Mitz-Vote

Our Man in Tel Aviv?

By Nathan Guttman

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Laura Rozen at Politico has the scoop: Dan Shapiro is President Obama’s pick for the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.

There is still no official confirmation from the White House or State Department, but if nominated (and confirmed by the Senate), Shapiro would make a sensible choice for the post. He is deeply involved in all issues relating to Israel as the National Security Council’s senior director for Middle East and North Africa; he has strong ties with the Israeli government; and Shapiro also gets along well with the two senior administration Middle East hands, adviser Dennis Ross and special envoy George Mitchell.

Shapiro would replace James B. Cunningham, whose term ends this June.

For the Jewish community, Shapiro is a known quantity. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he served as Barack Obama’s liaison to the Jewish community and has since remained in close touch with Jewish groups, effectively becoming their go-to person in the White House.

According to Politico, William Daroff, vice president for public policy at the Jewish Federations of North America, said Shapiro “is someone who knows Israel very well, has deep roots in the American Jewish community, and has developed a very close working relationship with the principal players in the region.” Beyond that, Daroff added, “Dan is a real mensch.”

Shapiro began his Washington career on Capitol Hill, where he worked with former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and with Senator Dianne Feinstein. It was in Congress that he began to deal with issues relating to the Middle East. Shapiro also served a stint in the Clinton administration’s National Security Council and in the State Department.

Dan Shapiro is hardly the first Jewish ambassador to Israel (think of Martin Indyk under President Clinton and Daniel Kurtzer under President George W. Bush) and if indeed confirmed for the post he will follow a tradition of senior diplomats going to Israel who are known to have good ties with Israeli leadership and with the Jewish community (think of Indyk once again.)

If he lands the position, Shapiro will get a unique chance to practice his Hebrew, a language that according to press reports he has good command of although he refuses to speak it in public. In one case, last April, Shapiro met in Israel with interior minister Eli Yishai and according to the Israeli politician, Shapiro extended Yishai, in Hebrew, an invitation to visit the White House. The administration never confirmed the two had spoken Hebrew and Yishai never made it to the White House.


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