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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert named Sallai Meridor, a former head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, as Israel's new ambassador to the United States on Wednesday.

Meridor stepped down as head of the Jewish Agency for Israel last year after a six-year tenure in which he was an outspoken advocate of settling Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since leaving the Jewish Agency, Meridor has worked part time at the Begin Heritage Fund and for the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.

Meridor, 51, will replace current Ambassador Danny Ayalon when he ends his four-year term in Washington, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a statement.

Army Radio said the handover was expected to take place in January.

Sallai Meridor's relations with Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are considered good. Like Olmert and Livni, Meridor political upbringing was in the right-wing Betar movement where he filled a number of senior roles. Meridor subsequently graduated to the World Zionist Organization, which he headed in 1999.

Meridor's colleagues describe him as introverted, wary, discrete, idealistic and ascetic.

Meridor has moderated his political views over the past few years and despite living in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Adumim, he supported the disengagement plan. He continues to support the concept of territorial compromise in the West Bank.

As Jewish Agency chair, Meridor developed Jewish-Zionist education for the Diaspora.

Meridor's brother, Dan Meridor, is a scion of the Likud party and a former cabinet minister.