Report: Shapiro Is Obama’s Choice for Israel Envoy

Liaison: Shapiro (right) has served President Obama on the
National Security Council as senior director for the Middle East.
Courtesy of The White House
Liaison: Shapiro (right) has served President Obama on the National Security Council as senior director for the Middle East.

By Nathan Guttman

Published February 23, 2011, issue of March 04, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Dan Shapiro, whose direct phone number in the White House is on speed dial for most Jewish leaders, could soon be heading to Israel as the top U.S. diplomatic envoy in Tel Aviv.

According to a February 22 report in Politico, President Obama intends to appoint Shapiro, who serves as senior director for Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council, as ambassador to Israel.

As the Forward went to print, the report has yet to be confirmed by the White House or the State Department. An administration source said he could not confirm or deny the reported nomination — which meanwhile has been widely accepted around Washington as a fait accompli. Shapiro would replace Ambassador James B. Cunningham, whose term ends in June.

As Middle East director at the National Security Council, a post that he has been filling since Obama took office, Shapiro was closely involved in attempts to calm the rocky relations between the administration and the Netanyahu government in Israel. Shapiro also played an active role in the administration’s efforts to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord and traveled frequently to the region on his own and with special envoy George Mitchell or with Obama adviser Dennis Ross.

But for the Jewish community, Shapiro played another role. He was seen by many as the go-to person in the Obama White House as he made himself available to communal leaders who wanted to vent frustrations over the twists and turns of American-Israeli relations.

“Dan is a real mensch,” said William Daroff, vice president for public policy at the Jewish Federations of North America. “He is someone who knows Israel very well, has deep roots in the American Jewish community, and has developed a very close working relationship with the principal players in the region.”

Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, added: “Dan has been a thoughtful voice on policy and an open and receptive conduit between the Jewish community and the White House.” And veteran Democratic PR adviser Steve Rabinowitz summed it up by saying: “I just don’t know a person in Washington or the region who doesn’t like him.”

While many in the foreign policy community became acquainted with Shapiro during his service in the House Foreign Affairs committee under then-chairman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, most in the Jewish community got to know him in the 2008 presidential campaign. Shapiro served then as Obama’s liaison to the Jewish community, working to convince voters who initially tended to support Hillary Rodham Clinton that the young senator from Illinois understood their needs and supported Israel. Shapiro also joined candidate Obama in his trip to Israel before the elections.

The ambassador-apparent is also a well-known figure in the Washington Jewish community, where he attends synagogue and sends his daughters to Jewish day school.

Shapiro has taken time to meet with almost every Israeli official who visited Washington in the past two years and to attend most major Jewish conferences, although he rarely speaks on record. An Israeli diplomat said Shapiro was widely liked by Israelis who view him as a bridge to the Obama administration. “His door is always open and he has good knowledge of the issues,” said a diplomat who asked not to be named.

Knowing the issues also could mean diving into Israeli politics. Shapiro held meetings in Israel with both coalition and opposition members, and at times worked to convince Netanyahu’s coalition partners to support a settlement freeze and enter negotiations with the Palestinians. One Israeli politician, Shas leader Eli Yishai, even said he had spoken with Shapiro in Hebrew during their meeting.

Shapiro, if nominated and then confirmed by the Senate, would be the third Jewish American to be appointed as ambassador to Israel, joining Martin Indyk who served twice during the Clinton administration and Daniel Kurtzer who was appointed by President George W. Bush.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttuman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.