Pro-Israel figures on Obama team


WASHINGTON (JTA) – Barack Obama’s national security transition team includes a number of pro-Israel figures.

Susan Rice and James Steinberg will chair the 41-member team announced Wednesday. Rice, an Africa expert in the Clinton administration, was tapped for the U.N. ambassadorship, and Steinberg, a Clinton-era deputy national security adviser, is set to be deputy secretary of state.

"The National Security Policy Working Group works closely with key experts and our agency review teams to help prepare the president-elect, vice president-elect and senior national security appointees as they are named to make early decisions on critical national security issues," a statement from the campaign said.

Steinberg has close relations with the pro-Israel lobby. He reportedly helped draft Obama’s speech in May to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and has emphasized pressing Arab nations and the Palestinians to recognize Israel and contain terrorism as a means of advancing the peace process.

Others on the president-elect’s team with identifiable pro-Israel biographies include Dennis Ross, Clinton’s top Middle East envoy; Jeremy Bash, a former AIPAC staffer and Al Gore’s top foreign policy adviser in his 2000 run for the presidency; Daniel Shapiro, the Obama campaign’s Jewish outreach director who as a Senate staffer helped draft the tough measures in the 2003 Syria Accountability Act; Mara Rudman, who helped shepherd the Holocaust insurance settlement through the International Commission on Holocaust Insurance Claims; and Daniel Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Israel who has counseled pressuring Israel to freeze settlements but who is well regarded in most of  the pro-Israel community.

Notably absent are figures critical of Israel that Republicans predicted, often based on thin evidence, would feature prominently in an Obama administration: Robert Malley, a Clinton-era Middle East negotiator; Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Carter-era national security adviser; and Samantha Power, an expert on genocide.

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