- The Washington Times - Friday, March 6, 2009

ISRAELI ENVOY QUITS

Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor abruptly announced his resignation Thursday, after reports that incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu excluded him from a top-level meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week in Jerusalem.

Mr. Meridor, ambassador in Washington since November 2006, issued a statement that said he decided to step down to give the new government a chance to name its own representative to the United States.

He was appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the former leader of the centrist Kadima party who will resign as soon as Mr. Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud bloc, forms a government.

“It is fitting and proper that the new government will have the opportunity to appoint, immediately upon its formation, the man or woman of its choosing as ambassador to Washington,” Mr. Meridor said.

He made no mention of his intention to resign last week when he had lunch with more than a dozen Washington reporters. Most ambassadors serve at least three years in their post.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of the Washington-based Israel Project who hosted the luncheon, dismissed any speculation that Mr. Meridor was snubbed by Mr. Netanyahu.

“The ambassador is an outstanding leader who served a relatively long term,” she said. “It is normal for that position to shift with new administrations.”

She also pointed out that the ambassador’s brother, Dan Meridor, is a top elected official of Mr. Netanyahu’s party.

His decision followed a report Wednesday in the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, that Mr. Netanyahu asked him to leave a meeting with Mrs. Clinton but allowed two close aides to remain. Mrs. Clinton was accompanied by James Cunningham, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, and George Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office said Mrs. Clinton wanted no more than two aides from each side to remain in the closed-door meeting. Mr. Netanyahu decided to include Yitzhak Molcho, a longtime aide who worked with him when he served earlier as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, and Uzi Arad, an aide who specializes in Iran.

“The Americans decided that only three participants from each side stay in the meeting,” Mr. Netanyahu’s office said.

Ha’aretz added that Mr. Netanyahu is expected to name Mr. Arad to chair the National Security Council, a position that normally requires close cooperation with Washington.

BRITISH INVASION

First Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish government, and the world’s most famous Scotsman, actor Sean Connery, came to Washington last week to help launch a Senate Scottish caucus. Then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with President Obama and addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Finally, Rhodri Morgan, the leader of the government of Wales, dropped by and brought Welsh singers with him.

Apparently, Washington cannot get enough of the British.

Mr. Morgan, the guest of honor at a Thursday evening reception hosted by British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald, promoted the July Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which will highlight Wales.

“To be the featured nation is a great honor and a massive opportunity for Wales,” Mr. Morgan said, noting that the festival normally attracts more than 1 million visitors. “This will be a fantastic showcase for Wales. …”

The reception featured the Welsh choir, Only Men Aloud, poet and musician Gwyneth Glyn and the Trinity College Choir of Carmarthen, Wales.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mailJames Morrison


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