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(photo credit: NATO [file])
WASHINGTON - Retired Gen. James L. Jones has emerged as a leading contender for national security adviser in a Barack Obama's administration.
Jones, the US Middle East security adviser and former supreme allied commander of NATO, was publicly praised by Obama during the campaign and several news sources reported Friday that the president-elect would like him to take the top foreign policy slot in the White House.
The sources referred to Obama's regard for Jones's four decades of military service, as well as the perspective he has provided on international issues and challenges.
Jones has avoided identifying himself on a partisan basis, but has criticized the running of the Pentagon by the Bush administration during the Iraq war.
Jones is currently serving as an envoy for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the Annapolis process of the past year, consulting with Israelis and Palestinians about security measures.
He was reported to have drafted a report critical of some aspects of Israel's security stance toward the Palestinians during that time, but the report - which sources in the Israeli government feared would cause tension between the two countries - was never published.
In a rare interview that he gave to Inside the Pentagon at the end of last month, however, Jones urged the new administration to keep up the negotiations begun in Annapolis, warning that, "If they don't do that and they choose to start from ground zero again, then I think there would be a real tragedy, because there's real momentum and real progress here."
He told the outlet that "nothing is more important" in the Middle East than a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"If we don't get this right, and if organizations like Hizbullah and Hamas actually succeed in places like the West Bank and, in the long term, in Gaza, then you really do have a dramatically more serious situation strategically that could conceivably affect the future viability of Israel as a state," he said. "I mean, the noose will get tighter."
Also Friday, another foreign policy bigwig Obama has reportedly been consulting co-authored a Washington Post op-ed calling for the new administration to prioritize Israeli-Palestinian peace-making.
"Resolution of the Palestinian issue would have a positive impact on the region. It would liberate Arab governments to support US leadership in dealing with regional problems" as well as "dissipate much of the appeal of Hizbullah and Hamas, dependent as it is on the Palestinians' plight," writes Brent Scowcroft, who served as George H.W. Bush's national security adviser. "It would change the region's psychological climate, putting Iran back on the defensive and putting a stop to its swagger."
Obama has spoken positively of the older Bush's approach to foreign policy, notwithstanding his being a Republican. Scowcroft was joined by Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in crafting the article.
The two urge Obama to push for an agreement based on a return to slightly modified 1967 borders, compensation in lieu of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem hosting two capitals and the creation of a nonmilitarized Palestinian state.
The Orthodox Union was quick to criticize the piece, taking issue with those "who believe a solution is so 'well known' that it can be laid out in just one paragraph."
In a letter drafted in response, OU Public Policy Director Nathan Diament took particular exception to the concept of a shared Jerusalem.
"In suggesting this step, they ignore both the historical and religious Jewish claim to the city, and the fact that only under Israeli rule has Jerusalem been a free and open to all faiths," he wrote.
The Obama transition team did not respond to a request for comment clarifying Scowcroft's role or the status of Jones's possible appointment.
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