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In Memoriam: Samuel W. Lewis


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The Washington Institute expresses its deepest sympathies to the family of Ambassador Samuel W. Lewis -- our dear friend and longtime member of the Institute's board of advisors -- who passed away at age eighty-four.

Sam Lewis was a legendary diplomat, imbued with the finest qualities of the foreign service -- tough but compassionate, bold but contemplative, determined but conciliatory. In a career that took him from Afghanistan to Italy to the White House, Sam was best remembered for his eight years of service as U.S. ambassador to Israel in the late 1970s and mid 1980s, a time of unprecedented regional realignment.

In that post, he performed miracles in terms of interpreting America to Israel and Israel to America, often absorbing the brunt of criticism for his efforts. But thanks in no small part to his creativity, sensitivity, and personal charm, the U.S.-Israel relationship flourished on his watch, as Washington not only mediated peace between Israel and its largest and most powerful neighbor but also laid the foundation for the bilateral U.S.-Israel strategic relationship. Decades after he left Israel, Sam is still remembered by both Americans and Israelis as the standard to which all others are compared.

Retirement from the State Department only ended one phase of Sam's life; over the past thirty years, he has served as president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, director of State Department Policy Planning, and active advisor to numerous groups and organizations committed to completing the task he began at Camp David in 1978 -- negotiating a final resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Washington Institute is especially proud of its close association with Sam. From the earliest days of the Institute, he was an invaluable source of wise counsel and sound advice to lay and professional leaders alike; his mentorship left a deep and lasting impression on generations of scholar-practitioners. The idea of building an institution committed to injecting scholarship into the Middle East policymaking process was nurtured by Sam's insight, experience and humanity.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to Sam's widow, Sallie, their children, and their family.