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Israel’s First U.S. Envoy Dead at 86

Eliahu Elath, a diplomat, journalist and scholar who was Israel’s first ambassador to the United States, died here June 21, at the age of 86.

He served for six years as president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, following his retirement from the foreign service in 1960.

Elath, born Eliahu Epstein in the Ukraine, was educated at the University of Kiev: He was an active Zionist and was imprisoned by the Soviet authorities for seven months before coming to Palestine in 1925.

Once in Palestine, he served as a correspondent for Reuters news agency, The Palestine Post and the Hebrew daily Davar. He later became a publicist for the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem.

When Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, Elath headed the agency’s political office in Washington. It was he who presented President Harry Truman with the official request by the provisional government of Israel for U.S. recognition of the new state. Truman complied.

Elath was appointed Israel’s first envoy to Washington and was soon raised to the rank of ambassador. He was later appointed ambassador to Britain, where he served for a decade.

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