Tom Donilon appointed as US National Security Advisor

ByHILARY LEILA KRIEGER
October 9, 2010 05:54

Obama loses James L. Jones after 20-month tenure; no dramatic changes in foreign policy expected, particularly Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

3 minute read.



US National Security Adviser Jim Jones.

jim jones 311. (photo credit:AP)

WASHINGTON – Ending months of speculation, US President Barack Obama appointed Tom Donilon to take the place of his boss, US National Security Advisor James L. Jones, who announced his resignation Friday.

Obama cited the renewed push for peace in the Middle East as one of the major accomplishments of Jones’s 20-month tenure, along with resetting relations with Russia, dealing with Iran and Al-Qaida and winding down the war in Iraq.

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“After years of drift, we have built a broad international coalition to hold Iran accountable, and applied unprecedented pressure through tough new sanctions,” Obama declared. “We have renewed the push for peace in the Middle East.”

The shake-up was long expected, with Donilon a favorite for the top job after serving as Jones's deputy, prepping Obama on foreign policy during the campaign and serving as the chief of staff to Warren Christopher, secretary of state under former president Bill Clinton.

“Tom has a wealth of experience that will serve him well in this new assignment. He has served three presidents and been immersed in our national security for decades,” Obama said. “Over the last two years, there is not a single critical national security issue that has not crossed Tom’s desk.”

Donilon is known more for his political skills and ability to manage teams and implement policies rather than for being a strong personality likely to put his own stamp on the national security posture of the Obama administration.

He is seen as someone deeply loyal to Obama and a figure skilled at balancing egos and bureaucratic demands.

Washington insiders said they didn’t expect a dramatic change in foreign policy with the transition, especially in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in part because Obama played such a key role in crafting policy, in part because Donilon has already been involved with the issue at the NSC and in part because other Obama administration officials could overshadow him.

“I don’t think he’ll be a [primary] foreign policy-maker in the Middle East because of the greater experience and influence of Secretary of State Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of AIPAC who was in touch with Donilon during his time in the Clinton administration.

He said he didn’t detect “any strong feelings one way or the other” when it came to dealing with Israel.

Aaron David Miller, who worked with Donilon when they were both at the State Department, said that the new National Security Advisor was well-steeped in the Middle East conflict and would have no trouble taking on his new role.

“He’s about as sensitive to the realities of those politics as anyone I know. It think it will be seamless,” he said. “Donilon probably has more experience with the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the exception of Dennis Ross, than anyone else in the White House.”

Miller described Donilon as “a pragmatist,” and said that he would be aware of the perils of pushing things father than they could bear.

“He’s very attuned to the issue of success and failure,” according to Miller. “He understands when an issues is hard and he understands creating a process and keeping one [moving] along, and on the other hand pushing it to a point where it collapses.”

Jones joins a growing list of White House aides who have left ahead of the midterm elections, a traditional time of turnover in many administrations. Donilon was also rumored as a likely replacement to White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, who recently left to run for mayor of Chicago.

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