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Israel appoints new U.N. envoy; keeps Washington ambassador on

JERUSALEM, May 22 (JTA) — It looks like Israel’s ambassador to the United States is staying — and a new one is headed to the United Nations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu withdrew reported plans to replace the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Eliahu Ben-Elissar, with his political adviser, Dore Gold. Instead, Gold has been appointed ambassador-designate to the United Nations. Netanyahu’s appointments of Gold and other key posts this week averted what might have developed into another crisis in his government. The decision to keep Ben-Elissar was reached after the diplomat flew to Jerusalem for urgent consultations.
Relations between him and Netanyahu apparently have suffered strains, and Ben-Elissar was in the hot seat after recent reports that the FBI had been investigating whether a U.S. government official was passing sensitive information to Israel. Also, on visits to the White House, Netanyahu has been seen as allowing Gold to eclipse Ben-Elissar. Meanwhile, Gold who immigrated from the United States, is in the process of rescinding his American citizenship, a requirement of the U.N. post. That post has been filled by David Peleg for the past year, since the former Labor government’s appointee, Gad Ya’acobi, stepped down. Gold’s replacement as the prime minister’s diplomatic adviser is Uzi Arad, a senior official in the Mossad intelligence service. Arad, who recently headed the Mossad’s research department, has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton University, and has been involved in Israel’s multilateral negotiations. In other appointments, Leonard Davis, former head of the Israel office of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is to become a deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Washington. The appointments were announced after discussions this week between Netanyahu and Foreign Minister David Levy. Levy reportedly vetoed a senior posting for Likud veteran Zalman Shoval, who was said to be under consideration for the U.N. spot. Levy maintains that Shoval failed to brief him when Levy was foreign minister under Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud government and Shoval was Israel’s ambassador to Washington. The latest round of appointments came at a time when Netanyahu was weighed down by a number of personnel dilemmas. Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Oded Eran, was convinced to withdraw his resignation, which he submitted after not being notified of a secret meeting between Netanyahu and King Hussein. At the same time, Deputy Finance Minister David Magen of the Gesher bloc submitted his letter of resignation this week to protest the way the government is operating. And there was also a battle over the justice portfolio. Former Justice Minister Ya’acov Ne’eman, who was Netanyahu’s preferred candidate, was acquitted of perjury charges, but the current minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, announced he would not step down. Hanegbi organized a rally Thursday evening to muster support to keep him in his post, and to appoint Likud Knesset member Silvan Shalom to the science portfolio. Ze’ev “Benny” Begin resigned from that post in protest after the Hebron agreement was signed with the Palestinians. Finally, Middle East expert Yossi Olmert publicly accused Netanyahu of breaking his promise to appoint him to the U.N. post, while Moshe Arens, Netanyahu’s political patron, censured him for his handling of diplomatic appointments.