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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Jewish Agency chairman Sallai Meridor, former Tel Aviv mayor Roni Milo, and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim are on the short list of candidates to replace Danny Ayalon as ambassador to the US at the end of the year, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
A meeting to discuss the matter is expected by the end of the week.
Ayalon, who was appointed in 2002, has been asked to stay on until December until a replacement could be found. His wife and children, however, have already returned to Israel.
Meridor was a candidate for the job in 2002, and again was prime minister Ariel Sharon's candidate to replace Ayalon in 2005. In the end, however, Sharon wanted to keep Ayalon in the job to see through the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Soon afterwards Sharon fell ill, and no movement was made on appointing a new ambassador.
As a result of his tenure as Jewish Agency chairman, Meridor is believed to have antagonized some influential players in the American Jewish community who may come out against his appointment.
Milo was appointed ambassador to Great Britain in 2003, but turned down the job before being posted a few months later, saying that he turned it down because of his wife's job. His wife, Dr. Elisheva Milo, is a senior psychologist at Shalvata Hospital.
Each of the three candidates is considered friendly with Olmert, and goes back with him many years, with Boim being a childhood friend.
Diplomatic officials said that in order for the ambassador in Washington to be effective, he needs to be perceived in the US capital as having the prime minister's complete trust and confidence.
The Prime Minister's Office, and not the Foreign Ministry, traditionally manages the relationship with Washington, and for this reason it is important that the candidate have a close working relationship with the prime minister.
Ayalon, for instance, was Sharon's foreign affairs adviser before being appointed to the Washington position.