Speculation heats up as to who will fill US ambassador slot

Michael Oren recently joins Dore Gold, Zalman Shoval, Alon Pinkas as candidate for country's most important diplomatic posting.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR, HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
April 23, 2009 04:18
2 minute read.
Speculation heats up as to who will fill US ambassador slot

michael oren 298.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

Rumors abound regarding the identity of Israel's next ambassador to the United States, considered the country's most important diplomatic posting. In March, Ambassador Sallai Meridor announced he would resign his post, to allow the Netanyahu government "to appoint, immediately upon its formation, the man or woman of its choosing as ambassador to Washington." The most recent name added to the list of candidates for the post is scholar and author Michael Oren, who is admired by Netanyahu's staff for his expertise on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Oren has also published numerous articles on Israeli foreign policy. A close associate told The Jerusalem Post he understood the American-raised historian to be "among the leading candidates" for the ambassadorship. "He has not received any formal offer. If he received that offer, he would be very honored to serve, and he would serve just as he has served when he has been called into miluim [reserve duty]." Oren, who is currently a professor in the Jewish civilization program at Georgetown University, has frequently served as an IDF spokesman dealing with the foreign media during recent military campaigns. He appeared on international television during Operation Cast Lead in January while on winter break from Georgetown. Oren's associate dismissed concerns some have raised that he is too conservative in his views and too tied to Republicans to be a good fit as an Israeli ambassador during a Democratic administration, saying that suggestions he backed Republican Senator John McCain in last year's presidential race were erroneous and that Oren had opposed the Iraq war. "Clearly he's not a neoconservative," he said. "This is a guy who's respected on both sides of the aisle." But Oren's chances are not yet known. His detractors note that he has no diplomatic experience. And though he works at the Shalem Center, funded by Netanyahu supporter and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, it is unknown how close he is personally to the prime minister. Another likely candidate for the post, whose name is being discussed among Netanyahu's staff, is Dore Gold, who was Netanyahu's appointee to the crucial diplomatic post of ambassador to the United Nations. Gold is close to Netanyahu, but critics wonder if he's the right man for a Democratic White House. His think tank, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is noted for its right-leaning views that are more in agreement with Republican opinion than that of the Democrats. Supporters of Gold's appointment note, however, that his term at the UN coincided with the Democratic administration of former president Bill Clinton. Also mentioned is 78-year-old Zalman Shoval, who served twice as ambassador to the US during the 1990s. He is a veteran Likud politician and is considered an experienced diplomat. The fourth candidate being discussed, though he is considered a long-shot by most observers, is Alon Pinkas. Though he is an experienced foreign policy analyst who served as chief of staff to foreign ministers Shlomo Ben-Ami and David Levy, Pinkas is a known Labor Party supporter who ran in the party's primaries for the current Knesset. Reached for comment, Shoval and Pinkas said they had not yet spoken to the prime minister's staff about an appointment, and that the rumors were just speculation.


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