Special Interview Drafting of a Peace Treaty
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Special Interview Drafting of a Peace Treaty

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The son of a Polish immigrant who made a living for his family as a small retail merchant in Pennsylvania and Ohio is a key American figure in the drafting of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel at the Blair House conference.

He is Herbert Hansell, legal advisor to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and the legal counsel and supervisor of the State Department’s legal affairs. He is thus the chief lawyer for the American government in international negotiations and accords. Hansell, who was named to the State Department post shortly after President Carter was inaugurated last year and then speedily confirmed by the Senate, has been literally working night and day, weekends included, since the Blair House conference began Oct. 12.

One of the eight members of the American delegation to the Blair House talks, Hansell is credited with having “a large part” in the writing of the two treaty negotiating drafts that the United States presented to Egypt and Israel. From these papers and supplementary writings, the Egyptian and Israeli delegations reached agreements that were sent to Cairo and Jerusalem for the governments there to consider.

“It’s been pretty much of a continuous process since the negotiations began, “Hansell told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview in which he was highly reluctant to discuss his part, let alone the substance of his work in the negotiations. However, it was learned his mornings at the State Department for the past two weeks have begun at 6 or 6:30 and that the activity, either in the State Department or Blair House or the Madison Hotel, where the delegations are staying continued until midnight and beyond.


Hansell, who will be 53 on Nov. 16, also had an important role in the legal work connected with the Camp David conference and a principal part in the tortuous negotiations that finally resulted in the Panama Canal treaty. While he did not go to Camp David himself during the 13-day conference there last month, he prepared much of the legal papers in the State Department that was funneled into the writing of the two Middle East settlement frameworks that emerged from the conference.

His extensive involvement in the Panama treaty talks was indicated by his participation in the treaty signing in September, 1977, when the leaders of Latin American governments came to the White House for an unprecedented ceremony. “Hansell was the guy who handled that treaty signing,” JTA was informed. The government of Panama’s stamp commemorating the White House scene shows Hansell standing behind President Carter.

Hansell and his wife, the former Jeanne Harris, have three children. They are members of a suburban temple in Cleveland where Hansell was long active in Jewish affairs, including the Jewish Welfare Federation. Mrs. Hansell, a social worker who had previously served at the Fair Hill Mental Center in Cleveland is now a practicing therapist in Washington.

Before joining the State Department, Hansell was with the Cleveland law firm of Jones, Day Reavis and Pogue for 24 years. He had also been with a law firm in New York for two years prior to that and served the National Science Foundation as its general counsel for two years. Hansell was chairman of the Advisory Committee on Law and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and of the committee of the law school of the Yale University Council. He received a BS degree at MIT in 1946 and his law degree from Yale three years later.

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