New US envoy Shapiro scheduled to arrive in Israel

One of Obama's closest ME confidants, active in Washington Jewish community, set to become 18th US ambassador to Israel.

July 20, 2011 03:52
2 minute read.
Dan Shapiro

Dan Shapiro 311 [file]. (photo credit: Courtesy)

New US envoy to Israel Daniel Shapiro is scheduled to arrive in the country Wednesday to become the 18th US ambassador to serve here.

Shapiro, 41, one of US President Barack Obama’s closest Middle East confidants, will be only the fifth political appointment – rather than career foreign service officer – named to the post. The last political appointee was Martin Indyk, who served two stints here under Bill Clinton.

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Shapiro is replacing James Cunningham, who left earlier this month after three years to take up the number two post at the US embassy in Kabul.

Shapiro – who was active in the Washington Jewish community, a member of the Conservative Adas Israel Synagogue and sent his children to Jewish day schools – will be accompanied by his wife and three children. He is expected to submit his credential to President Shimon Peres at a later date.

Before arriving in Tel Aviv, Shapiro was Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa on the National Security Staff at the White House, where he advised Obama and other senior US officials on US policy in the region.

Since Obama came to power in 2009, Shapiro has been integrally involved in shaping the administration’s Middle East policies, traveling frequently to the region with former Middle East envoy George Mitchell and being a central point of contact in the White House for Israeli officials.

Shapiro first began working with Obama in 2007, when he coordinated Jewish outreach and advised his presidential campaign on Middle East issues. In August 2008 Obama appointed him a senior policy adviser and coordinator of Jewish outreach, where he worked hard to dispel doubts in the Jewish community about Obama’s commitment to Israel. Obama garnered an estimated 78 percent of the Jewish vote in the 2008 elections.

Prior to his involvement with Obama, Shapiro – who has a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis, and a MA in Middle Eastern politics from Harvard –worked as a Washington lobbyist as well as in several Congressional offices and the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.

A former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Bill Nelson (DFlorida), he has also been a staff adviser to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana).

Shapiro spent his sophomore year at Hebrew University, something US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alluded to during comments at a swearing in ceremony at the State Department for Shapiro earlier this month.

“At Hebrew University during the first intifada, Dan and his classmates spent many hours discussing how Israelis and Palestinians could one day live in peace, side-by-side.

Dan has seen firsthand that the status quo is unsustainable,” she said.

Shapiro speaks fluent Hebrew and some Arabic.

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