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Sasson, Eliyahu


SASSON, ELIYAHU (1902–1978), Israeli diplomat and expert on Arab affairs. Sasson was born in *Damascus, where, at the age of 18, he was the only Jewish member of the Arab Syrian National Committee and publicly greeted Feisal, the short-tenured king of *Syria, on behalf of the Damascus Jewish community. On Feisal's personal initiative he edited for several months an Arab-language Jewish newspaper to foster understanding between the Jewish and the Arab peoples in the spirit of the *Weizmann-Feisal agreement. In 1920, after Feisal's ousting from Syria by the French, Sasson settled in Palestine and soon became a recognized expert on Arab affairs, at first in various newspapers and later for the Zionist Executive, where he served from 1930 as head of its Arab department. On the Executive's behalf he maintained for years contacts with Arab leaders and traveled widely throughout the Middle East. During World War ii he was instrumental in spreading British anti-Nazi propaganda in the Arab countries, and in 1948 he directed the Arab broadcasts of the clandestine *Haganah radio station. On behalf of the nascent Israeli government he negotiated with King Abdullah of Transjordan and corresponded with the secretary general of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, and other Arab leaders. After World War ii he was a member of most Zionist and Israeli delegations which negotiated the political future of Palestine or Israel-Arab relations: in 1946 in London, in 1947–48 at the United Nations, in 1949 in the armistice talks with the Arab governments in Rhodes and at the abortive peace talks at Lausanne. In 1949 he headed Israel's office in Paris which maintained unpublicized contacts with the Arabs. From 1950 to 1952 he was Israeli minister to *Turkey; afterward minister (and from 1957, ambassador) in Rome until 1960. While serving in 1961 as ambassador in Berne, Switzerland, he was recalled to become a member of the Israeli government as minister of posts, becoming minister of police in 1966 (until 1969). Sasson published many articles and political reminiscences in the Hebrew and Arab-language press in Israel, and remained a staunch supporter of the idea that an Israel-Arab understanding is feasible and the enmity between Jews and Arabs a transient phenomenon.


Tidhar, 5 (1952), 2281–82.

[Benjamin Jaffe]

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