J Street mourns the death yesterday of Ambassador Sam Lewis, a public servant in the best and broadest sense of the word and an unwavering advocate for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ambassador Lewis led a distinguished career in the US Department of State, where he served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (1975–1977), US ambassador to Israel (1977–1985) and Director of Policy Planning (1993–1994). His sense of public service grew only broader with his departure from government. In addition to leading the United States Institute of Peace (1987-1993), he lectured, wrote and advocated for the power of US diplomacy as a force for peace and stability in the Middle East.
When Ambassador Lewis first became involved with J Street in 2008, he was already well known and admired by many of us in the pro-Israel, pro-peace community for his long-standing dedication to a two-state solution, decades before the idea gained acceptance in diplomatic and political circles. To our then-fledgling movement, he lent not just his name and gravitas, but sharp insights, good counsel and a fierce sense of urgency. For all of this, we are grateful.
The ambassador’s passing reminds us of the teaching from Pirke Avot (Sayings of Our Fathers): “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” We will hold Ambassador Lewis’ example in our thoughts, as we press forward towards a two-state solution. His memory is indeed a blessing.