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Mideast Envoy Philip Habib Dead of Heart Attack at 72

May 27, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Philip Habib, who was President Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East in the early 1980s, died Monday while on a private visit to France. Habib, who was 72, suffered a heart attack.

A career diplomat who retired in 1980 as undersecretary of state for political affairs because of a history of heart attacks, Habib was sent by Reagan as a special emissary to the Middle East in 1981 to try to lessen the growing tension then along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

Habib helped bring about an unofficial ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian terrorists shelling Israel from across the Lebanese border.

In July 1982, after Israel’s incursion into Lebanon, Habib, who was of Lebanese extraction, was in Lebanon and worked successfully to get the Palestine Liberation Organization out of Beirut and eventually out of the country.

In November 1982, Reagan put Habib in charge of overall Middle East peace negotiations and of U.S. efforts to get Israeli, Syrian and Palestinian forces out of Lebanon.

Habib, who was known for his fairness and ability to maintain diplomatic confidentiality, helped shape the ill-fated peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon, which collapsed when Syria refused to go along.

In 1983, he became a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Also that year, he was presented the Covenant of Peace Award by the Synagogue Council of America.

In 1986, President Reagan sent Habib to the Philippines following the disputed election results in the contest between President Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino.

In 1987, Habib quit his post as Reagan’s special envoy to Central America following rumors he was unhappy with the president’s failure to give him a major role in working out a regional peace settlement.

The son of a grocer, Habib was born Feb. 15, 1920 in New York and raised in a Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn. He would later recall being a “Shabbes goy” who would turn lights on and off on the Sabbath in Jewish homes.

Despite his years as a diplomat, he never lost his Brooklyn accent.

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