Obama taps close aide Shapiro as Israel ambassador

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 3:14 PM
Obama taps close aide Shapiro as Israel ambassador

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has chosen Daniel Shapiro, a senior adviser who has helped shape the response to the Middle East upheaval, as ambassador to Israel, the White House said on Wednesday.

Shapiro, a trusted aide who served on Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, is a senior director for the Middle East and North Africa at the White House National Security Council.

The ambassador position requires confirmation by the Senate.

As popular revolts toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and spread to Libya and other countries, Shapiro has been part of a small group of advisers crafting a policy that seeks to protect U.S. interests in the region while also supporting democratic aspirations.

Shapiro has worked closely with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell on the effort to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Direct peace talks resumed briefly last year but broke down over Jewish settlement construction on occupied land.

As ambassador, Shapiro would help push any new diplomatic initiative.

Earlier this week, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett reaffirmed the Obama administration's commitment to getting the peace process back on track.

"We know that as the status quo in the Arab world is not sustainable, and neither is the status quo in the search for Middle East peace," Jarrett told a conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

"We need to find a way to ensure direct negotiations have credibility and purpose, because that is the only way to resolve the conflict."

(Writing by Caren Bohan; Editing by John Whitesides)