Samuel Lewis, Camp David Diplomat, Dies at 83

Ambassador to Israel Helped Seal Historic Peace Deal

By JTA

Published March 12, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Samuel Lewis, an influential U.S. ambassador to Israel who helped broker the Camp David peace agreement, has died.

Samuel Lewis
Samuel Lewis

Lewis, a career diplomat, died Monday at the age of 83.

He was ambassador to Israel from 1977-1985, a period during which Israel and Egypt achieved a peace agreement brokered by President Carter.

Lewis, who was not Jewish, was so deeply involved in the day-to-day back and forth between Israel and the United States and was so curious about Israeli and Jewish culture that Ezer Weizman, who was then Israel’s defense minister and a lead negotiator, nicknamed him Shmuel Levi.

Lewis played a key role in calming recurring tensions between President Reagan and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, first in 1981 when Israeli planes destroyed a nuclear reactor in Iraq, and in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon.

Some Israeli right-wingers who resented the influence he wielded as U.S. ambassador dubbed him the “high commissioner,” a derisive reference to the pre-independence British rulers of Mandate Palestine.

The Israeli political establishment, however, appreciated his avuncular style, his civility and his interest in the country; when he retired in 1985, the government dedicated a forest in his name.

‘He performed miracles in terms of interpreting America to Israel and Israel to America, often absorbing the brunt of criticism for his efforts,” said a statement from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank he advised since its founding in the late 1980s.

His involvement in the peace process led to a long retirement career studying and analyzing peace issues, first by leading the congressionally mandated U.S. Institute for Peace from 1987-1992 and then as a founding member of the Israel Policy Forum, a group set up in the early 1990s to back Clinton-era peace efforts.

“Due to the power of his intellect, his charm and his gravitas, Sam was a pro-peace powerhouse in Washington, influencing policy-makers and policy-shapers to never give up on peace for Israel and her neighbors,” Debra DeLee, Americans for Peace Now’s president, said in a statement.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.