President Bush nominated a career diplomat with no direct Middle East experience as ambassador to Israel.
If confirmed, veteran diplomat James Cunningham will replace Richard Jones as the envoy in Tel Aviv when the latter’s term ends this summer, the administration announced Wednesday.
Cunningham, currently the U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, was acting ambassador to the United Nations in 2001 while Bush’s choice for the post, John Negroponte, was facing a tough Senate confirmation because of his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. That afforded Cunningham a critical role in rolling back condemnation of Israel during the second intifada.
Cunningham served as deputy envoy to the United Nations from 1999 to 2004, straddling the Clinton and Bush presidencies.
Jones’ three-year tour has been mostly uneventful, although he stirred controversy last year when he said Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was lucky not to have been executed. Jones later apologized.