Obama to nominate top adviser to Israel envoy post

AP News
Posted: Mar 09, 2011 6:40 PM
Obama to nominate top adviser to Israel envoy post

President Barack Obama intends to nominate Daniel Shapiro, a trusted adviser on the Middle East, as U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Shapiro is senior director for the Middle East and North Africa on the White House national security staff. If approved by the Senate, he will replace Ambassador James B. Cunningham, a veteran diplomat who has held the post in Israel since 2008.

An Illinois native, Shapiro advised Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign. He has a long history as a policy adviser on the Mideast, including work as a top aide to Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, Dianne Feinstein of California and former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana. He was director of legislative affairs for the National Security Council under former President Bill Clinton.

In speeches, Shapiro has systematically voiced support for Obama's drive for a two-state solution and a compromise between Israel and Palestinians.

While Shapiro has concentrated on the Palestinian issue, two years ago he and another top U.S. diplomat, Jeffrey Feltman, made two trips to Syria in an effort to deflect Iran's influence on the hardline Arab country's policies. Iran and Syria are strong supporters of militant Islamic groups, including Hamas in Lebanon.

Shapiro has also been instrumental in Obama's outreach to the Jewish community in the United States. Last year, when U.S. relations with Israel took a sour turn, Shapiro sought to assure the Jewish community that when it came to the administration, "in no way do we perceive a rift."