Former NATO head expected to join Rice's Mideast team
Former NATO commander, retired General James Jones is expected to accept a role as adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on security issues related to peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, according to official sources.
The retired Marine Corps general will go by the official title of "Special Envoy for Middle East Security."
According to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, the job involves monitoring the development of the Palestinian security services, and how they interact with their Israeli counterparts.
Without referring to Jones specifically, McCormack said that the person who takes up the position would "take a look internally at not only the efforts of the Palestinians to build up their security forces, but how those efforts relate to the Israeli government and Israeli security efforts and how those efforts also relate throughout the region."
McCormack told reporters that the special envoy would work closely with U.S. Security Coordinator for the Palestinians Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who has been working in the region for two years and will remain in his post.
Jones, 64 next month, ended his 40-year career in the Marines last February, and will remain in his current job as president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Energy. Last summer, he headed a congressionally-chartered panel that studied the readiness of Iraq's army and police.
However, Israeli sources say that Jones is not a favorable choice because of his blatantly cool attitude to Israel.
They point to the fact that in his current position, he has sought to expand trade with Gulf States and has expressed opposition to American laws barring U.S. firms from joining the Arab boycott of Israel.
Jones has served a stint as military assistant to secretary of defense William Cohen during the Clinton Administration, and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was commandant of the Marine Corps. At NATO, he served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
During this last role, which includes Israel in the group of 91 countries in the geographical area, Jones' cool attitude toward Israel was noteworthy compared to some of his predecessors, such as Alexander Haig and Wesley Clark.
Jones is of the same school of thought when it comes to Israel as another Marine general, Anthony Zinni, who served as envoy of the Bush Administration in 2002.
Jones turned down an offer by then secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld to assume the post of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2001
However, he is keen to shape U.S. policy and it is possible that in the next government, he may serve as secretary of energy. The retired general is close to Senator John McCain, a Republican presidential candidate, whom he has known since they were both in the service - McCain in the Navy and Jones the Marines.