WASHINGTON (Jan. 20)
Just a few hours after William Jefferson Clinton was sworn in Wednesday as the 42nd president of the United States, the Senate voted to confirm Warren Christopher as his secretary of state.
The Senate also confirmed former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) as treasury secretary and former Rep. Les Aspin (D-Colo.) as secretary of defense.
Christopher is expected to make reinvigorating the Middle East peace process one of his top and earliest priorities.
There were unconfirmed reports this week that the new secretary would travel to the region next month. And the administration reportedly has expressed interest in Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s request for an early meeting with the new president.
The administration has signaled its desire for continuity in the peace talks by asking Edward Djerejian to stay on as assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs.
It has also decided to retain Dennis Ross, a top aide to former Secretary of State James Baker who has played a key role in facilitating the peace talks, as a special adviser.
Named to replace Ross as director of policy planning at State was Samuel Lewis, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. His appointment was lauded by the pro-Israel community.
Advocates for the Jewish state will also undoubtedly be pleased if the new administration nominates Richard Schifter to become U.S. ambassador to Israel. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the administration was considering such a move, but there was no confirmation from administration officials.
Schifter, who is actively involved in the Jewish community, served as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Bush and Reagan administrations.
There were also reports that the Clinton team was close to naming Martin Indyk, head of the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to a National Security Council post responsible for at least part of the array of Middle East issues. Such an appointment would be welcomed by many Jewish groups.