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Eliahu Elath (Epstein)

(1903 - 1990)
By Benjamin Jaffe

Eliahu Elath (Epstein) was an Israeli diplomat and Arabist. Born in Snovsk, Russia, Elath was active in the Zionist movement in Russia before settling in Palestine in 1924. He worked as a laborer in a number of settlements for a few years, meanwhile making a special study of the Bedouin.

From 1934 to 194,5 he was director of the Middle East section in the Jewish Agency’s Political Department. As head of the Agency’s Political Office in Washington, D.C., during 1945–48, Elath received the U.S. government recognition of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. With the de facto recognition of Israel he was appointed special representative of the Provisional Council of the Government of Israel and, from February 25, 1949, Israeli ambassador to Washington.

From 1950 to 1959 he was ambassador in London. He served as president of the Hebrew University (1962–68) and chairman of the board of governors of the Afro-Asian Institute (1959–62).

His books include Ha-Bedu'im (1933); Ukhlosei Ever ha-Yarden ve-Ḥayyeihem (1936); Ḥaj Amin al-Ḥusseini (Heb., 1968); San Francisco Diary (Heb., 1971); Shivat Ẓiyyon ve-Arav (The Return to Zion and the Arabs, 1974) which deals with the contacts made between the Zionist and Arab leaders and the attempts to arrive at an understanding with them before the establishment of the State; and The Struggle for Statehood: Washington 19451948 (Heb., 3 vols., 1979–82).

Sources: D. Lazar, Rashim be-Yisrael, 1 (1953), 185– 91.
Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.