- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

NEW ISRAELI ENVOY

When he addressed the annual convention of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Sunday, Michael Oren stressed he was speaking as a professor of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University, not as the next Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Oren had to maintain protocol. Because no announcement had been made in Jerusalem, he had to pretend that no decision had been made, even as he was widely congratulated for the appointment.

When he arrived at the Washington Convention Center to address the AIPAC conference, Mr. Oren was greeted by three Israeli television news crews, hoping to snag the first interviews. One Israeli report said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already telephoned Mr. Oren to inform him that the announcement of his appointment was imminent.

For weeks, Mr. Oren was considered a leading candidate to replace Ambassador Sallai Meridor, who announced in March that he would resign to allow Mr. Netanyahu to pick an envoy to the United States that reflected Israel’s new conservative government.

However, some Israeli analysts questioned whether the White House would accept Mr. Oren, who was critical of President Obama during last year’s election. In one article, Mr. Oren wrote that Mr. Obama’s Middle East policies “are liable to strain the [U.S.-Israel] alliance. …”

Mr. Oren wrote that Sen. John McCain, as president, would be tougher on terrorism, stronger in support of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and less likely to pressure Israel publicly to dismantle Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

At the AIPAC convention, Mr. Oren warned of the threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to the Jewish state, saying, “Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”

Mr. Oren, who holds both American and Israeli citizenship, was born in upstate New York in 1955 and grew up in New Jersey. He served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army and saw combat in the 1982 war in Lebanon. He returned to the United States to attend Princeton University, where he received a doctoral degree in Middle Eastern studies in 1986.

He is also a member of the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem public policy organization.

LEAVING SERBIA

The U.S. ambassador to Serbia is planning to leave before the end of his term to join his “friend,” Ambassador Christopher Hill, in Iraq.

Ambassador Cameron Munter, a career foreign service officer, told reporters in Belgrade that he will serve as Mr. Hill’s adviser for political and military issues at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Mr. Hill arrived in Iraq on April 24.

“My friend, Christopher Hill, is the ambassador in Baghdad, and I have accepted an offer to join his team as an adviser for political-military questions,” Mr. Munter told the daily newspaper, Danas, on Monday. “I am sad to be leaving Serbia because [Serbs] have showed me great respect and courtesy during my stay here,”

Mr. Munter, who arrived in Serbia in August 2007, called himself a “great optimist” concerning the future of U.S.-Serbia relations, despite Serbian displeasure over the U.S. diplomatic recognition of Kosovo, the majority ethnic-Albania province that declared independence in February 2008.

Serbian news reports identified four possible candidates to replace Mr. Munter, all of whom would be Democratic political appointments. The front-runner, Michael Haltzel, is a former foreign policy aide to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. when he was a senator from Delaware.

The others were Jim Dobbins of the Rand Corp.; Edward Joseph, former Macedonia specialist with the International Crisis Group; and Jim Slattery, a former six-term member of Congress from Kansas.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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