator. He served as the Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was awarded the Israel Prize for his exceptional contributions to society and the country in 5781 (2021).


Born in Haifa to parents who emigrated from Poland in the early 1930s, Yossi Chetboun grew up in the Dari HaCarmel neighborhood. His younger brother is the Nobel Prize laureate, Prof. Aharon Chetboun.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Yossi Chetboun studied education, law, and business administration at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He graduated with degrees in both education and law. Between 1960 and 1968, he worked as a lecturer in agricultural law and administration at the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University in Rehovot. In 1966 and 1967, he studied law at the University of California, Berkeley, and received his law degree. In 1991, he earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Jewish Studies from Boston University.

Yossi Chetboun was married to Atra, an architect, and they had three children.

Public Service

Yossi Chetboun's career in public service began in the late 1950s and continued for several decades:

    *  From 1957 to 1960, he served as the Director of the Mechanism at the Ministry of Agriculture, where he became acquainted with the Minister of Agriculture, Moshe Dayan.

    *  Between 1960 and 1968, he was the legal advisor at the Ministry of Agriculture.

    *  After Dayan's appointment as Minister of Defense, Chetboun served as the legal advisor to the security establishment from 1968 to 1974.

    *  In 1974 and 1978, he headed the Ministry of Defense delegation in Canada and the United States, receiving the Medal for Distinguished Public Service from the U.S. Department of Defense at the end of his term.

    *  From 1978 to 1980, during Moshe Dayan's tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Menachem Begin's government, Chetboun was the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    *  In 1992, Chetboun was appointed by the Israeli government to serve as the Chairman of the National Anti-Drug Abuse Council. During his tenure, significant progress was made in the Council's activities, including the establishment of rehabilitation villages in Qaddimah and Malkishua.

    *  Since 1992, Chetboun has also been appointed by the government to serve as a member of the Council for Commemorating Presidents and Prime Ministers.

    *  In 1997, he was appointed by the government to serve as the Chairman of the Committee to Investigate the Failed Assassination Attempt in Jordan of Hamas member Khaled Mashal.

    *  In 2010, he represented Israel on the UN committee to investigate the Turkish flotilla incident, which later issued the Palmer Report. He was also responsible for drafting the agreement between Israel and Turkey and managed the negotiations on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2016, aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

    *  In the same year, he was a member of a committee established in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, which dealt with the political and security cabinet's authority and the transfer of information to it.

Economic Sector

In 1986, following the banking crisis and their actual nationalization, Chetboun served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Discount Bank from 1986 to 1991. During this time, he also served as a member of the advisory committee to the Bank of Israel. He returned to the bank's board of directors when the Bronfman-Sheran group acquired control of the bank.

Between 1995 and 2001, Chetboun served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of El Al.

Since 1995, he has been Chairman of the Ateret Foundation, the investment arm of Edgar Bronfman, effectively representing him in Israel. He also serves as a director on several Israeli government institutions and major economic companies.

Public Activities

Yossi Chetboun is involved in various public activities and organizations:

    *  He is a member of the Eli Wiesel Foundation for Humanity in Israel.

    *  He serves as Chairman of the Israr Fund to assist wounded IDF soldiers and bereaved families.

    *  He is Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Israel Museum and a member of the Board of Governors of Yad Vashem.

    *  Until October 2014, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Rashbi Fund.

    *  He has received honorary doctorates from the Hebrew Union College in New York and Boston University.

Honors and Awards

Throughout his career, Yossi Chetboun has received several awards and honors:

    *  In 1980, he was awarded the U.S. Department of Defense's Medal for Distinguished Public Service.

    *  In May 2010, he received the French Legion of Honor in the rank of Officer, which was later promoted to the rank of Commander in 2014.

    *  In 2021 (5781), he was awarded the Israel Prize for a special contribution to society and the state.

Yossi Chetboun's life has been marked by his dedicated public service, contributions to the economic sector, and active involvement in various public organizations, making him a prominent figure in Israel's history.

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