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Israel’s first ambassador to Egypt dies

JERUSALEM, Aug. 13 (JTA) — Israel’s first ambassador to Egypt after the 1979 treaty was signed is being remembered as a diplomat who helped cement the peace between the two countries.

Israel’s ambassador to France, Eliahu Ben-Elissar, died of a heart attack in Paris over the weekend at the age of 68.

As ambassador to Egypt, Ben-Elissar “poured content into the new peace between the two states,” Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday, praising his many years of service to the Jewish state.

Ben-Elissar served for 10 years in the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, before embarking on a career in politics.

After Ben-Elissar joined the Likud Party, former Prime Minister Menachem Begin appointed him director general of the Prime Minister’s Office in 1977.

Later elected as a Likud legislator, Ben-Elissar served for two terms as the hawkish chairman of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Likud colleague Uzi Landau, who now heads the committee, described Ben-Elissar as a “bitter opponent” of the Oslo accords.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Ben-Elissar ambassador to the United States in 1996 and to France in 1998.

Ben-Elissar’s death on Saturday came just after he and several other diplomats had been recalled by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who last week assumed the post of foreign minister after David Levy resigned the post.

Ben-Elissar died as he was preparing to return home, the Foreign Ministry said.

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