Edward Sanders dies at 87; advisor to President Carter on the Middle East

Edward Sanders, an attorney and leader in the Jewish community who served President Carter as a special advisor on Mideast policy, died Monday at his Los Angeles home. He was 87.

The cause was cancer, according to his son-in-law, Stanley Witkow.

Sanders gained prominence during the 1973 energy crisis when, as president of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, he challenged a letter from Standard Oil Co. to 300,000 stockholders that appeared to support a pro-Arab Mideast policy. He later became president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.


In 1976, he resigned the latter post to organize Jewish support for Carter’s presidential campaign. In 1978 he was named to a new post as advisor to President Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance on Mideast policy and the Jewish community. He quickly became involved in planning the historic Camp David summit, which culminated in a signed accord between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Sanders was born in New York City on April 4, 1922, and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was 8. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA. During World War II, he served in the Army.

After the war, he earned a law degree from USC in 1950 and joined Irell & Manella, a politically well-connected firm based in Los Angeles. He was active in Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential primary campaign in 1968 and helped lead a number of civic groups, including the Los Angeles Urban League, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

He also served on the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, formed by Carter in 1978 to recommend a national memorial to the victims of the Nazis’ campaign to exterminate Jews during World War II.

After leaving the Carter administration, Sanders returned to Los Angeles, where he formed Sanders, Barnet & Goldsmith, later merged into Reed Smith, a national law firm based in Pittsburgh. Sanders is survived by his wife of 63 years, Rose Eisen Sanders; two children, Susan Sanders Witkow and Michael Sanders; and four grandchildren.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles.