Laura Rozen at ForeignPolicy.com reports that Mara Rudman is moving from her post as National Security Council executive secretary to work for Middle East special envoy George Mitchell:
A former NSC chief of staff and deputy national security advisor to President Bill Clinton, Rudman was asked to help the new team get set up and started, structured right, and help find the right people. She agreed, on the proviso that the assignment would be temporary. With some overlap in responsibilities to the chief of staff job she already had done for the Clinton NSC and now being performed by [NSC chief of staff Mark] Lippert, the ExecSec job, described as the council’s chief operating officer, involves a lot of high level administrative tasks, managing paper flow and reviewing memos for the national security advisor, and she wanted to get back to policy work on the Middle East.
With the NSC now humming along with more than 200 people, Rudman is moving to become a deputy to Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell, with whom she has already traveled twice to the region. A date has been set for her to join Mitchell’s team at the end of the month if all goes as planned, sources at the NSC and State Department said. Her successor as NSC executive secretary is yet to be named, but is said to be someone who is already working there.
Rudman, who is Jewish, "is expected to have a deputy title, but to serve as a de fact chief of staff for the Mitchell team":
"It was always her and the administration’s plan for her time as NSC ExecSec to be short-term to get [it] through the startup (based on her previous NSC experience) and then to transition into a Middle East policy position," an administration associate said on condition of anonymity. "Exactly as was mapped out during the transition."
"Her knowledge of how the interagency works is unrivalled and she has a deep understanding of the Palestinian economy and the obstacles (political and otherwise) to its development," a State Department official said on condition of anonymity. "We’re all looking forward to her arrival. The NSC will miss her I’m sure." ….
Rudman declined to comment. But associates say she was attracted to joining Mitchell’s team in part because she thought he would be a great teacher, given his experience as a negotiator of the Irish peace accords and his understanding as a former senator of the importance of bringing the Hill along as well as of the broader domestic politics of foreign peace processes. Described as a straightforward (if occasionally brusque) pragmatist, Rudman is "all about dealing with the facts on the ground" as they are….
In a 2007 interview with Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Rudman described the ingredients necessary for making the efforts of a Middle East peace envoy more than a fruitless exercise. Past envoys employed by the Bush and Clinton administrations, she said, "cannot be compared with someone at the level of a former head of state, granted necessary scope, authority, and autonomy to work with the parties in a sustained and consistent manner and on a full time basis… What is required now for the Middle East is someone of this stature, with a mandate that extends more broadly to cover the entire region, not only the Arab-Israeli conflict, who can roll up his or her sleeves, understands the politics, policies, and processes of all the players on the ground and in the international community, can bring the weight of the United States to the table when and as needed, and has the wisdom and perspective to know how to manage these various elements. That envoy cannot be used a substitute for smart and sustained policy by the United States, and sound national security processes to develop it."
Associates say Rudman believes that Mitchell has the necessary stature and has been empowered with those broad authorities, which have been matched as well by the Obama White House’s sustained and high-level commitment to the peace process.
In other news, Rozen reports that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Jeffery Feltman to become assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs — he’s been serving as acting secretary for the last few months.