Leon Charney was a prominent lawyer, author, broadcaster and former advisor to prominent statesmen including President Jimmy Carter, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and President Ezer Weizman. Charney’s rise to international prominence is a classic “American Dream” story. Born to an immigrant family, Charney worked his way through Yeshiva University and Brooklyn Law School. With two hundred dollars in his pocket, Charney started his own law firm representing sports figures and show business personalities.
A confluence of events brought him into contact with Senator Vance Hartke of Indiana. At age 35, Charney became Special Counsel to Senator Hartke and was asked by the then Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir to use his position and capacity to help free soviet Jewish dissidents. His involvement brought about the successful emigration of 1,000 Jews to Israel. During this period, Ezer Weizman, who was to become Defense Minister of Israel, retained Charney as his personal attorney. Concomitantly, Anwar Sadat of Egypt made the historical trip to Israel to seek peace. These events caused Charney to be called upon by President Jimmy Carter and Ezer Weizman to act as a backdoor channel to assist the parties in putting together a workable document which ultimately led to the Camp David Peace accords and thereafter the historical Camp David Peace Agreement between Israel and Egypt.
This was the first time in history that peace was made between a Jewish nation and an Arab country. Carter has often referred to Charney as the “unsung hero” of the Camp David Peace Treaty and his “fellow Middle East negotiator”. In 1986, at the behest of a high ranking government official, Charney traveled secretly to Tunisia to meet with Yasser Arafat in an attempt to encourage an opening of dialogue between Palestinian authorities and the State of Israel. From Governors Mario Cuomo to George Pataki, Ezer Weizman to Rudolph Giuliani, politicians and professionals have tapped into Leon Charney’s knowledge and experience in order to aid in both economic and political matters.
For over twenty-five years, Charney moderated The Leon Charney Report, an award winning nationally televised program. He was the author of four books, “Spy for Peace”, “The Charney Report: Confronting the Arab-Israeli Conflict”, "Battle of the Two Talmuds (Judaism's Struggle with Power, Glory & Guilt)" and “The Mystery of the Kaddish” which was ranked #1 on both Amazon.com and Barnes and Nobles.com in religious affairs.
In 2014 Leon Charney won an Emmy Award for the television version of his film "Backdoor Channels: The Price of Peace". Leon Charney was the recipient of many awards including five honorary doctorate degrees, among them ones from Yeshiva University and the University of Haifa.
In 2015 Leon Charney was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Florida Atlantic University and in 2017 the university’s Diplomacy Program was named in his honor.