In August 1978, shortly before the opening of negotiations between Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Camp David, President Jimmy Carter paid a visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Halfway through a briefing on the two men, Carter interrupted. He wanted more than just their political histories. He needed, he said, to be “steeped in the personalities of Begin and Sadat.”
Stansfield Turner, the agency’s director, had just the answer: Dr. Jerrold M. Post, a CIA analyst and the founder of its Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior.
Post quickly turned around a pair of detailed “psychobiographies,” along with a report predicting how these two strong personalities would interact. The key to Begin, he concluded, was his obsession with preventing another Holocaust; Sadat, he said, wanted to outdo his predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The summit at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, was a success, leading to peace between Israel and Egypt and Nobel Peace Prizes for the two leaders — an achievement that Carter later credited, in large part, to Post’s picture-perfect analysis.
“After spending 13 days with the two principals,” Carter said, “I wouldn’t change a word.”
Post died on Nov. 22 at a hospice in Washington at 83. His wife, Carolyn Post, said the cause was COVID-19.
Over 21 years at the CIA, Jerrold Post invented and then guided the field of political psychology, profiling everyone from Saddam Hussein and Ayatollah Khomeini to captured Palestinian suicide bombers, whom his associates in Israeli intelligence had allowed him to interview. Later, as an academic, he analyzed a long list of world figures, including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Osama bin Laden and, in his last book, President Donald Trump.