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Obituaries

Amos Perlmutter; Middle East Scholar

June 15, 2001|LOUIE ESTRADA | THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — Amos Perlmutter, a professor of political science at American University and veteran Israel watcher who was the author of more than a dozen books on Middle Eastern affairs, died of complications from cancer on Tuesday at George Washington University Hospital. He was 69.

Most of Perlmutter's books, as well as frequent commentaries published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Times, analyzed Middle East peace talks, elections in Israel and Lebanon, world leaders and other contemporary and historical events.

His most recent books were "FDR & Stalin: A Not So Grand Alliance, 1943-1945" in 1994 and "Making the World Safe for Democracy: A Century of Wilsonianism and Its Totalitarian Challengers" in 1997. He also wrote the biography "The Life and Times of Menachem Begin."

Perlmutter, an erudite, elfish man with a playful streak and command of five languages, made guest appearances on PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," ABC's "Nightline," and other television news shows as an authority on the Middle East, terrorism and Israel.

"He really had his finger on the pulse of the Middle East," said Jay Winik, a senior scholar at the University of Maryland school of public affairs who collaborated with Perlmutter on some articles. "He had a keen grasp of the Arab mind in one hand and shrewd insightfulness about the complexities of getting things done in Israel on the other."

Perlmutter had been a professor of political science and sociology at American University since 1972. He was an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington from 1982 to 1990 and a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 1971 and 1972.

He wrote 15 books throughout his career and founded and headed the Journal of Strategic Studies and Security Studies. He continued with his writings despite his poor health in recent weeks, dictating his final column--a piece about the status of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process--from his hospital bed last week.

Perlmutter, who lived in Washington, was born in Bialystok, Poland, and raised in Palestine and Israel. He fought in three wars: the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, the Suez War in 1956 and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

He later served as a member of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations and as a political advisor to the chief of staff and high command of the Israeli Defense Forces.

He came to this country to attend UC Berkeley, where he received bachelor's and master's degrees and a doctorate in political science.

Survivors include his wife, Sharon of Washington, his mother, Berta, and sister, Elazara Hason, both of Israel.

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